Since opening our doors as a Center in 1970, faculty in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies have engaged in socially relevant, community-oriented teaching and research. Focusing on issues of pressing concern to black communities—including public health, education, the environment, and urban inequalities—DAAS faculty members have led ongoing community partnership projects in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Detroit. Through our Community Engaged Learning Initiative, we're continuing to offer undergraduates opportunities for collaboration and co-creation of knowledge with community partners. By working closely with members of various communities, students deepen their understanding of issues that affect those communities, and they develop theoretical, practical, and interpersonal skills that prepare them for creative problem-solving, community-responsive research and teaching, and influential professional and community leadership positions.
Environmental Justice Projects
Conservation & Development in Cultural Landscapes: Fieldwork in Kenya
This is a study abroad program aimed at introducing students to conservation and develotives taking into consideration the different histories, geographies, livelihood systems and ecologies of people and their cultural landscapes. The field study component is based in and around two conservation landscapes in Kenya (Maasai Mara and Laikipia) and relies on a multi-disciplinary approach to understand and evaluate some of these processes using a comparative analysis framework. This experiential learning exercise culminates in an independent study paper. Theoretically the class will use an environmental politics framework to deploy investigations into these issues in East Africa specifically, but sub-Saharan Africa more broadly.
DAAS/GCC Study Abroad Program: Nangodi, Ghana
Study-Abroad Program and the Center for Global and Intercultural Study/GCC Program provide an opportunity for students to carry out research on a development project in Nangodi, Ghana, that would provide alternative income generation for women small-scale gold miners. In Nangodi, small-scale gold mining has been carried out since the mid-1980s, with adverse effects on gold miners’ health and on the environment. The abundance of neem trees (Azadirachta indica) in the area presents the opportunity to develop neem-related products (oil, soap, insecticide) as an alternative to gold mining. Students will work with women small-scale gold miners in Nangodi in order to start-up neem soap and oil production, using both appropriate technology (oil presses, soap-making equipment, and packaging) and environmentally-sound practices (water use and waste disposal). Students will also work with local traders in branding and marketing Nangodi soap through networks established for the sale of Bolgatanga baskets which are made in the area.
Semester in Detroit
The Semester in Detroit mission is to engage U-M undergraduates in substantive, sustained and reciprocal relationships with the people and communities of the City of Detroit. Combining a semester-long residence in the city with rigorous academic study and a comprehensive community-based internship, SiD students become deeply involved in — and committed to — the life, challenges, and promise of this important American city. See the website here.
Public Health Projects
The Pedagogy of Action
At the heart of the Pedagogy of Action (POA) is the idea of empowering ordinary people to become HIV activists in the communities where they live. This is done primarily through an HIV education module, a 15-minute presentation created by Professor Nesha Haniff, designed to educate the low-literate and empower them to become second-generation teachers. The Module is given completely orally, making it accessible to people who cannot read or write. According to POA alumna Renee Pitter, "the single most important thing that makes this program so unique is that it is not a study abroad. Students get an experience that is unlike anything that they are able to get in the classroom. We are forced to wrestle with ourselves in a very real way and take a stance on the ways in which we will chose to live our lives.”
After years of teaching the module to community members in South Africa and Jamaica, the Pedagogy of Action will now focusing it’s efforts domestically, specifically, in the metro Detroit/Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area. POA's presence in the local community is important because we must recognize the ways in which HIV/AIDS affects our own community and, ultimately wrestle with the ways which we choose to engage with our community-at-large.