Afro/Black FSP to debut this summer in Paris

by Ruben Gallardo | 5/4/18 2:45am

The City of Light will now host more than one Dartmouth study abroad program. This upcoming summer term, 18 students will travel to Paris, France to participate in the inaugural Afro/Black Paris: The African Diaspora and the City of Light foreign study program, offered by the African and African American studies program.

The Afro/Black Paris FSP consists of three courses taught in English, and focuses on the cultural, historical and social significance of African descendants in France, which is a region of the African diaspora, according to professor and faculty director of the Afro/Black Paris FSP Trica Keaton.

According to Keaton, national curator of African art at the Ministère de la Culture Laurella Rinçon will teach one of the courses focused on masterpieces of African art from prehistory to the present day and the representations of Afro-descendant people in French national museums, while Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme professor Françoise Vergès will teach a second course on slavery and colonialism, and post-colonialism in France. Keaton added that she will teach the third course centered on the lived experiences of African American and Afro French people in relation to modern French society.

She said that the FSP will also include three excursions to regions outside of Paris that will function as supplemental learning experiences for each course. For instance, the students will visit the city of Nantes — formerly known for having the second largest slave port in France — to learn how the slave trade shaped this city, the Dordogne region to visit Josephine Baker’s chateau and the Lascaux caves and the city of Toulouse to examine various works of African art and their relationship to French colonialism, according to Keaton.

“[Students will] visit [Nantes] and [learn] how the city built its wealth based on what was an industry to them and visit a museum and a memorial to the abolition of slavery,” Keaton said. “[France] has been slow to own that history, and [these places] are there for students to experience important aspects of it.”

The students will also participate in workshops giving them the opportunity to learn about jazz, hip-hop dance and Afro-Caribbean and French cuisine, Keaton said.

As of now, the Afro/Black Paris FSP will be offered every other year during the summer due to the challenges of coordinating study abroad programs and to allow students to also take advantage of the FSP in Accra, Ghana, which is also offered by the AAAS program, according to Keaton.

On Apr. 28, a symposium took place at the College which featured film screenings, panels of scholars and meal receptions, to launch the Afro/Black Paris FSP and to raise awareness of how the African diaspora arrived [and thrives] in France [and Europe], Keaton said.

Jasmine Butler ’21 noted that the students participating in the program were required to participate in certain portions of the symposium in preparation for their trip to Paris.

Butler said the focus of the courses on the African diaspora and her desire to improve her French language skills incentivized her to apply to the FSP. Butler noted that while the French department also offers an FSP in Paris, she was dissuaded by the topics of the courses offered through that program.

“I’m in French 3 [ “Introductory French III”] right now and I have been working on my French all of this [academic] year,” Butler said. “I had known about the LSAs and the FSP, but [knowing] that I was going to be studying stuff that I wasn’t actually interested in [pushed me toward the Afro/Black Paris FSP].”

Keaton said that the influence of her mentors and professors who authored the books that now form the foundation of Afro/Black French and European studies as well as her previous experiences teaching summer courses in France while she was a faculty member at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and Vanderbilt University inspired her to create the Afro/Black Paris FSP at Dartmouth.

The development of new study abroad programs at the College requires the formulation of the idea by a faculty member followed by coordinating the logistics, and it may require exploratory travel by the faculty member, according to executive director of the Frank J. Guarini Institute for International Education John Tansey.

Keaton said that she was able to tap into her well-established network in France that she developed over the years through her research, graduate studies and a variety of other past programs to find collaborators for the FSP.

The FSP does not have any language prerequisites to avoid excluding students who may be interested in the topic but do not speak French, Keaton said.

“The notion of an Afro/Black Paris is [often] illegible to people in the United States and in some cases in France as well,” Keaton said. “I wanted to bring in visual culture and actual specialists who work on these topics … as a way for students to have some intellectual engagement with the [topic].”

Correction appended (May 4, 2018): This article has been updated to properly introduce Jasmine Butler '21. It has also been updated to reflect the nature of the courses taught on the FSP, as well as its excursions.