Admission & Financial Aid

Admission & Financial Aid


Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses


Black Studies

Professors Abiodun‡, Cobham-Sander‡, del Moral (Chair), Drabinski**, Moss and Vaughan‡; Associate Professor Polk; Assistant Professor Hicks; Visiting Associate Professor Bailey; Visiting Assistant Professor Hickmott; Postdoctoral Fellow Jolly.

Affiliated Faculty: Professors Basu*, Hart, Lembo†, and Redding; Associate Professors Robinson and Sitze; Assistant Professor Henderson; Senior Lecturer Delaney.

Black Studies is an interdisciplinary exploration of the histories and cultures of black peoples in Africa and the diaspora. It is also an inquiry into the social construction of racial differences and its relation to the perpetuation of racism and racial domination.

Major Program. The major in Black Studies consists of eight courses: three core courses, three distribution courses, and two electives. The three core courses are BLST 111 (normally taken by the end of the sophomore year), BLST 200 (normally taken in the sophomore year), and BLST 300 (normally taken in the sophomore year), but before the final semester of the senior year. The three course distribution consists of one course in three of four geographic areas: Africa; the United States; Latin America and the Caribbean; and Africa and its Diaspora. The student may choose the two electives from the Department’s offerings, from cross-listed courses, or from other courses at the Five Colleges. Majors fulfill the department's comprehensive requirement by successfully completing BLST 300.

Departmental Honors Program. Normally students planning to write a thesis should have completed BLST 300 before the last semester of their senior year. All candidates for Honors must write a senior thesis. Candidates for Honors will, with departmental permission, take BLST 498-499 during their senior year. The departmental recommendation for Latin honors will be determined by the student’s level of performance on her/his thesis.

Key for required core and distribution requirements for the major: R (Required); A (Africa); US (United States); CLA (Caribbean/Latin America); D (Africa and its Diaspora).

Information concerning the Five College African Studies Certificate Program is available at

**On leave 2020-2021.

*On leave Spring 2021.

111 Introduction to Black Studies

[R] This interdisciplinary introduction to Black Studies combines the teaching of foundational texts in the field with instruction in reading and writing. The first half of the course employs How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren as a guide to the careful reading of books focusing on the slave trade and its effects in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Important readings in this part of the course include Black Odyssey by Nathan Huggins, Racism: A Short History by George Frederickson, and The Black Jacobins by C. L. R. James. The second half of the course addresses important themes from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Beginning with The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois, it proceeds through a range of seminal texts, including The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. This part of the course utilizes Revising Prose by Richard Lanham to extend the lesson in reading from the first half of the semester into an exploration of precision and style in writing. Computer exercises based on Revising Prose and three short essays—one on a single book, another comparing two books, and the last on a major theme in the course—provide the main opportunity to apply and reinforce skills in reading and writing learned throughout the semester. After taking this course, students at all levels of preparation should emerge not only with a good foundation for advancement in Black Studies but also with a useful set of guidelines for further achievement in the humanities and the social sciences.

Limited to 18 students per section. Fall semester: Professor del Moral. Spring semester: Professor C. Bailey.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

114 The Blues Muse: African American Music in American Culture

(See MUSI 128)

121 Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(See HIST 181)

123 Survey of African Art

(See ARHA 149)

130 Transnational American Studies

(See AMST 130)

131 Introduction to the Black Freedom Struggle

(Offered as BLST 131 [US] and HIST 131 [US/TS]) This course will explore the rise and fall of African American social movements over the course of the twentieth century. It will survey the critical organizations, institutions, and figures of the black freedom struggle and will examine the ideological diversity of a movement that encompassed ever-shifting combinations of uplift politics, black nationalism, liberalism, and leftism. We will explore a number of critical black lives over the course of the semester, including Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Pauli Murray, Ralph Bunche, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Angela Davis. The course will also introduce students to foundational debates and issues in the field of African American history, and push students to ponder how the political, socioeconomic, and cultural endeavors of African Americans have and continue to alter conventional understandings of "freedom," "justice," "democracy," and "equality" within and beyond the United States.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2021, Fall 2024

