Black Studies
Year: Show curriculum in:

Amherst College Black Studies for 2010-11

10 Conceptualizing White Identity in the United States

(Offered as SOCI 31 and BLST 10 [US].)  The debate over the virtues of multiculturalism and the promotion of diversity have, ironically, led an increasing number of scholars to question the meaning of “whiteness.” What does it mean to be “white”? Who gets to decide who is and who isn’t “white”? Clearly, “white” means more than is captured by complexion alone, but what is there besides complexion? Given the undeniable fact that cultural variations among those regarded as white are as large as the variations between whites and non-whites, it is not clear what exactly constitutes whiteness. To study whiteness is to analyze the collective memory and practices of “white people” and to scrutinize carefully those moments when white identity is used to mobilize passions. This course will attempt to unpack the myths and realities that have created and maintained “white identity.”

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2010-2011.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2011

11 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 Franz 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.

Each section limited to 20 students. Fall semester: Professor Moss.  Spring semester: Visiting Professor Drabinski.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

12 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.

Each section limited to 20 students.  Fall semester: Professor Castro Alves and Visiting Professor Drabinski.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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

(Offered as MUSI 24 and BLST 14 [US].)  One of two courses that trace the development of jazz from its emergence in early 20th-century New Orleans to its profound impact on American culture. Jazz History to 1945 examines its early roots in late 19th-century American popular culture and its role as American popular music in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. Using themes that connect the evolution of jazz practices to social and racial politics in American popular culture, we will look closely at the work of well-known historical figures (Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and several others) as well as the vibrant communities that nurtured and prompted their innovative musical practices. Two class meetings per week.

Requisite: Music 11 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Robinson.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2014

15 Reading Popular Culture: Screening Africa

(Offered as ENGL 13 and BLST 15 [A].) Against a backdrop that moves from Heart of Darkness to (PRODUCT)RED™, this semester we will focus on the current proliferation of “Africa” in the western imaginary. Such surges in interest about the continent are not new, and we will trace this literary and cultural phenomenon across the twentieth century, coming to settle mainly on contemporary American films. We will read our films as films, but also as cultural texts. We must wonder: Why these films now? Are there certain conditions under which the West turns to its imagination of Africa? And how might we account for the repetition of such turns over time? We will end the course in a consideration of cultural appropriation and what it means for expressive traditions. To get at this question, however, we will also look to some of the ways African filmmakers have responded to and have themselves appropriated elements of texts similar to those with which we began the semester.

Omitted 2010-11.  Professor Parham.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009

16 Poverty and Inequality

(Offered as ECON 23 and BLST 16 [US].) Highly politicized debate over the determinants of poverty and inequality and the desirability of particular government responses often obscures actual changes over time in social and economic conditions. Information on the true impact of specific government policies and the likely effects of particular reforms becomes lost amid the political rhetoric. In this course we shall first discuss the concepts of poverty, inequality, and discrimination. Next we shall examine trends over time in the poverty rate, inequality of the earnings distribution, family living arrangements, education, crime, welfare recipiency, and health. We shall focus on the U.S., but also study a small number of less developed countries. In the final section of the course, basic economic principles and the evidence from experience with existing government programs will be used to analyze the likely impacts of several policy reform proposals.

Requisite: Economics 11.  Limited to 50 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Rivkin.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009

17 Passing in Literature and Film

(Offered as ENGL 69, BLST 17 [US], and FAMS 57.)  Is identity natural or cultural?  This question has persisted through centuries of American writing, and many of the most interesting meditations on this question arise from books and films that deal with passing.  Texts about passing, about people who can successfully pass themselves off as something different from what they were “born as,” form an important subgenre of American culture because they force us to question some strangely consistent inconsistencies in how we define identity.  If race, for example, signifies a real and material difference, how could there be such a thing as racial passing?  But, at the same time, if race is “only” a social construction, then why is racial passing so often characterized as a crime against nature?  Stories about passing often illustrate a fundamental ambivalence on the personal meaningfulness of biopower in America, and also reveal the nascent virtuality of worldly experiences more generally.  That in mind, this course explores a broad range of literary and cultural texts, including novels by Charles Chesnutt, Percival Everett, and Danzy Senna, and film and televisual texts like Gattaca, Avatar, Sirk’s Imitation of Life, and Eddie Murphy’s “White Like Me.”

Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 30 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Parham.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010

18 Apartheid

(Offered as LJST 06 and BLST 18) The goal of this course will be to understand some of the problems posed for legal studies in the humanities by the emergence of the system of administrative and constitutional law known as apartheid. This system, which was designed to institute “separate development for separate peoples” in South Africa, is widely and rightly regarded to be among the most inhuman régimes of the 20th century. Yet even and especially today, more than a decade after its formal end in South Africa, apartheid’s social, economic, and epistemic conditions of possibility, as well as the place and function of lawyers, legal discourse, and legal scholars in the resistance to it, remains at best vaguely understood.

This course is designed to remedy this gap. Our inquiry will be at once specific and general. Under what economic and political conditions did apartheid come into being? What legal traditions and practices authorized its codification? What academic disciplines and intellectual formations rendered it intelligible and enabled its theorization? What specific arrangement of juridical institutions, practices, and theories together comprised the apartheid state? What was the place and function of law in the critique of and resistance to apartheid? What new and specific problems did apartheid pose for legal theory?

Limited to 40 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Sitze.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2015

20 African Cultures and Societies

(Offered as ANTH 26 and BLST 20 [A].) This course explores the cultural meaning of indigenous African institutions and societies. Through the use of ethnographies, novels and films, we will investigate the topics of kinship, religion, social organization, colonialism, ethnicity, nationalism and neocolonialism. The principal objective is to give students an understanding of African society that will enable them better to comprehend current issues and problems confronting African peoples and nations.

Limited to 50 students. Spring semester. Professor Goheen.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2014

21 Black Diaspora from Africa to the Haitian Revolution

(Offered as HIST 11 [LAP/AFP] and BLST 21 [CLA/D].) This course maps the range of black experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean from the emergence of Atlantic slave-based economies in the sixteenth century to the 1844 slave conspiracy of La Escalera in Cuba. It treats the Atlantic Ocean as a crossroads of diverse cultures and as a point of reference for understanding the condition of Africans and people of African descent. Topics of discussion will include the rise of the transatlantic slave trade, slave and free black communities, the meaning of Africa and African culture, changing ideas of freedom, and forms of black activism. We will read Alejo Carpentier’s historical novel The Kingdom of This World (1949), slave narratives and monographic works on the British colony of Demerara (today Guyana), Mexico, Peru, Jamaica, Brazil, Haiti and Cuba. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2010-11. Professor Castro Alves.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

22 Literature in French Outside Europe: Introduction to Francophone Studies

(Offered as FREN 53 and BLST 22 [D].) This course will explore cross-cultural intersections and issues of identity and alienation in the works of leading writers from the French-speaking Caribbean and West Africa. Our discussions will focus on the sociopolitical positions and narrative strategies entertained in key texts of postcolonial literature (both fiction and critical essays). Issues involving nationalism, race, gender, assimilation and multilingualism will help to shape our discussion of how postcolonial subjects share in or distinguish themselves from certain tenets of Western thought. At issue, then, is the way French Caribbean and West African literatures and cultures trace their own distinctiveness and value. Conducted in French.

Requisite: One of the following--French 07, 08, 11, 12 or equivalent. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Hewitt.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2012

23 The Afro-Postmodern

[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 post-colony life fundamentally transform postmodern ideas. In tracking this transformation, readings and reflections will explore the possible meanings of the Afro-postmodern 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 Afro-postmodern significance of aesthetic practices in dub, sampling, graffiti, and anti-racist irony. Lastly, the class will consider how Afro-postmodern conceptions of mixture, counter-narrative, and syncretism offer an alternative to dominant accounts of modernity and globalization.

Limited to 20 students.  Preference to students who have taken Black Studies 11 or 12. Omitted 2010-11. Visiting Professor Drabinski.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010

25 Women and Politics in Africa

(Offered as POSC 29 [GS, CP], BLST 25 [A], and WAGS 61.) This course will explore the genesis and effects of political activism by women in Africa, which some believe represents a new African feminism, and its implications for state/civil society relations in contemporary Africa. Topics will include the historical effects of colonialism on the economic, social, and political roles of African women, the nature of urban/rural distinctions, and the diverse responses by women to the economic and political crises of post-colonial African policies. This course will also explore case studies of specific African countries, with readings of novels and women’s life histories as well as analyses by social scientists.

