Last week, Brandeis announced a new initiative seeking to expand the Brandeis Department of African and Afro-American Studies (AAAS). The initiative, including a multi-year group of faculty hires dedicated to expanding the studies of the African diaspora, will begin this year with two new positions. The initiative strengthens the University’s increasingly culturally diverse campus and curriculum, and is an important step in the development of the study of cultural diasporas at Brandeis. The timing of the initiative correlates directly to the implementation of the Strategic Plan, which was approved by the Board of Trustees this May.
“We certainly hope that this initiative will allow AAAS to build on our existing strengths while at the same time growing the department in exciting new directions,” wrote AAAS Associate Professor and Department Chair Chad Williams in an email to The Hoot. “However, we envision this as a truly interdisciplinary endeavor that will benefit multiple departments and programs.”
“African diaspora studies, while not new, has always been characterized by intellectual originality and cutting edge research,” continued Williams. The interdisciplinary nature of African diaspora studies also enables participants to “grapple with questions, issues and ideas across from a variety of perspectives, employing a diverse range of methodological and pedagogical tools.”
Through the cluster hire, Brandeis seeks to strengthen relationships between academic departments and establish Brandeis as a premier and diverse institution for the study of cultural diasporas. For its first two hires, the University is seeking a joint appointment position in African and Afro-American Studies and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as a historian of Latin America for the History department.
As the programs envisioned by the initiative continue to grow, criteria for future hires will be based on the needs of specific departments and curricula. The broad scope of these searches demonstrates Brandeis’ strong commitment to interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary education, as well as its goal of the ongoing diversification of students, ideas and research opportunities on campus.
Among faculty, there is optimism that the initiative will strengthen Brandeis’ long-term recognition as a research institution. “We envision this as a truly transformative initiative that will place Brandeis at the forefront on universities engaged in the study of the African diaspora,” Williams said. “Hiring a new cohort of faculty in multiple departments and programs over the next several years will inject new energy into our already outstanding faculty.”
The initiative has gathered support from various members of Brandeis’ faculty, and is expected to start smoothly. It is unknown when the first two positions will be filled or by whom, but it seems this expansion will bring more comprehensive opportunity and diversity to the ever-growing face of Brandeis’ cultural studies and research.