134 Hip Hop History and Culture

(See MUSI 126)

135 Introduction to African-American Philosophy

(Offered as BLST 135 [US] and PHIL 366) What is distinctive about the African-American experience? How does that distinctiveness bear on the theory and practice of philosophy and philosophical thinking? And how does the African-American philosophical tradition alter European and Anglo-American philosophical accounts of subjectivity, knowledge, time, language, history, embodiment, memory, and justice? In this course, we will read a range of African-American thinkers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in order to develop an appreciation of the unique, critical philosophical voice in the Black intellectual tradition. Our readings of works by David Walker, Martin Delany, Maria Stewart, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, Ida Wells, Alain Locke, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Cornel West and others will open up crucial issues that transform philosophy's most central problems: knowing, being, and acting. As well, we will consider the cluster of thinkers with whom those works are critically concerned, including key texts from nineteenth-century German philosophy, American pragmatism, and contemporary existentialism and postmodernism. What emerges from these texts and critical encounters is a sense of philosophy and philosophical practice as embedded in the historical experience—in all of its complexity—of African-Americans in the twentieth century.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019

144 Introduction to Dance Studies: What is Performance?

(See THDA 155)

147 Race, Place, and the Law

(See LJST 105)

162 Black (on) Earth: Introduction to African American Environmental Literature

(See ENGL 162)

193 The Postcolonial City

(See ARHA 157)

195 Black Existentialsim

(Offered as BLST 195[D] and PHIL 334) During the middle decades of the twentieth century, existentialism dominated the European philosophical and literary scene. Prominent theorists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty put the experience of history, alienation, and the body at the center of philosophical and literary life. It should be no surprise, then, that existentialism appealed to so many Afro-Caribbean and African-American thinkers of the same period and after. This course examines the critical transformation of European existentialist ideas through close readings of black existentialists Aime Césaire, Frantz Fanon, George Lamming, and Wilson Harris, paired with key essays from Sartre, Camus, and Merleau-Ponty. We will engage black existentialism not just as a series of claims, but also as a method, which allows us to read works by African-American writers such as W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison in an existentialist frame. Last, we will consider the matter of how and why existentialism continues to function so centrally in contemporary Africana philosophy.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2023

200 Critical Debates in Black Studies

[R] In this course students will focus closely on major debates that have animated the field of Black Studies, addressing a wide range of issues from the slave trade to the present. Each week will focus on specific questions such as: What came first, racism or slavery? Is African art primitive? Did Europe underdevelop Africa? Is there Caribbean History or just history in the Caribbean? Should Black Studies exist? Is there a black American culture? Is Affirmative Action necessary? Was the Civil Rights Movement a product of government action or grass-roots pressure? Is the underclass problem a matter of structure or agency? The opposing viewpoints around such questions will provide the main focus of the reading assignments, which will average two or three articles per week. In the first four weeks, students will learn a methodology for analyzing, contextualizing, and making arguments that they will apply in developing their own positions in the specific controversies that will make up the rest of the course.

Limited to 20 students. Spring Semester. Professor Hickmott.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