Omitted 2010-11.  Five College Professor Newbury.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010

26 Master Musicians of Africa I:  West Africa

(Offered as BLST 26 [A] and MUSI 06.) This course concentrates on the lives and music of selected West African musicians. Departing from ethnographic approaches that mask the identity of individual musicians and treat African societies as collectives, this course emphasizes the contributions of individual West African musicians whose stature as master musicians is undisputed within their respective communities. It examines the contributions of individual musicians to the ever continuous process of negotiating the boundaries of African musical practice. Individuals covered this semester include Babatunde Olatunji (Nigerian drummer), Youssou N’Dour (Senegalese singer), Kandia Kouyate (Malian jelimuso) and Ephraim Amu (Ghanaian composer). The variety of artistic expressions of selected musicians also provides a basis for examining the interrelatedness of different African musical idioms, and the receptivity of African music to non-African styles. 

Omitted 2010-11.  Five College Professor Omojola.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2014

27 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

[D] The course focuses on twentieth and twenty-first century texts by black women writers based in Africa and the Americas.  We will consider how these writers' stylistic choices respond to the broad range of challenges confronting them in the modern and postcolonial contexts out of which they write. The reading list varies from year to year. This year we will read works by Edwidge Danticat, Marie Elena John, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie and Suzan-Lori Parks.

Spring semester. Professor Bailey.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

29 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

(Offered as ENGL 55 and BLST 29 [A/CLA].) The course will concentrate on Caribbean authors. It explores the process of self-definition in literary works from Africa and the Caribbean that are built around child protagonists. We will examine the authors’ various methods of ordering experience through the choice of literary form and narrative technique, as well as the child/author’s perception of his or her society. French texts will be read in translation.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014

30 Race and Politics in the United States

(Offered as SOCI 33 and BLST 30 [US].  This course is an intensive examination of the politics, and the policy consequences, of racial and ethnic identity in the United States. The course focuses on the historical and contemporary experiences of several racial and ethnic groups in American politics. Attention is given to contemporary issues, emphasizing the roles of governmental actors, institutions, and policies. In the first part of the course, we begin by considering the concept of racial identity. We then look at various principles such as equality, freedom, and solidarity, which underlie the ways in which we think about and judge racial politics and race-related policies. The second part of the course focuses on race and politics: public opinion, political image, and political and social movements. In the third part of the course, we move to policy-related case studies. Most policy-related case studies focus on blacks and whites, but this course considers the ways in which the traditional model may be outdated or otherwise inappropriate. Among the issues to be discussed are vote dilution, school desegregation, affirmative action, “new” multiculturalism, immigration, and bilingual education. We close the course with a look to the future of race and ethnicity in American politics. A fundamental premise of this course is that knowledge of race and ethnic dynamics in the United States is necessary to comprehensively analyze American political development and many important issues in contemporary American politics. The course is conducted in a seminar format.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Basler.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2012

32 Theorizing the Black Atlantic

[D] What happens to culture in the transition between Africa, Europe, and the Americas?  What new forms of subjectivity, community, and culture emerge in the Americas?  How do these new forms help us clarify the specifically African sense of "diaspora"?  How does the experience of "the black Atlantic" alter our understanding of history and the development of ideas?  In addressing these questions, this course examines themes of hybridity, double-consciousness, Modernity, and diaspora in contemporary philosophy and cultural theory.  Our attention will center on the work of Paul Gilroy, whose reflections on black Atlantic cultural formations have broken new theoretical ground over the past two decades. Gilroy's work will allow us to engage theoretically with the peculiar historical dynamics of the black Atlantic, which, in turn, enables us to attend at some depth to this particular diasporic consciousness through characterizations of literature, art, philosophy, and music.  Alongside Gilroy, we will read other core theoretical texts on the black Atlantic by Du Bois, Césaire, Fanon, Wright, Baldwin, and others. In order to establish context and some points of contrast, we will also read important texts on the philosophy of history and history of ideas by Hegel, Nietzsche, Benjamin, and Bhabha.  These varied reflections on the black Atlantic and the dynamics of cultural development help us understand the distinctive character of the African diaspora and its hybrid intellectual productions.

