African and African Disapora Studies Department
African and African Disapora Studies Department

Ph.D. Program

The African and African Diaspora Studies graduate program is a full-time course of study for students seeking a terminal doctoral degree. Students entering the AADS program with a master's degree from another university are typically admitted to the doctoral program on a three-year program of study, although admittance is not guaranteed. 

Students entering the program with a Bachelor’s Degree are typically admitted under a five-year program of study and during this time must complete required coursework and a written Master's project in the second year of study. Students take qualifying exams in the third year of study, which includes a dissertation proposal. Upon successful completion of exams, students enter candidacy, form a dissertation committee, and submit a dissertation.  

Doctoral Coursework
Doctoral Qualifying Examinations
Admission to Candidacy
Language Proficiency
When Can I apply?

Doctoral Coursework

Students must take a minimum of 60 hours of coursework, but a student's plan of study varies based on their advisor and preparation in Black Studies upon entry to the program. All African and African Diaspora Studies graduate students enroll in core required courses that explore the theoretical and methodological foundations of Black Studies. These core courses are:

AFR 390: Black Studies Theory I 
An intensive, collective theoretical conversation exploring some of the central themes and problems of Black Studies in the United States and the Black Diaspora. We will ask: What is race and how has it functioned in the constitution of modernity, space, and selfhood? What is blackness and how is it lived and expressed? What is the relationship of slavery to capitalism, empire, war, and democracy, and what are the ideological, performative, and cognitive legacies of slavery? Finally, what formations of imagination and sociability have (dis)organized Black communal life, and which remain vital?
AFR 391: Black Studies Methods 
A survey of seminal black studies texts and methods that have transformed the social sciences, humanities, and fine arts in producing a distinct black studies epistemology. Explores what black studies scholars have done to transform traditional methods and disciplines in pursuit of a distinct black studies methodology.
AFR 392: Black Studies Theory II 
An in-depth exploration of the innovative, complex, and distinctively African diaspora social structures and cultural traditions, as well as the historical, cultural, political, economic, and social development of people of African descent.
A supporting methods course
Students are required to take a supporting methods course. This course is chosen in consultation with the student's advisor and may be taken from another department at UT.

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of AADS, students must also take:

  • One course in the African Diaspora (example fields include African Studies, non-U.S. Black Studies); and
  • One course from two of the three following supporting areas:
    • Fine Arts (example fields include Art, Art History, Dance, Music, and Theatre)
    • Humanities (example fields include History, Literature, Philosophy, Religion, Languages, and Law)
    • Social Sciences (example fields include Anthropology, Economics, Education, Psychology, Government, and Sociology)

Remaining hours are made up of courses for supplemental electives, qualifying exams, and dissertation reading and writing.

Doctoral Qualifying Examinations

Students without a Master's Degree from another institution must complete the core curriculum and the interdisciplinary coursework (described above), the Master's Report courses, and language requirements (as determined by the student's advisor) before taking qualifying exams.

Students with a Master's Degree from another institution must fulfill these same requirements with the exception of the Master's report before taking the qualifying exams.

In order to advance to candidacy/dissertation, students must successfully complete their qualifying exams.

Students who enter the Ph.D. program with a M.A. are expected to take both parts of the Qualifying Examinations together in the fall of their second year. 

Students who enter the Ph.D. program without an M.A. can take the first part of the Qualifying Examinations in the fall of their third year, and the second part of the Qualifying Examinations in the spring of their third year.

A student’s QE committee will be at least three faculty members on the AADS Graduate Studies Committee. Any faculty members outside of AADS will be in addition to the three core faculty.

Content of Qualifying Examinations (QEs)
The QE is a two-part process: a sample class lecture (based on created syllabi) and a mock job talk (based on your prospectus).

1. Sample Class Lecture: Bibliographies and Syllabi

In consultation with the student’s advisor, the student will develop syllabi for three distinct courses which reflect research areas in support of her/his dissertation.  Each syllabus will include:

  • a bibliography of course readings and supporting texts
  • a narrative that discusses why these specific readings were selected
  • a schedule of daily activities in the course

The dissertation committee will choose one of the syllabi on which to base an introductory lecture, which should be 20-30 minutes in length.  The lecture serves to demonstrate the student’s oral competency, and the written narrative serves to demonstrate the student’s writing competency.            

2. Dissertation Proposal (Prospectus)

The student will produce a dissertation proposal following these guidelines (full text available in the AADS Graduate Student Handbook, Appendix C).

