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Networks Among Black Studies Professors. Fabio Rojas Department of Sociology Indiana University. Black Studies: Discipline in Formation. For the last five years, I’ve been working on the evolution of Black Studies programs.

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networks among black studies professors

Networks Among Black Studies Professors

Fabio Rojas

Department of Sociology

Indiana University

black studies discipline in formation
Black Studies: Discipline in Formation
  • For the last five years, I’ve been working on the evolution of Black Studies programs.
  • See my conditionally accepted book manuscript: From Black Power to Black Studies. (Johns Hopkins Press)
  • Articles at
  • The history of Black Studies allows us to answer important questions about the academy’s response to social movements.
discipline in formation
Discipline in Formation
  • The evolution of Black Studies also provides data on the formation of new disciplines.
  • How is a new discipline created from other disciplines?
the hypothesis
The Hypothesis
  • Black Studies is an “interdiscipline”
  • What is an interdiscipline?
  • An academic community that is strongly integrated with other disciplines.
  • In contrast, a discipline is self-contained.
let me elaborate a little
Let Me Elaborate a Little
  • If you look at central disciplines, such as English or philosophy, you notice that they have their own academic units, elite training (PhD programs) and certification (the journals and presses).
  • In contrast, the interdiscipline is not socially closed – it either teaches, trains, or certifies in other disciplines. It has a distinct institutional identity, but is deeply rooted in other fields.
what are some examples
What are some examples?
  • Disciplines: English, philosophy, civil engineering.
  • Interdisciplines: Black Studies, public policy, cognitive science, American studies
  • Research communities: network studies, artificial intelligence, medieval studies.
how am i going to show that black studies is an interdiscipline
How am I going to show that Black Studies is an “interdiscipline”?
  • Use publicly available data on Black Studies professors
  • Analyze survey data that I collected.
  • This data will show that Black Studies recruits and is socially connected to other disciplines.
institutional data
Institutional Data
  • I’ll keep this brief so I can get to the network data…
  • Black Studies has some disciplinary features:
  • Journals, degree programs, and even a few Ph.D. programs.
but it is interdisciplinary
But it is interdisciplinary
  • Most professors recruited from other fields.
  • They tend to publish in other disciplinary journals.
  • They teach many, many courses in departments other than Black Studies.
let s get to networks
Let’s Get to Networks
  • You can look also look at the informal structure of an academic group.
  • One would hypothesize that disciplines would be more socially open than other academic groupings.
disciplines and social closure
Disciplines and Social Closure
  • Members of an academic discipline should have common training, institutional histories, and ideology. Therefore, they should be more likely to cooperate with each other, than outsiders.
  • The interdiscipline, in contrast, is socially connected to other academic communities.
let s visualize it
Let’s visualize it!


Black Studies


Black Studies

the data the survey of issues in africana studies
The Data: The Survey of Issues in Africana Studies
  • In 2004-2005, every single professor of Black Studies received an invitation to participate. Check it out !
  • 200 professors participated in the study.
  • Survey included a battery of network items.
the network items
The network items
  • Respondents were asked the following questions:
  • Important professional matters
  • Career decision
  • Scholarly feedback
  • Conflict
some descriptive statistics
Some Descriptive Statistics
  • 140 people provided information about “importance” network
  • Average # of ties in “importance” network is 9.63
  • Almost 1400 people mentioned.
first question
First Question
  • How often do Black Studies professors contact others in their own program to discuss “important” matters?
  • Answer #1: 15% of alters were in the same program.
  • Answer #2: Average ego-neighborhood has 9.6 people in it, 8.1 are outside the person’s program.
second question
Second Question
  • How often do Black Studies professors contact other Black Studies professors in regard to important matters?
  • Answer #1: 25% of alters are not Black Studies professors at all.
  • Answer #2: Average person has 9.6 in neighborhood, 7.13 are not in any program.
let s investigate a little more
Let’s investigate a little more…
  • Who are the most central Black Studies actors?
  • Who are the professors most likely to be nominated by their peers in this survey?
  • Many people mentioned once or twice… but a few stood out.
the afrocentric center
The Afrocentric center

Dr. Molefi Asante – former chair of theTemple Univeristy Black Studies program.

PhD in communications, prolific author, but most importantly – creator of the field’s first PhD program and inventor of Afro-centric theory.

Intellectual prominence corresponds with social centrality.

it doesn t stop there
It doesn’t stop there…
  • Other highly central scholars tend to be afro-centric.
  • Example: #3 in centrality is Maulana Karenga of CSU Northridge. Founder of the US organization and prominent Black Nationalist of the 1970s.
what about skip gates
What about Skip Gates?
  • Some universities have tried to improve their Black Studies Programs by hiring highly visible mainstream scholars like Henry Louis Gates, Jr. So how central is he in the Black Studies network?

Only mentioned once by another scholar, who works at a research university.

let s think about that
Let’s think about that…
  • The Survey picked up about 25% of the total population and participation was random.
  • The founder of the afrocentric movement is on personal terms with probably 4-5% of the entire profession.
sources of the network
Sources of the Network
  • We’ve gleaned some vital information about Black Studies professors and their connections. We learned some important things about the field’s social structure.
  • What factors might explain an individual’s # of ties within the profession? What about ratio of “in” ties to “out” ties?
hypothesis 1 demography
Hypothesis 1: Demography
  • We expect some gender & racial differences.
  • We also expect time since PhD to have an effect – people who have been in the field longer have had more chance to develop networks within the field.
hypothesis 2 disciplinary training institutional effect
Hypothesis 2: Disciplinary Training & Institutional Effect
  • It might also be possible that disciplinary training might have an effect.
  • Maybe specific disciplines encourage a more interdisciplinary orientation, leading to many more out ties.
  • Public/private & research/non-research effects.
hypothesis 3 self selection
Hypothesis 3: Self-selection
  • People who believe in a self-contained Black Studies field will be more likely to have ties inside the field.
  • Call this the “afro-centric” effect.
  • Dependent variable: # of ties within Black Studies & proportion of all ties within Black Studies.
  • Demography: gender, race, year of Ph.D.
  • Discipline: Area of PhD
  • Self selection: measure of belief that Black Studies has its own ideas
summary of poisson models
Summary of Poisson Models

Note: “Yes” means significant effect. Poission regression results. Alpha=.05. Complete Data on about 130 respondents.

  • Research question 1: Is Black Studies an “interdiscipline?”
  • Yes – when you measure networks, most ties are from Black Studies to non-black Studies.
  • Research Question #2: What factors explain Black Studies networks?
  • Answer: Gender plays a pretty big role. Recent PhD’s have bigger “inside” networks. Same for profs at research schools.
  • Afrocentric orientation correlates with smaller networks which have few outside ties.
future research
Future Research
  • Do these results holds for other types of ties?
  • Explore further the effect of Afrocentric ideology on field’s social structure.
  • Link network structure to observable behavior.