Spring semester.  Professor Drabinski.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011

33 Black Diaspora from Emancipation to the Present

(Offered as HIST 12 [LA/AF] and BLST 33 [CLA/D].) This course explores the historical roots of contemporary racial formations in Latin America and the Caribbean. It focuses particularly on the black experiences, inter-ethnic conflicts and racial solidarities in Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and Puerto Rico from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Topics of discussion will include the struggles for emancipation from slavery, black notions of sovereignty, forms of black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and political radicalism. We will examine a multiplicity of historical sources, including novels, music, film, personal testimonies, and historical monographs in order to understand the black diaspora as both an historical process and as a seedbed for various identities, racial cultures and political projects. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Castro Alves.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012

35 Race and Races in American Studies

(Offered as SOCI 38 and BLST 35 [US].)  This interdisciplinary seminar examines influential scholarship on the “race concept” and racialized relations in American culture and society. The course will focus on selected themes, approaches, methods, debates, and problems in a variety of scholarly genres. Major topics include the cultural construction of race; race as both an instrument of oppression and an idiom of resistance in American politics; the centrality of race in literary, sociological, anthropological, and legal discourse; the racialization of U.S. foreign policy; “race mixing” and “passing” and the vicissitudes of “whiteness” in American political culture; and “race” in the realm of popular cultural representation.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Basler.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010

37 Caribbean Poetry: The Anglophone Tradition

(Offered as ENGL 52 and BLST 37 [CLA].) A survey of the work of Anglophone Caribbean poets, alongside readings about the political, cultural and aesthetic traditions that have influenced their work. Readings will include longer cycles of poems by Derek Walcott and Edward Kamau Brathwaite; dialect and neoclassical poetry from the colonial period, as well as more recent poetry by women writers and performance (“dub”) poets.

Omitted 2010-11. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Fall 2012

39 Studies in African American Literature

(Offered as ENGL 66 and BLST 39 [US].) The topic changes each time the course is taught. In spring 2011 the topic will be “The Weary Blues: Mourning in African American Literature and Culture.” As a population generally familiar with the facts of living too hard and dying too soon, how have African Americans used their literary and cultural traditions to memorialize-to articulate and often to work through conditions of pain and loss? Using a variety of literary and cultural texts, including RIP murals, poetry, and music, this semester’s topic examines the various ways African Americans express and aestheticize loss; how mourning often works as a foundation for militancy; and, most importantly, how loss is often recuperated through ideologies of art, love, and memory.

Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Parham.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Spring 2011

41 Latin America and the Caribbean in the Age of Revolution

(Offered as HIST 88 [LAP] and BLST 41 [CLA].)  This seminar examines in historical perspective the complicated transition of several Latin American and Caribbean countries from colony to independent nation-states during the Age of Revolution. It focuses particularly on the role of working people in the making of modern nation-states in Brazil, Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, and the Andean region (Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador). How did the subaltern classes view the colonial order? What are the causes of popular protest? Is there such a thing as popular nationalism? What is the meaning of postcolonialism in Latin America? Overall, the seminar's objectives are threefold: to make students more familiar with the historical development of Latin America and the Caribbean during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; to introduce the themes and issues in the current historiography of anti-colonialism and postcolonialism; and finally, to guide students to write their own research papers. In the first two weeks, readings will include theoretical texts on nationalism, state formation, and popular discontent. In the remaining weeks, we will read historical studies, documents and literary texts, which discuss various aspects of popular political activism from 1789 to 1850. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Castro Alves.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2010

42 Myth, Ritual and Iconography in West Africa

[A] 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.

Spring semester. Professor Abiodun.

2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

43 Visual Arts and Orature in Africa

(Offered as BLST 43 [A] and ARHA 38.) 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.

Omitted 2010-11. Professor Abiodun.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014

45 African Art and the Diaspora

(Offered as ARHA 70 and BLST 45 [D].) The course of study will examine those African cultures and their arts that have survived and shaped the aesthetic, philosophic and religious patterns of African descendants in Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and urban centers in North America. We shall explore the modes of transmission of African artistry to the West and examine the significance of the preservation and transformation of artistic forms from the period of slavery to our own day. Through the use of films, slides and objects, we shall explore the depth and diversity of this vital artistic heritage of Afro-Americans.

