Special Issue "Sankofa; or ‘Go Back and Fetch it’: Merging Genealogy and Africana Studies"

A special issue of Genealogy (ISSN 2313-5778).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 December 2017)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Kameelah L. Martin

Director of African American Studies, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Black Atlantic/African spirituality; Literatures of the African Diaspora; African American Folklore, Gullah Geechee heritage; black women in cinema; African American genealogy
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Elizabeth J. West

Department of English, Georgia State University, P.O. Box 3970, Atlanta, Georgia 30302, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Early African American and Women’s literature, African Diaspora Literatures of the Americas, literary representations of spirituality, religion, and gender

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

With the overwhelming popularity of genealogy themed television, genetic genealogy testing, and the enduring aphorism of Sankofa, people of African descent are consistently negating the belief that the ancestry of the enslaved in the United States and their descendants is for the most part unknowable. In the 21st century, the descendants of the enslaved are truly able to “go back and fetch” the origins of their past as a means to govern, assertively, their future. The frankness with which Edward Ball confronts slaveowners’ blood ties to their chattel property in Slaves in the Family (1998) as well as the success of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s PBS series “African American Lives” and “Finding Your Roots” are equally responsible for the increased interest in genealogy as both a hobby and academic pursuit. More than ever, people of the African Diaspora are better able to identify and reconcile with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade’s erasure of their lineage, familial bonds, and complicated ancestries of enslavement.

African American genealogy is a growing field of inquiry, which carries a distinct set of research challenges, methodological approaches, and collective memories. It is at constant interplay with the histories, cultures, and theories of Africana Studies. A focus on African American genealogy is, indeed, an exercise in the study of the Black experience. We see this readily with the recent acclaim of Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns (2010) and the gut-wrenching truth of Saidiya Hartman’s Lose Your Mother (2008). Other academicians, too, are shifting their scholarly focus to investigations of African American lineage and how it can humanize our understanding of race and the imperfect past of the Black Atlantic world. Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010), Lawrence P. Jackson’s My Father’s Name (2012) and Lisa Lindsay and John Wood Sweet’s Biography and the Black Atlantic (2013) demonstrate just how seamlessly African American genealogy, genetics, and humanistic inquiry merge to produce some of the most cutting-edge research of the last decade.

We enthusiastically announce that Genealogy is now accepting submissions for a special issue on this innovative turn in interdisciplinary projects across the academy. Titled after the Akan mythology in which a bird flies with its head turned backwards to symbolize the exigency of reconciling one’s past with the future, Sankofa; or ‘Go Back and Fetch It’: Merging Genealogy with Africana Studies invites essays from scholars, genealogists, and independent researchers that apply genealogical research to a wide range of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the African Diaspora. We seek to initiate a transnational discourse in which innovations in genealogy research such as DNA analysis, the Freedman’s Bureau digitization project, and online communities widen the scope of what we know and what we can learn as we consider the future of Africana Studies. We hope to cast our net wide and far to include humanities, social sciences, and STEM research.

We encourage submissions that address topics including, but not limited to the following:

* African DNA analysis testing
* Recovering or preserving slave cemeteries
* Professionalizing genealogy in Africana Studies Programs
* Afro-Caribbean genealogies
* Afro-European genealogies
* Cultural Trauma inherited through DNA
* Genealogy using the Federal WPA archives
* Genealogy of the first African American President of the United States
* Enslaved ancestors of Michelle Obama
* African American descendants of America’s founding fathers
* African American genealogical societies
* African American and Native American genealogical relationships
* Forensic science and black genealogy
* Confronting white slave-owning descendants
* Understanding Haplo group Identification
* Oral histories as genealogy
* Afro-Jewish ancestries
* Using genealogy to reconstruct history
* Genealogy and patterns of migration
* Why genealogy of historic black figures matters today
* Black genealogy as public history
* African ancestry of England’s Queen Charlotte

Prof. Dr. Kameelah L. Martin
Prof. Dr. Elizabeth J. West
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Genealogy is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • black genealogy
  • Africana Studies
  • slave ancestry
  • African ancestry
  • DNA analysis,
  • black Migration
  • black Atlantic
  • black biography
  • oral history

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial Sankofa, or “Go Back and Fetch It”: Merging Genealogy and Africana Studies—An Introduction
Received: 6 October 2018 / Revised: 17 October 2018 / Accepted: 23 October 2018 / Published: 29 October 2018
PDF Full-text (154 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
With the overwhelming popularity of genealogy-themed television series, genetic genealogy testing, online subscription services for research, and the enduring aphorism of Sankofa, people of African descent are consistently dispelling the long-avowed assertion that the ancestry of the enslaved in the United States
[...] Read more.
With the overwhelming popularity of genealogy-themed television series, genetic genealogy testing, online subscription services for research, and the enduring aphorism of Sankofa, people of African descent are consistently dispelling the long-avowed assertion that the ancestry of the enslaved in the United States and their descendants is, for the most part, unknowable. [...] Full article