201 Power and Resistance in the Black Atlantic

(Offered as BLST 201 [D] HIST 267 [AF/LA/TEp] and LLAS 201) The formation of "the Black Atlantic" or "the African Diaspora" began with the earliest moments of European explorations of the West African coast in the fifteenth century and ended with the abolition of Brazilian slavery in 1888. This momentous historical event irrevocably reshaped the modern world. This course will trace the history of this transformation at two levels; first, we examine large scale historical processes including the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the development of plantation economies, and the birth of liberal democracy. With these sweeping stories as our backdrop, we will also explore the lives of individual Africans and African-Americans, the communities they built, and the cultures they created. We will consider the diversity of the Black Atlantic by examining the lives of a broad array of individuals, including black intellectuals, statesmen, soldiers, religious leaders, healers and rebels. Furthermore, we will pay special attention to trans-Atlantic historical formations common during this period, especially the contributions of Africans and their descendants to Atlantic cultures, societies, and ideas, ultimately understanding enslaved people as creative (rather than reactive) agents of history. So, our questions will be: What is the Black Atlantic? How can we understand both the commonalities and diversity of the experiences of Africans in the Diaspora? What kinds of communities, affinities, and identities did Africans create after being uprooted by the slave trade? What methods do scholars use to understand this history? And finally, what is the modern legacy of the Black Atlantic? Class time will be divided between lecture, small and large group discussion.

Spring semester. Professor Hicks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2021

203 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(Offered as BLST 203 [D], ENGL 216, and SWAG 203) The term “Women Writers” suggests, and perhaps assumes, a particular category. How useful is this term in describing the writers we tend to include under the frame? And further, how useful are the designations "African" and "African Diaspora"? We will begin by critically examining these central questions, and revisit them frequently as we read specific texts and the body of works included in this course. Our readings comprise a range of literary and scholarly works by canonical and more recent female writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and continental America. Framed primarily by Postcolonial Criticism, our explorations will center on how writers treat historical and contemporary issues specifically connected to women’s experiences, as well as other issues, such as globalization, modernity, and sexuality. We will consider the continuities and points of departure between writers, periods, and regions, and explore the significance of the writers’ stylistic choices. Here our emphasis will be on how writers appropriate vernacular and conventional modes of writing.

Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Lecturer Bailey.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2024

204 African Popular Music

(Offered as BLST 204 [A] and MUSI 105)  This course focuses on twentieth-century African popular music; it examines musical genres from different parts of the continent, investigating their relationships to the historical, political and social dynamics of their respective national and regional origins. Regional examples like highlife, soukous, chimurenga, and afro-beate will be studied to assess the significance of  popular music as a creative response to social and political developments in colonial and postcolonial Africa. The course also discusses the growth of hip-hop music in selected countries by exploring how indigenous cultural tropes have provided the basis for its local appropriation. Themes explored in this course include the use of music in the construction of identity; popular music, politics and resistance; the interaction of local and global elements; and the political significance of musical nostalgia.  Online elements of the course will be conducted via Zoom and the course website.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Five College Professor Omojola.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2016, Fall 2020, Fall 2022

208 African Migrations and Globalization

(Offered as BLST 208 [A/D] and HIST 211 [AF]) As the crisis of the postcolonial nation-state deepens in the context of globalization and statism in African countries especially in the last three decades, African societies have experienced significant migration of skilled and unskilled workers.  These migration flows are raising new questions about the nature of politics, economics, and culture in various African national and transnational contexts.  To explore the political, social, and economic consequences of these waves of migration in African states and among countries receiving African migrants, this course will examine the following topics at the core of the transformation of African states in the global age:  colonialism and the construction of modern African states; globalization and political legitimacy in postcolonial African states; globalization and African labor migration; globalization and African popular culture; globalization and Africa's new religious movements; globalization and Africa's refugee crisis; Africa and globalization of the media; Africa and the global discourse on gender and sexuality; Africa and the global discourse on AIDS/HIV; Africa and the globalization of football (soccer).  Course readings will focus not only on the impact of globalization and state crisis on African societies, but also on how emerging national and transnational African populations are shaping the processes of globalization.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Vaughan.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

210 Christianity and Islam in West Africa

(Offered as BLST 210 [A] HIST 210 [AF] and RELI 220) The course will examine the transformative impact of Christianity and Islam on West African societies since the wave of Muslim reformist movements and Christian evangelical movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The central question of the course will revolve around the idea that Muslim and Christian movements are essential to the transformation of West African societies during these critical centuries in West African history. Although course lectures and discussions will examine broad religious currents throughout West Africa, the course will focus on in-depth case studies on Nigerian, Ghana, and Senegal - three countries where Islam and Christianity profoundly transformed state-society relations from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first century.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Vaughan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