Omitted 2010-11. Professor Abiodun.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014

46 Survey of African Art

(Offered as ARHA 49 and BLST 46 [A].)  An introduction to the ancient and traditional arts of Africa. Special attention will be given to the archaeological importance of the rock art paintings found in such disparate areas as the Sahara and South Africa, achievements in the architectural and sculptural art in clay of the early people in the area now called Zimbabwe and the aesthetic qualities of the terracotta and bronze sculptures of the Nok, Igbo-Ukwe, Ife and Benin cultures in West Africa, which date from the second century B.C.E. to the sixteenth century C.E. The study will also pursue a general socio-cultural survey of traditional arts of the major ethnic groups of Africa.

Spring semester. Professor Abiodun.

2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

47 Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(Offered as HIST 22 [AF] and BLST 47 [A].) This is a history of Africa from the late nineteenth century to the present day. In the first half of the course, we will study the imperial scramble to colonize Africa; the broader integration of African societies into the world economy; the social, political and medical impact of imperial policies; Western popular images of Africa in the colonial period; the nationalist struggles that resulted in the independent African states; and the persistent problems faced by those post-colonial states. In the final half of the course, we will investigate three cases: Congo-Zaire and the state as a source of chaos through the Second Congo War; violence, liberation and memories of childhood in late colonial Rhodesia and postcolonial Zimbabwe; the political history of economic development programs and the advent of “resource conflicts,” particularly those involving diamonds. Three class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Redding.

2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

48 Africa Before the European Conquest

(Offered as HIST 63 [AFP] and BLST 48 [A].) The African continent has been called by one historian the social laboratory of humanity. Art, trade, small-scale manufacturing, medical knowledge, religion, state systems, history and legend all flourished before the formal political take-over of the continent by European powers in the late nineteenth century and continue to have a decisive impact on African societies today. It is this varied and sometimes difficult to access history of states and cultures in the period before 1885 that this course will examine. Initially, we will investigate the notion of “tribe” and its relationship to language, political affiliation and identity. The largest segment of the course will examine historical myths and their impact on the research and construction of historical narratives on precolonial Africa while discussing four topics in depth: domestic, local slave-ownership and the impact of the slave trade; the interaction of religion and power on the rise and fall of the kingdom of Kongo and of the states along the southern border of the Sahara (the sahel); the genesis of the Zulu state in southern Africa and the creation of the legend of Tshaka; and the changing roles of women as economic, political and social actors in the period before 1885. We will also discuss some of the differences between oral historical narratives and written ones while we analyze primary documents and histories written by scholars over the past half-century to understand both the history of the people living on the continent as well as the active process of constructing that history. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Redding.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013

49 Introduction to South African History

(Offered as HIST 64 [AFP] and BLST 49 [A].) South African history is undergoing radical shifts in the way it is being written, read and interpreted, and this course will explore established and emerging themes in the history of this intriguing country. The time period covered will span the precolonial indigenous cultures and move on to study the initiation and expansion of white settlement and its early dependence on slave labor. The course will also investigate African resistance, both in its political and cultural forms, as well as the social effects of gold-mining and migrant labor. African nationalism, including the ANC, the Black Consciousness Movement, and the United Democratic Front, will be the focus of our study of the responses to apartheid and the ultimate collapse of the apartheid state. The course will end with discussions of recent events in South Africa, particularly the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its aftermath as well as the developing AIDS epidemic and the growing problem of crime. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Redding.

