Photo by Richard Howard
As she prepares to retire after 22 years in the Africana Studies department, Professor Filomina Steady isn’t slowing down. She has a new book, The African Diaspora Returns Home, in the pipeline, and her research remains very much on her mind.
How has Wellesley changed in the years you’ve been here?
I have seen a change from a strictly disciplinary emphasis to an appreciation for multidisciplinary approaches. … [M]ost disciplines cover the social sciences and the humanities, which are basically fields of integration of society and humanity rather than separation. I think it will be more difficult in the future to fragment reality into rigidly defined disciplinary lineups.
What will you miss about this place?
I will miss everyone, but my students most of all. I will also miss my valuable and hard-working faculty colleagues and sharing ideas with them. I am particularly impressed by the ones in Africana Studies and our newly recruited colleagues, who hold a lot of promise for a multidisciplinary department that is opening new spaces for theoretical and methodological approaches. These approaches centralize the contribution of people of Africa and the Diaspora to human history, the arts, and the sciences.
You were born and grew up in Sierra Leone before coming to the United States for college. Is a return to Africa in your future?
I’m a social anthropologist, so most of my field research is in Africa. It requires that I be there. My husband and I go home every year. We have a home there, and we spend Christmas there. It’s like having two homes, and it’s nice to balance the two.
Will you continue your research and writing in retirement?
It will be nice not to have rigid schedules, not to be ruled by the calendar. But I am internally a highly scheduled person anyway. So I think it will be just reordering of priorities and having maybe a little more flexibility. But the drive, I think, will still be there. The curiosity will still be there. I’m still me. I think the advantage academics have when they retire is they do still have their brains with them. You can go with it wherever you wish, and explore.