211 Africa Before the European Conquest

(See HIST 284)

212 Digital Africas

(See ENGL 278)

230 Spike Lee's Joints

(Offered as BLST 230 [D] and FAMS 358) In offering extended formal considerations of Spike Lee’s cinematic oeuvre – in particular his uses of light, sound, and color – this course is interested in how shifting through various modes of critical inquiry can enable or broaden different kinds of cultural, political, or historical engagement with a film. We will also pay special attention to the question of what it means to encapsulate a specific cultural moment, particularly vis-à-vis the often differing demands of fictional and non-fictional representation. As well, Lee’s aesthetic techniques, cultural politics, and wide-ranging critique of the American racial caste system will help us think about the role of film in ongoing struggles for racial justice.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Spring 2020

231 African American History from the Slave Trade to Reconstruction

(See HIST 247)

232 Black Reconstruction

(Offered as HIST 249 [TS] and BLST 232 [US]) There may be no more revolutionary moment in American history than the political and social experiment of Reconstruction. Between 1865 and 1877, questions of power, citizenship, and democracy were contested as never before. And for subsequent generations, American society has been indelibly shaped by the eventual victory of Reconstruction's opponents. Simply put, how we understand the history of this often-misunderstood, if not outright-ignored, era matters. In that regard, there may be no more revolutionary contribution to the historiography of the United States than W.E.B. Du Bois' Black Reconstruction in America. Published in 1935, Du Bois' work rebutted dominant characterizations of the nation's "tragic era," calling attention to the democratic strivings of freedpeople and the intensity of resistance to a world--and a racial order--temporarily turned upside down. This course will use the text to explore the history of Reconstruction and the politics of historical interpretation, and to locate Du Bois' contributions to the black intellectual tradition, particularly with regard to Du Bois' development as a pioneering theorist of race and class. Over the course of the semester, we will take a broad view of Black Reconstruction, utilizing a range of archival resources to understand the book's creation, reception and the broader politics of race in the New Deal era. We will also use the book to think about Reconstruction memory, and the ways it has informed debates about the realities and possibilities of American democracy in subsequent moments of social upheaval.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

236 Black Sexualities

(Offered as BLST 236 [US] and SWAG 235) From the modern era to the contemporary moment, the intersection of race, gender, and class has been especially salient for people of African descent—for men as well as for women. How might the category of sexuality act as an additional optic through which to view and reframe contemporary and historical debates concerning the construction of black identity? In what ways have traditional understandings of masculinity and femininity contributed to an understanding of African American life and culture as invariably heterosexual? How have black lesbian, gay, and transgendered persons effected political change through their theoretical articulations of identity, difference, and power? In this interdisciplinary course, we will address these questions through an examination of the complex roles gender and sexuality play in the lives of people of African descent. Remaining attentive to the ways black people have claimed social and sexual agency in spite of systemic modes of inequality, we will engage with critical race theory, black feminist thought, queer-of-color critique, literature, art, film, “new media” and erotica, as well as scholarship from anthropology, sociology, and history.

