Gender and Sexuality

    Historically, the department has had particular strength in gender and sexuality studies.  Black women's history, black women's writing, transnational feminisms, black queer studies, black masculinity studies and what we might call the intersectional identity politics have all helped to establish Duke's distinctive reputation in black Atlantic and diaspora studies nationally.

   Presently, work in those familiar categories continues but not without a coeval awareness of the epistemological imbrications of gender and sexuality with the production of the racial subjects whom we study and their material reality. The social construction of gender is axiomatic in our work today and its deconstruction as performance, affect stylization has not only animated new critical approaches to African and African American Studies Globalization in recent years, but recognition of the ways in which gender and sexuality impinge upon, resist or reproduce fictions of heteronormativity reveals the vague calculus determining the material conditions that commonly characterize our subjects' history in the West.

Slavery, Diaspora, and the Atlantic World

    Studies of Slavery, Diaspora, and the Atlantic World continue to be central to the field of African and African American Studies. Scholars have deepened our knowledge of the creation of an Atlantic economy based on the trade in slaves that linked Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Increasingly today, historians are focused on the effects of both domestic slavery and the Atlantic slave trade on African economies, societies, and cultures. In addition, recent studies of the institution of slavery in the Americas have been enriched by increased attention to the axes of gender and ethnicity.

   Diaspora studies, furthermore, has shifted from its early attention to African retentions in the Americas to a focus on the multi-directional transnational movement of religious beliefs and practices, political movements, artistic products, as well as human beings as migrant workers, business people, and leisure tourists from the fifteenth century up to the present. In addition to demonstrating the dynamism of communities of African descent in the Americas, scholars are beginning to explore the integration of African communities in a global black cultural traffic.

   Possible topics for this group to address are: African Americans in Africa, memories of slavery and the slave trade, and transnational blackness and popular culture.

Studies of the South: Local, Global, and Beyond

‘Studies of the South' references here the geographical region of the U.S. south that is one of the nation's most politically significant and culturally and socially distinctive region, as well as the ‘other South’, namely, the developing nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  Our scholarly activities in these areas re-examine, chronicle, and seek to explain the histories, traditions, and experiences of people of ‘African descent’ who exist within the context of larger dominant cultures. ‘Studies of the South,’ involves, but goes beyond, archiving or scoping histories of "places", in order to produce a reflexive critique of traditional “studies of the south," that assume bounded and distinct histories and cultural practices.  Ultimately, we seek to refashion the focus on "the south" through questions addressed to the making or unmaking of the relational histories through which these spaces are formed.  This will enable a deeper exploration of the modes by which these places were constituted and are being reconstituted in the contemporary moment.  This is a moment where, for example, we witness the vulnerable growth of Latina/o as well as South Asian presences, conjoined with the return of 'northern' blacks, and the fertile migratory routes of South American and Caribbean populations.  These developments suggest studies of the south that are sensitive to vocabularies and methodologies that capture the dynamic and flexibility being newly forged in these spatial entanglements.

For more information about our research contact

African & African American Studies

243 Ernestine Friedl Building Box 90252     Durham, NC     27708-0680    

(919) 919.684.2830