While black studies became an institutional and disciplinary formation in mainstream US universities in the 1960s, it has existed since the eighteenth century as a set of intellectual traditions and liberation struggles that have borne witness to the production and maintenance of hierarchical distinctions between groups of humans. Viewed in this light, black studies represents a substantial critique of Western modernity and a sizeable archive of social, political, and cultural alternatives. As an intellectual enterprise, black studies investigates processes of racialization with a particular emphasis on the shifting configurations of black life. If racialization is understood not as a biological or cultural descriptor but as a conglomerate of sociopolitical relations that discipline humanity into full humans, not-quite-humans, and non-humans, then blackness designates a changing system of unequal power structures that apportion and delimit which humans can lay claim to full human status and which humans cannot.
— Alexander G. Weheliye, “Introduction: Black Studies and Black Life." The Black Scholar, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Summer 2014), p. 6