Fall semester. Professor Polk.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2022, Spring 2025

237 Incarcerating Blackness

(Offered as BLST 237 [US] and LJST 247) This course explores the complex relationship between race, racism, and mass incarceration. Readings from the African-American intellectual tradition, contemporary critics of the prison industrial complex, and memoirs from political prisoners will help us understand the depth and structure of the historical and cultural meaning of racialized imprisonment. In particular, we will look at how incarceration has been both a metaphor for the Black experience in the United States and a constant presence in that experience as a form of social, cultural, and political control. We will also examine how economic factors intersect with race and racism in the expansion of the prison system in the United States. Lastly, we will read a cluster of prison memoirs in light of contemporary historical and critical race analysis in order to discern the effects and affects of imprisonment on African-American life.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Spring 2020

239 Segregated America

(Offered as BLST 239 [US] and HIST 239 [US]) This course will examine the practices, cultures, and consequences of racial segregation in the modern United States. Beginning with the Jim Crow South, students will learn to interpret segregation not simply as a system of racial separation but as a critical site of political, economic, and psychological investment. Two questions will animate this course: how did segregation work and for whom, historically, did it work? In attempting to answer these questions, students will learn to see the ways in which a supposedly bygone institution has continued to profoundly shape the nature and distribution of power in the United States. Students will, for instance, ponder connections between the color line in the South and the history of red-lining in the urban North. In doing so, this course will ask students to consider the ways in which southern history might be understood as national history, and the ways in which the presence of segregation remains central to the persistence of inequality in American life. 

Omitted 20-21. Limited to 25 students. Professor Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2018

240 Afro-Latinos

(See AMST 216)

241 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present

(See HIST 248)

245 King

(See HIST 250)

248 Race and American Capitalism: From Slavery to Ferguson

(Offered as BLST 248 [US] and HIST 246 [US]) An unconventional history of capitalism, this course explores the various ways African Americans have experienced and responded to shifts in the organization of the American economy. Beginning with the middle passage and creation of plantation slavery in the New World, we will explore the commodification of African Americans' labor, and the ways in which that labor became a cornerstone of capital accumulation, both globally and in the United States. We continue through the revolutions of emancipation, the rise of Jim Crow and the making of urban America, to our present day reality of deeply rooted, and racialized, economic inequality. More than a history of exploitation, however, we will address the various ways in which African Americans chose to manage both the challenges and possibilities of American capitalist development. How, for instance, did black ownership of real estate in the segregated South shape Jim Crow governance? To what extent has black business contributed toward struggles for political and social equality? Finally, we will assess the numerous black critics, including intellectuals, activists and working African Americans, of the American political economy. How have such men and women called attention to the ways race and class have combined to shape both black lives and black political subjectivity?

Fall semester. Professor Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

253 The Colonial City: Architecture, Empire, Resistance

(See ARHA 257)

291 African and African Diaspora Thought

(Offered as BLST 291 [A/D] and HIST 291) This course will critically examine seminal works on African and African diaspora thought since the eighteenth century and will explore the following major issues: the consolidation of Atlantic slavery in the eighteenth century, the anti-slavery struggle in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Black freedom movements in the twentieth century, and the consolidation and fall of colonialism in Africa and the Caribbean in the twentieth century. Discussed in their appropriate historical context, the course will explore anti-slavery, pan-Africanist, Black feminist, and Black nationalist thinkers, notably Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Fowell Buxton, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edward Blyden, Alexander Crummell, Frantz Fanon, Claudia Jones, and Angela Davis.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Vaughan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020

293 African Art and the Diaspora

(See ARHA 270)

294 Black Europe

(Offered as BLST 294 [D], SWAG 294 and EUST 294) This research-based seminar considers the enduring presence of people of African descent in Europe from the nineteenth century to the contemporary moment, a fact that both confounds and extends canonical theories of African diaspora and black internationalism.  Focusing particularly on the histories of black people in Britain, Germany, and France, this course will take an interdisciplinary approach in its study of the African diaspora in Europe. We will examine literature, history, film, art and ephemera, as well as newly available pre-1927 audio recordings from Bear Family Records ( in effort to better comprehend the materiality of the black European experience. These inquiries will enable us to comment upon the influence black people continue to have upon Europe today. Reading the central texts in the emerging field of Black European Studies—including African American expatriate memoirs, Afro-German feminist poetry, and black British cultural theory—student work will culminate in an annotated bibliography and a multimedia research project.