Doctoral students should use their proposal to outline the research and writing of their future dissertation. The exercise in creating a proposal is an important part of professionalization in the doctoral program, and the student’s committee must accept the proposal prior to extensive dissertation research and writing.

Divided into five parts including a title page, the proposal should be between 20-40 pages in length depending on the topic. 


  • To describe and outline the dissertation you intend to complete
  • To think about the issues and themes addressed in your study
  • To discuss the primary arguments/questions to be addressed in the dissertation
  • To identify preliminary research methods
  • To locate available archival sources/ethnographic sites needed to support the argument


  • To create an outline for the research and writing agenda
  • To identify areas of strength and weakness in the proposed study
  • To receive feedback from committee members prior to dissertation research and writing


  1. Title Page
    •  Title of Dissertation
    • Student’s Name
    • Name of supervisor and committee members
  2. Introduction
    • Explain and describe the proposed study.
    • Outline the preliminary thesis, proposed hypothesis, and major research questions.                                   
    • Define significant terms.
  3. Literature Review
    • Review of the literature published on the proposed topic.
    • Place the dissertation in conversation with the published literature.
    • Identify the primary documents and sources that frame the study.
    • Explain the contribution of this study as it relates to the current literature.
  4. Methodology
    • Identify the methods you intend to use in your study.
    • Explain why the methods you have chosen are suitable for your study.
  5. Bibliography
    • The student will offer a mock job talk on the topic of their proposal at a length of about 30 minutes. The job talk will be open to the public, and then the audience will be dismissed to allow the committee to deliberate and then ask questions of the student.

Admission to Candidacy

Upon completion of the qualifying exams and meeting the qualifications of the dissertation committee, students are admitted to candidacy and may register for dissertation courses (*99R and *99W). The Application for Doctoral Candidacy must be completed and submitted to the Graduate School electronically.  This form will list the proposed chair and committee members of the student’s dissertation committee along with the title and a brief description of the proposed dissertation.  For more information and access to the application see

Dissertation courses are taken for CR/NC.   All students must maintain continuous registration after admission to candidacy.


Upon successful completion of the qualifying examinations and all Ph.D. coursework (including foreign language proficiency), students may file for doctoral candidacy and register for dissertation hours (AFR 399R/699R/999R and AFR 399W/699W/999W). The dissertation serves as a culminating original body of scholarly, independent research demonstrating the candidate's expertise in their selected area of concentration.

In consultation with the Graduate Advisor, the candidate selects a dissertation supervisor (co-supervising is possible) and at least four other committee members (or three others, if the committee is co-chaired). At least three members of the dissertation committee must be members of the Graduate Studies Committee in AADS, and at least one member must be from an outside department or program.

An off-campus scholar may be appointed to a committee if the application for candidacy is accompanied by the scholar's curriculum vitae and a letter stating that the person is willing to serve and that the University will not pay travel expenses or provide recompense for such service. If later changes to the committee are necessary, requests must be filed with the Office of Graduate Studies through the African and African Diaspora Department.

When the candidate has completed the research and writing phase of her or his dissertation, the candidate then prepares for an oral defense before faculty and other interested members of the academy. The Request for Final Oral must be signed by all committee members and submitted to the Graduate Dean's Office at least two weeks before the examination is to be held. The defense consists of an oral examination on the dissertation and the student's future research plans. At least four members of the committee must participate. For more details on the oral defense process see

Candidates are encouraged to complete the Ph.D. in a timely manner, however candidacy is automatically subject to review three years after admission to candidacy and annually thereafter. This review is conducted by the supervisory committee for the dissertation, which makes specific recommendations to the Graduate Advisor, the Graduate Studies Committee, and the Graduate Studies Committee Chair, who, in turn, make a recommendation to the Dean of Graduate Studies.

For more information on dissertation requirements, guidelines and timelines, visit

Language Proficiency

Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in a non-English language before advancing to candidacy; ideally, this should take place before the qualifying examination. The language will be determined by the student, his/her advisor and approved by the GSC, and should reflect the student's research interests. The language requirement will be fulfilled with a translation exam administered and evaluated by AADS faculty members. The student's advisor will determine whether or not the student should also demonstrate speaking proficiency in the chosen language, in which case a proficiency exam will be required.

Non-English proficiency is not required upon admission to the AADS graduate program.

AADS will be accepting applications for the PhD program in African and African Diaspora Studies for the 2019–20 academic year from September 1st - December 1st, 2018.

For information, please contact the AADS Advising Office (