Director's Welcome


As incoming Director of African & African American Studies, it is my pleasure to extend this welcome to you -- our student community of AAAS majors and minors, our faculty and staff, and the entire AAAS community.


Dr. H. Samy Alim

Director, African & African American Studies

Over fifty prestigious and award-winning faculty from over twenty disciplines participate in African & African American Studies. Our Program is highly interdisciplinary and integrated into all fields of study across campus and across the curriculum; affiliated faculty offer cross-listed classes in every realm of intellectual inquiry, from Business to Sociology to Art and Literature. AAAS offers a field of study that explores the experiences of people of African descent in Black Atlantic societies, including the United States, the Caribbean,

and Latin America. Courses in the program explore and analyze the rich, complex, and distinctively African American social structures and cultural traditions that Africans in the Diaspora have created. Students are exposed to the historical, cultural, literary, political, economic, and social development of people of African descent in the Americas.

We aim to provide students with an outstanding, rigorous, and engaging intellectual experience in which students acquire analytic skills grounded in a traditional discipline as well as interdisciplinary skills of investigation and research. African American Studies offers training of special interest to those considering admission to graduate or professional schools and careers in education, literary studies journalism, law, business, international relations, politics, psychology, anthropology, social science, theatre, performing arts and cultural studies, among many others. It is fitting that we pursue these goals in conjunction with Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, to underscore the connectedness of, and intra-ethnic dynamics between, African Americans and many other groups and peoples.

To that end, we modified our undergraduate curriculum last year. This new curriculum better reflects both student interests as well as our faculty expertise in the latest scholarship of the African American and Africana Studies. We worked to make the requirements more transparent, more in line with peer programs at Stanford, and easier to fulfill for those double-majoring or minoring.

Centers of Gravity
An important part of my role involves cultivating an even stronger, close-knit community of undergraduate majors and minors, to make the African & African American Studies your intellectual and social home at Stanford. In the next couple years, I will seek to make AAAS a communications clearing house: if you drop by our office, you will be able to find out about—at a glance—not only all our events and programs, but also what events are coming up with our many allied organizations, including the Center for Black Performing Arts, the Black Community Services Center, the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, the African Studies Center, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity, the Program for Feminist Studies, and many student groups.

We are always interested in hearing your thoughts about the major, and about what would make your career here in Stanford’s African & African American Studies Program exciting, challenging, and memorable. Please do not hesitate to drop by my during office hours or email me at halim@stanford.edu or our Associate Director at cheryl.brown@stanford.edu.

About Our Director

Dr. H. Samy Alim is Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Anthropology and Linguistics, and serves as Director of the Program in African & African American Studies and the Institute for Diversity in the Arts. Professor Alim’s research has focused on Black Language and Black Popular Culture, primarily Hip Hop Culture and poetics, for over 15 years. Since receiving his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University, Alim has written widely in this area.


His most recent book, Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. (Oxford, 2012, with Geneva Smitherman; Foreword by Michael Eric Dyson), addresses language and racial politics through an examination of President Barack Obama's language use—and America's response to it. Using a sociolinguistic analysis of Barack Obama as a point of departure, the book challenges American ideas about language, race, education, and power. His latest edited work – "Complicating Race: Articulating race across multiple social dimensions" (a special issue of Discourse & Society, with Angela Reyes) is particularly interested in the intersection of race, gender, class, sexuality, etc., and how we construct our identities with language that highlights these intersections.


Alim has written about Black Language and Culture extensively in You Know My Steez: An Ethnographic and Sociolinguistic Study of Styleshifting (Duke, 2004) and Roc the Mic Right: The Language of Hip Hop Culture (Routledge, 2006). Other recent works include Talkin Black Talk: Language, Education and Social Change (Teachers College Press, 2007) and Global Linguistic Flows: Hip Hop Culture(s), Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language (Routledge, 2009). Alim has lectured on Global Hip Hop Cultures in institutions as diverse as the American University in Cairo and Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt to East Palo Alto’s Mural Music and Arts Project and the American University in Beirut. He is also co-author of Street Conscious Rap (Black History Museum Press, 1999) and Tha Global Cipha: Hip Hop Culture and Consciousness (Black History Museum, 2006).


In all of his work, Alim has held a deep commitment to developing university-community relationships through research that explores the links between youth art, language and culture, and education and social justice for socially marginalized groups. He continues to do build these relationships through his work in African & African American Studies, the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, and the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Language, and through his writing and appearances on various media outlets, including The New York Times, MSNBC, The BBC, NPR, Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo), The Philadelphia New Observer, TheGrio.com, and Current.com.


I am looking forward to working with you all and to a great year.


H. Samy Alim, Director



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