Spring semester. Professor Polk.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023

296 Black Women and Reproductive Justice in the African Diaspora

(See AMST 296)

300 Research in Black Studies

[R] This seminar prepares students to conduct independent research. Although it concentrates on the field of Black Studies, it serves as a good introductory research course for all students in the humanities and social sciences regardless of major. The first part of the course will intensively introduce students to the library through a series of readings, exercises, and discussions aimed at sharpening the ability to locate information precisely and efficiently. The second part of the course will introduce research methods in three important areas of Black Studies: the arts, history, and the social sciences. Faculty members of the Black Studies Department, departmental affiliates, and visitors will join the class to present their own ongoing research, placing particular emphasis on the disciplinary methods and traditions of inquiry that guide their efforts. Also in the second part, through individual meetings with professors, students will begin developing their own research projects. The third part of the course will concentrate more fully on development of these projects through a classroom workshop. Here students will learn how to shape a topic into a research question, build a bibliography, annotate a bibliography, shape a thesis, develop an outline, and write a research proposal, or prospectus.

This course is required of Black Studies majors. It is open to non-majors with the consent of the instructor. Although BLST 111 and 200 are not required for admission, preference will go to those who have taken one or both of these courses. 

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Hicks and Professor Cobham-Sander.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

301 The Architecture of Race

(See AMST 301)

302 Global Women's Literature

(See SWAG 279)

305 The AfroPostmodern

[CLA/D] This course examines the meaning of “the postmodern” in contemporary Caribbean and African-American philosophy, cultural theory, and the arts. What is the postmodern? And how does the experience of the Americas transform the meaning of postmodernity? Four basic concepts guide our inquiry: fragmentation, nomad, rhizome, and creoleness. Short readings from European theorists will provide the backdrop for our treatment of how the experiences of the Middle Passage, colonialism, and postcolony life fundamentally transform postmodern ideas. In tracking this transformation, readings and reflections will explore the possible meanings of the AfroPostmodern in the works of Édouard Glissant, Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Wilson Harris, and Patrick Chamoiseau. In addition, with such theoretical considerations in place, the class will examine the specifically AfroPostmodern significance of aesthetic practices in dub, sampling, graffiti, and anti-racist irony. Lastly, the class will consider how AfroPostmodern conceptions of mixture, counter-narrative, and syncretism offer an alternative to dominant accounts of modernity and globalization.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2019

307 Apartheid

(See LJST 206)

309 ≠ (Inequality)

(See MATH 205)

310 Student Activism in U.S. History: Past and Present

(See HIST 251)

312 Black Speculative Fictions

(See ENGL 258)

313 Visual Arts and Orature in Africa

(Offered as BLST 313 [A] and ARHA 138) In the traditionally non-literate societies of Africa, verbal and visual arts constitute two systems of communication. The performance of verbal art and the display of visual art are governed by social and cultural rules. We will examine the epistemological process of understanding cultural symbols, of visualizing narratives, or proverbs, and of verbalizing sculptures or designs. Focusing on the Yoruba people of West Africa, the course will attempt to interpret the language of their verbal and visual arts and their interrelations in terms of cultural cosmologies, artistic performances, and historical changes in perception and meaning. We will explore new perspectives in the critical analysis of African verbal and visual arts, and their interdependence as they support each other through mutual references and allusions. In addition to visiting the Mead Art Museum to see African works, students will be required to listen to audio-recordings and engage selected visual images to enhance their understanding of the interrelationship of arts in Africa. 

