Formation of the Department of African American Studies

We are very pleased to announce final approval for the formal establishment of African American studies as a full-fledged department within the School of Humanities.

As a program, African American studies has been in existence for well over 20 years, founded in 1993 and available as both a major and a minor since 1995. While the program has been functionally operating as a department since its inception – having its own dedicated faculty FTE, staff, budget and structures of autonomous governance – official recognition of the unit as a department represents an important milestone in the development of African American studies at UC Irvine.

With a core faculty of 11, the department deploys a wide range of interdisciplinary expertise in examining the history, culture and politics of Africa-derived people worldwide. While the program places particular emphasis upon African Americans in the United States, this emphasis is critically situated within a global perspective and sustained consideration of black people throughout the Americas, the Caribbean, and the African continent, along with various regions of Europe and Asia.

Engaging broadly across the arts, humanities and social sciences, UCI’s new Department of African American Studies possesses notable strengths in critical race theory; African and African American art, drama, film and literature; the history of the African diaspora (including the afterlife of slavery and colonialism); minority politics and social justice; the writings of W.E.B Du Bois; the concept of blackness; psychological and medical implications of racism; Afro-Pessimism; and the intersectional analysis of race, class, gender and sexuality as structural conditions for lived experience, principles of political organization and terms of social identification.

In addition, the department’s faculty members contribute vitally to the doctoral programs in culture and theory, comparative literature, criminology, drama, English, history and visual studies, as well as to the graduate emphases in critical theory and feminist studies.

Departmentalization of the program aligns African American studies at UCI with other UC campuses and national peer institutions with developed African American studies departments and establishes parity with cognate units at UCI that also began as interdisciplinary programs, including the departments of Asian American studies, Chicano/Latino studies, and gender and sexuality studies.

“African American studies is excited to formally become a department this year. We look forward to strengthening what we already contribute to the university in scholarship, teaching and service,” said Bridget Cooks, associate professor and director of the Program in African American Studies. Please welcome her now as the inaugural chair of the Department of African American Studies. We also offer our warmest congratulations to the faculty, students, staff and alumni of our newest department!


Enrique J. Lavernia, Ph.D.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Distinguished Professor,
Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Georges Van Den Abbeele

Dean, School of Humanities

Professor of English, French and Comparative Literature

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