Professor Rita Kiki Edozie, Associate Dean of the McCormack Graduate School, recently published her latest book on global African diaspora. It is an anthology that presents a new study of African diaspora through diverse, interdisciplinary perspectives. Professor Edozie sat down with McCormack Speaks to share more about her book.
SA: Where did you get the idea for this book?
RE: Given my own identity as an African immigrant to the US, I’ve had a longstanding personal and intellectual interest in the public policy of diversity of people of African descent in the US from the perspective of transnational and migration studies, immigration studies, and cross-cultural studies. When President Obama was elected, his Kenyan ancestry – among his other multiple identities, including spending time in Indonesia – intrigued many. Needless to say, however, the President’s identity especially triggered a debate about identity and the rootedness and dynamism of African heritage in the US, the Americas, and around the world. As such, the title of the book, New Frontiers in the Global African Diaspora, was inspired by these interests to trace, identify, analyze, and document the array of diverse experiences and political circumstances of African heritage peoples around the world.
SA: What gap in the literature does your book address?
RE: African Diaspora Studies has become an emergent but stable sub-discipline of both African American Studies on the one hand, and African Studies on the other. Some refer to the study as the great bridge between the two. It has become the intellectual study that informs the intersections, nexuses, interactions, and exchanges of the politics, economics, cultural and social studies of African descendant peoples. The study has become a global ethnic and area study which has now expanded the study of African Americans from an ethnic-national focus, as well as expanded the study of Africa from a comparative- area/regional basis that now integrates both as a global, diasporic study. In advancing this trend in African Diaspora Studies, our book – note that my co-editors are Michigan State University professors, Dr. Glenn Chambers and Dr. Tama Hamilton Wray –fills a gap in the Study of the African Diaspora. We are distinctive, I believe, in articulating the contours of the global trend and shift while also pedestaling and repositioning the continent of Africa in relation to this global expansion.
SA: What types of projects and dialogues do you hope this book will inspire?
RE: I’ll cite the book’s blurb written by Canadian Professor of English Ato Quayson, who also has Ghanaian heritage and has written extensively on the topic of new African Diasporas (see his own book titled, Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism). Quayson says of our book, “….New Frontiers…pairs a candid enigma – what is the African Diaspora? – with a set of essays that tackles the question from a variety of perspectives.”
As well, Jean Rahier, Professor of African Diaspora Studies at Florida International University whose own co-edited Volume on African Diaspora Studies, Global Circuits of Blackness: Interrogating the African Diaspora, inspired our book with his afterword. While commending our work for its recognition of the “transnationality” of the African Diaspora and for our positioning Africa’s coeval location and relationships with peoples of the African Diaspora globally, Rahier pushes our study to incorporate European and/or Australian based scholarship on the African Diaspora which would have appropriately pushed the limit of our expansionist African Diaspora theme appropriately further. Finally, in addition to what we significantly refer to as “global pivots,” “repositioning Africa,” “exploring uncharted African diasporas in Latin America and the Caribbean” – all significant talking points that I know will create debates and discussions – we uniquely raise a disciplinary question about how African Diasporas are represented in our section on “Humanities African Diasporas.” In doing so, our contributing authors present chapters on the filmic representations of the Garifuna, Nigerian cinema (Nollywood in Brazil), Ethiopian filmmakers in the US, African film festivals in Canada, Afro-Danish artists in New Orleans, and Afro-Peruvian artists among other creative representations of African Diaspority.
SA: How have your affiliations with the McCormack Graduate School and UMass Boston assisted with the publication of this book?
RE: While the genesis of the book project began with my recently previous role as Professor of International Relations and Director of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University, the completion of the manuscript occurred with my current appointment as Professor of Global Governance, Human Security, and International Relations and Associate Dean here at the McCormack Graduate School. From the vantage point of this book where now I’ve left what one former city council member in Detroit called, “The African city of Detroit,” I find myself in Cosmopolitan Boston where African and African American diversity is just as intriguing.
Now in Greater Boston, with my colleagues from the Trotter Institute of Black Culture, the Asian American Studies Institute, the Gaston Latin American Studies Institute, and the Native American Institute, I continue the study of the Public Policy of African Diaspority in an American region. With our project, “The Changing Faces of Massachusetts,” I am especially intrigued by the large communities of Black Bostonians, Cabo Verdes, Haitians, Nigerians, Somali, and other communities of African descent who have for so long contributed to the socio-cultural formation of the region here. Our study will deepen the research that I began in the current book, and perhaps provide the opportunity to present more empirical and policy evidence of the dynamism and complex relations of these communities and their impact on American life.