Fall semester. Professor Abiodun.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

315 Myth, Ritual and Iconography in West Africa

(Offered as BLST 315 [A] and ARHA 353) Through a contrastive analysis of the religious and artistic modes of expression in three West African societies—the Asanti of the Guinea Coast, and the Yoruba and Igbo peoples of Nigeria—the course will explore the nature and logic of symbols in an African cultural context. We shall address the problem of cultural symbols in terms of African conceptions of performance and the creative play of the imagination in ritual acts, masked festivals, music, dance, oral histories, and the visual arts as they provide the means through which cultural heritage and identity are transmitted and preserved, while, at the same time, being the means for innovative responses to changing social circumstances.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Abiodun.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

316 Five Colleges Capstone Course in African Studies: African States & Societies—Culture, History, Politics, Religion

This capstone course will examine major historical, political, and cultural themes that shaped the processes of state-society formations in precolonial, colonial, and post-colonial Africa. Course lectures and discussions on a wide range of themes will draw on various texts, including primary documents, secondary scholarly works, documentary films, and digital materials. Following background lectures, scholars from the Five College Africanist community will lead seminar discussions of specific case studies drawn from their specialty on various regions across the African continent.

Requisite: At least three Five-College courses in African Studies or consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Preference for juniors and seniors. Omitted 2020-21. Five College Africanist faculty.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

317 Caribbean Poetry: The Anglophone Tradition

(See ENGL 317)

319 Racism and the City

(See SOCI 209)

321 Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(See HIST 488)

322 South African History

(See HIST 283)

326 Diamonds (Guns and Money): An African History of a Precious Commodity

(See HIST 326)

331 The Long Civil Rights Movement

(See HIST 455)

332 Red/Black Literature: At the Crossroads of Native American and African American Literary Histories

(See AMST 320)

334 Jazz History to 1945: Emergence, Early Development, and Innovation

(See MUSI 226)

336 The Social Construction of Whiteness

(See SOCI 334)

337 Angela Davis

(Offered as BLST 337 [US] and SWAG 337) Angela Davis’ work spans some of the most provocative and important cultural and political moments in recent U.S. history. Beginning with the Black Power and Black Panther movements of the late-1960s and 70s, through innovations in the Black feminist movement in the 1980s onward, and recently with questions of racialized mass incarceration and links between Palestinian and African-American freedom struggle, Davis has forged a militant vision of racial, sexual, and transnational liberation. Her writerly and analytic voice blends philosophy and political theory with the urgent demands of activism and direct action. In this course, we will read across her life’s work, beginning with early essays and her autobiography, up through recent reflections on mass incarceration, Palestine, and #BlackLivesMatter. As well, we will examine Davis' influences and how she transforms and extends their thought, ranging from Karl Marx and Herbert Marcuse to Frederick Douglass, Assata Shakur, and Huey Newton, among others. What emerges from these readings is a rigorous and radical vision of liberation drawn from a powerful mixture of critical theory, vernacular culture, and political activism.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Drabinski

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

340 Capstone in Black Studies

[D] This couse will guide the capstone projects of students interested in conducting intensive research on topics in African American studies and African & African diaspora studies.  Drawing from disciplinary and interdisciplinary methodologies, theories, and concepts in the humanities and social sciences, capstone research topics will cover broadly defined themes in Black Studies such as the effects of Atlantic slavery on the United States, the Americas, Africa, and Europe; the Black freedom struggle in the United States; women, gender, and sexuality in Black America, the African diaspora, and Africa; colonialism and independence in Africa and the Caribbean.  Through a collaborative learning process, the capstone experience will work with students to define clear research objectives, refine their analytical skills, effectively engage major issues in their research materials, and make critical intellectual interventions.  Students will be encouraged to critically explore research topics from courses they have taken in Black Studies and related disciplines as topics for their capstone research projects. Where appropriate, relevant films and videos will be available for critical analysis.

