Ghana: Origins of African Identity
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“Our lectures, from Fante to the African Diaspora Seminar, were top notch. Our professors made me think from different perspectives, and I learned so much.”
Examine the historical significance of Ghana in the development of the transatlantic slave trade, the dispersion of African peoples, and the contemporary expressions of African identity in local and global contexts, including those of India, Britain, Kuwait, Garifuna communities, North America, Cuba, and Brazil.
In this program, students learn about African diasporas through the histories, cultural mosaics, and contemporary circumstances of Ghana and Benin, and through comparative examination of select diasporas of varied temporal, cultural, and geographical contexts. In order to gain multiple viewpoints and deep cultural immersion, students interact with diverse communities in urban, rural, and coastal areas of Ghana and Benin. In the process, students discover how forced migration permanently altered the cultural and demographic makeup of Ghana, Benin, and other areas of West Africa, including African American communities in Ghana and Liberia.
Explore Cape Coast (the program base).
For an urban homestay experience, students live with a host family in Cape Coast, the former capital of Ghana, for at least four weeks. This homestay gives students an opportunity to observe and experience the city's cultural and social attitudes while building strong relationships with their Ghanaian homestay families.
In Cape Coast, students have lectures and discussions with professors from Ghana's foremost institution for education and research, the University of Cape Coast. Additional lectures at the University of Ghana, Legon (Accra), and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi complement those of Cape Coast. From these lectures, students frequently develop and refine topics for their Independent Study Project.
Cape Coast played a pivotal historic role in the transatlantic slave trade. During this period of the program, students visit forts in Cape Coast, the neighboring town of Elmina (which is home to Elmina “castle,” the largest West African fort of the slave trade) and other lesser-known slave sites and memorials. Students learn of the atrocities of the slave trade and confront its factual and emotional aspects.
Spend two weeks in Benin.
An extended educational excursion in Benin deepens students’ understanding of the roots and repercussions of African diasporas through interactions with expatriates and repatriates from communities throughout the Americas; explorations of unique legacies and monuments of the slave trade, such as stilt villages; and a comparison of the distinct postcolonial realities of this former French colony. Students explore and compare Benin’s gender issues, national policies, and religious traditions with those of Ghana and neighboring countries.
Students receive sixty hours of language instruction in Fante, helping them become better integrated into their host communities and Ghanaian culture. Language instruction begins during orientation. Students are quickly introduced to basic vocabulary, sentence structure, daily expressions, and easy dialogues. In addition to formal instruction in the classroom, students can practice Fante with their host families. Learning Fante opens new windows to the local culture.
Experience Ghana’s natural beauty.
A visit to Kakum Forest Reserve and its magnificent canopy walkway reveals the importance of natural resource conservation. Learn more about the program’s excursions throughout Ghana and Benin.
Reading the African Diaspora: Methods and Approaches
Through the program’s research methods course, students learn important qualitative and quantitative methods, techniques, and ethics necessary for successful field research. Students critically examine and review established and emerging research ideas and methodologies for studying African diasporas while learning how to properly develop their research topics for their Independent Study Project. Students are brought into direct contact with Ghana’s major universities and resource centers and are introduced to colleagues they can partner with later in the semester.
Students are given opportunities to experiment with the research skills and ideas they acquire in this course by engaging in basic ethnographic projects during the rural homestay period.
Independent Study Project
Students spend the last month of the program working on an Independent Study Project (ISP). These individual research projects allow students to directly apply the concepts and skills of their experience-based learning in the methods course and their interdisciplinary coursework, while exploring a topic of particular significance to them.
Topics explored in the past span a broad range of subject matter, including music and dance of the African diaspora, dynamics of ethnicity, returnee communities, biodiversity, dialectics of preservation and restoration, contemporary articulations of Pan-Africanism, etc.
Sample topic areas include:
- Historical consequences of the human trade within Ghanaian communities
- Interface of oral and written traditions in Ghana
- Sociocultural influences of diaspora communities returning to Ghana
- Legacy of Pan-Africanist philosophy in Ghana today
- African American religious movements in Ghana
- Themes in modern Pan-African literature
- Contribution of Pan-African scholars to post-independence nation building
- Changing role and status of women in family life
- Role of West African economic influences in Ghana
- Global tourism and the historical preservation of castles and forts
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Ghana, Cape Coast
Language Study: Fante
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