Research

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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Mythological Recuperation and Performance as Agency for Genealogical Return in Djanet Sears’s Afrika Solo
Received: 17 December 2017 / Revised: 2 April 2018 / Accepted: 3 April 2018 / Published: 10 April 2018
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Abstract
This paper is an examination of Djanet Sears’s Afrika Solo (1990) as a unique example of how Blacks in the global diaspora trace their genealogical roots back to Africa. Drawing from research in anthropology, cultural studies, and performance, the paper purports that Sears’s
[...] Read more.
This paper is an examination of Djanet Sears’s Afrika Solo (1990) as a unique example of how Blacks in the global diaspora trace their genealogical roots back to Africa. Drawing from research in anthropology, cultural studies, and performance, the paper purports that Sears’s African-Canadian identity is underlined by her recuperation of a heritage, epistemes and performative aesthetics, and, real or imagined, practices that are not just Afrocentric but specifically Yoruba. Essentially, the paper examines Afrika Solo in the context of Black Aesthetic and more significantly as “text” in a Yoruba sense, which constitutes her own way of “going back to get it.” The paper is divided into two parts: the first part presents a general argument about Sears’s journey back to Africa and the culturally-rooted nature of the performance as opposed to feminist/gender readings of same, while the second part explores ways of understanding the play through the lens of Yoruba ritual and its aesthetics. Full article
Open AccessArticle Of African Descent? Blackness and the Concept of Origins in Cultural Perspective
Received: 22 January 2018 / Revised: 27 February 2018 / Accepted: 28 February 2018 / Published: 5 March 2018
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Abstract
Over the past decade, the DNA ancestry-testing industry—based largely in the United States—has experienced a huge upsurge in popularity, thanks partly to rapidly developing technologies and the falling prices of products. Meanwhile, the notion of “genetic genealogy” has been strongly endorsed by popular
[...] Read more.
Over the past decade, the DNA ancestry-testing industry—based largely in the United States—has experienced a huge upsurge in popularity, thanks partly to rapidly developing technologies and the falling prices of products. Meanwhile, the notion of “genetic genealogy” has been strongly endorsed by popular television documentary shows in the US, particularly vis-à-vis African-American roots-seekers—for whom these products are offered as a means to discover one’s ancestral “ethnic” origins, thereby “reversing the Middle Passage.” Yet personalized DNA ancestry tests have not had the same reception among people of African descent in other societies that were historically affected by slavery. This paper outlines and contextualizes these divergent responses by examining and comparing the cultural and political meanings that are attached to notions of origin, as well as the way that Blackness has been defined and articulated, in three different settings: the United States, France and Brazil. Full article
Open AccessArticle ‘Reparational’ Genetics: Genomic Data and the Case for Reparations in the Caribbean
Received: 15 December 2017 / Revised: 26 January 2018 / Accepted: 1 February 2018 / Published: 6 February 2018
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Abstract
Drawing on my population genomic research among several Caribbean communities, I consider how ongoing Caribbean reparations movements index genomic information. Specifically, I examine the intersection between genetic ancestry and calls for reparatory justice to gain insight into the ways that scientific data are
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Drawing on my population genomic research among several Caribbean communities, I consider how ongoing Caribbean reparations movements index genomic information. Specifically, I examine the intersection between genetic ancestry and calls for reparatory justice to gain insight into the ways that scientific data are utilized in social articulations of both racial and indigenous identity. I argue that when contextualized within complex historical and cultural frameworks, the application of genomic data complicates notions about biological continuity and belonging, yet is compatible with broader conceptualizations of how people imagine themselves and histories in relation to geographic origins. Full article
Open AccessArticle Bridging Discussions of Human History: Ancestry DNA and New Roles for Africana Studies
Received: 16 December 2017 / Revised: 15 January 2018 / Accepted: 17 January 2018 / Published: 22 January 2018
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Abstract
This paper explores how Africana Studies offer the opportunity for a new worldview that may supplant the assumption that Western history is history. It considers how new knowledge of the human migration bodes for the future of Africana Studies. It has the following
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This paper explores how Africana Studies offer the opportunity for a new worldview that may supplant the assumption that Western history is history. It considers how new knowledge of the human migration bodes for the future of Africana Studies. It has the following research questions: (1) Does new ancestry data reveal or clarify African narratives that may have been missing or suppressed?; (2) What heritage do participants over- or under-predict?; (3) Do participants over-predict indigenous American heritage?; and (4) How is unexpected heritage received? Data from the DNA Discussion Project is used to answer these questions, and implications for bridging discussions of human history using Ancestry DNA are discussed. Full article

Other

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Open AccessEssay Techno-Ethno Genealogy: An African Ancestry Narrative in the Digital Age
Received: 18 May 2018 / Revised: 5 July 2018 / Accepted: 14 August 2018 / Published: 23 August 2018
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Abstract
This article explores ways in which advances in genetic testing have both facilitated and democratized genealogical research for individuals in search of their “roots” or ethnic heritage. These advances coincide with the quests of people of African descent to pinpoint their precise origins
[...] Read more.
This article explores ways in which advances in genetic testing have both facilitated and democratized genealogical research for individuals in search of their “roots” or ethnic heritage. These advances coincide with the quests of people of African descent to pinpoint their precise origins and ethnic backgrounds in Africa, revelations that have been denied to many African descendants in the diaspora from slavery times to the present. Genetics and DNA as the “great truth teller”, however, frequently yield results that go contrary to expectations. In this article, the author explores at a personal level the tensions that the “Genetic Revolution” produces between biology and society. Full article
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