Limited to 15 students. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Vaughan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

345 Black Feminist Literary Traditions

(See SWAG 208)

346 Wright-Ellison-Baldwin

(Offered as BLST 346 [US] and ENGL 362) What is the political responsibility of the writer? Is the Black writer obligated to testify to, represent, and subject to critique the deep effects and affects of anti-Black racism? Or is the responsibility also something different, something better when committed to documenting life outside and in the cracks of an anti-Black racist world? What is art in relation to politics, politics in relation to art? What ought the artist do with the rage generated by three and a half centuries of anti-blackness? And with the pleasures of life that exist alongside that rage? This course explores the mid-century dispute between Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin concerning the meaning of the Black writer. Questions of colonialism, the uniqueness of the African-American experience, affective life (from rage to pleasure), community, and the genesis of cultural production will frame our readings and critical discussions. Beginning with exemplary novels by Wright, Ellison, and Baldwin—Native Son, Invisible Man, and Go Tell It on the Mountain—we will then consider their non-fiction, focusing on how each thinks through problems of nihilism, art, racialized subjectivity, gender, language, sexuality, class, region, and politics in a national and transnational context. As well, the questions raised in the fiction and non-fiction will help us engage with a cluster of contemporaries (Lorraine Hansberry, Norman Mailer, Kenneth Clark, others) and predecessors (Bessie Smith, W.E.B. Du Bois, Louis Armstrong, Alain Locke, Zora Neale Hurston), all of whom hold important critical positions in this argument.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018

347 Race, Sex, and Gender in the U.S. Military

(Offered as BLST 347 [US] and SWAG 347) From the aftermath of the Civil War to today's "global war on terror," the U.S. military has functioned as a vital arbiter of the overlapping taxonomies of race, gender, and sexuality in America and around the world. This course examines the global trek of American militarism through times of war and peace in the twentieth century. In a variety of texts and contexts, we will investigate how the U.S. military's production of new ideas about race and racialization, masculinity and femininity, and sexuality and citizenship impacted the lives of soldiers and civilians, men and women, at "home" and abroad. Our interdisciplinary focus will allow us to study the multiple intersections of difference within the military, enabling us to address a number of topics, including: How have African American soldiers functioned as both subjects and agents of American militarism? What role has the U.S. military played in the creation of contemporary gay and lesbian subjectivity? Is military sexual assault a contemporary phenomenon or can it be traced to longer practices of sexual exploitation occurring on or around U.S. bases globally?

Spring semester. Professor Polk.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023, Fall 2023

350 Africa/Brazil

(See HIST 350)

351 The Purpose and Politics of Education

(See HIST 352)

355 Race and Educational Opportunity in America

(See HIST 355)

362 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

(See ENGL 318)

365 Race and Relationality

(See ENGL 357)

377 Bad Black Women

(See SWAG 329)

382 Black Mestizx: Gender Variance and Transgender Politics in the Borderlands

(See SPAN 360)

390, 490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

392 Russia and the Representation of Race

(See RUSS 252)

412 African Literature and Social Media

(Offered as BLST 412 [A] and ENGL 472) This advanced, digital humanities, project-based course allows students to develop individual projects that follow and critique the social media presences of selected twenty-first-century African writers for whom digital spaces have become significant sites for creating, disseminating, and theorizing their work. Alongside independent projects, students will work collaboratively to understand the social and political events that have shaped recent technological shifts in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as to locate and critique theoretical texts that attempt to account for how digital technologies shape new literary genres and publics. In collaboration with the library staff, students will develop their proficiency in using a variety of bibliographical resources and digital humanities tools. Possible projects may engage such online artifacts as the video loops created by Kenyan filmmaker Jim ChuChu, YouTube performances by the Ghanian duo, Fokn Bois, and fanzines dedicated to the work of Chinua Achebe, as well as tweets and Instagram postings of a range of writers who work in multiple hybrid forms.

Requisite: Previous coursework in or knowledge of Africa or previous work on digital humanities projects preferred. Limited to 15 students. Open to Juniors and Seniors. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018

461 The Creole Imagination

(See ENGL 491)

498, 498D, 499, 499D Senior Departmental Honors

Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

Music Theory & Jazz

344 Jazz History After 1945: Experimentalism, Pluralism, and Traditionalism

(See MUSI 227)