2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015

50 Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(Offered as HIST 92 [AF] and BLST 50 [A].) There were numerous rebellions against the colonial state during the period of European colonial rule, and violent resistance to state authority has continued to characterize political life in many post-colonial African states. This seminar will examine the development of several outbreaks of violence in Africa in the colonial and post-colonial periods. We will look at the economic, social, religious, and political roots of these disturbances, and we will discuss the problems historians face in trying to narrate and analyze these often chaotic events. The events studied will include the Maji-maji rebellion in German-controlled Tanganyika; the first (1896-1897) and second (1960-1980) Chimurengas (revolts) in southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; Hutu extremism and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda; the widespread revolt in the 1980s and 1990s in South Africa against the white-supremacist apartheid regime; and the rebel movements led by Alice Lakwena and then Joseph Kony in northern Uganda beginning in the late 1980s. We will also discuss the legends and rumors that often develop both before and after violent revolts and their role in the creation of historical narratives. Students will each write a 20-page research paper on an individually chosen topic. One class meeting per week.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2010-11.  Professor Redding.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

51 Black Marxism

(Offered as HIST 89 [C] and BLST 51 [CLA/D].) The seminar traces in historical perspective the relationship between Black radicalism and Marxist thought. Since the late nineteenth century, Black diasporic intellectuals have found in Western Marxism, particularly its internationalist discourse, theory of class formation, and historical materialist analysis, the recipes for critical inquiry and radical politics. Their engagement with Marxism and socialist theory, however, has not precluded tensions and new theoretical resolutions. Black intellectuals from various generations have questioned “classical” Marxism’s economic reductionism, simplistic understanding of peasant politics, and dismissal of political struggles outside metropolitan regions. For writers such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Frantz Fanon, and C.L.R. James, Western Marxism has failed to account for the racial character of capitalism or to provide a historical narrative of blacks’ emancipatory politics. Students will acquire a basic knowledge of Marxist theory, and a historical understanding of Black Marxism by analyzing the works from two generations of intellectuals: the modernist and Pan-Africanist generation (Du Bois, Wright, James, Oliver Cromwell Cox, and Eric Williams), and the New Left generation (Frantz Fanon, Amiri Baraka, Amilcar Cabral, Walter Rodney, Stuart Hall, Angela Davis, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o). One class meeting per week.

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Castro Alves.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

52 The Social Psychology of Race

(Offered as PSYC 44 and BLST 52 [US].) An interdisciplinary investigation of the social psychology of race in the United States examining the nature and causes of racial stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. We will discuss alternatives to more traditional cognitive approaches that regard stereotyping primarily as a bias produced by the limits of individual processing. While grounded in social psychological theory, we will examine the emergence of race as an important social variable resulting from the interplay of various socio-historical forces. Readings will range from scientific journal articles to personal and intellectual accounts by some key figures in race research including G. Allport, W.E.B. Du Bois, N. Lemann, J.H. Stanfield, S. Steele, and C. West.

Requisite: Psychology 11. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Hart.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Fall 2009

53 The Blues Muse: African American Music in American Culture

(Offered as MUSI 08 and BLST 53 [US].  This course examines the relationship between blues music and American culture. Using Amiri Baraka's influential 1963 book of music criticism Blues People as a central text, we will explore ways in which the "blues impulse" has been fundamental to conceptions of African-American identity. At the same time, we will trace the development of African-American music through its connection to West African musical traditions and through its emergence during slavery and the Jim Crow South. Our investigation will survey a number of precursors to the blues work songs, spirituals, and minstrels and see how these impacted early blues styles, including delta blues, classic blues, and early blues-oriented gospel practices. The blues played a fundamental role in the emergence of new popular musics in the 1940s and 1950s, most notably rock and roll. Embedded within these new musical practices were ideas about African American modernism, urbanity, and self-representation. Culminating in an examination of hip-hop culture, we will analyze the connection between African-American musical practices and larger debates about race, class, gender, and ethnicity. We will see how the blues serves as a mode of activism, how blues musicians engage questions about racial and ethnic identity through music making. Two class meetings per week.

Requisite: Music 11 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Robinson.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010

55 Black Existentialism

[D]  During the middle decades of the twentieth century, existentialism dominated the European philosophical and literary scene.  Prominent theorists such as J-P 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. As well, we will engage black existentialism not just as a series of claims, but also 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.  Lastly, we will consider the matter of how and why existentialism continues to function so centrally in contemporary Africana philosophy.

Fall semester.  Visiting Professor Drabinski.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2014

56 Faulkner and Morrison

(Offered as English 95-05 and Black Studies 56 [US].)  William Faulkner and Toni Morrison are generally understood as two of the most important writers of the twentieth century, and indeed, the work of each is integral to American literature.  But why are Morrison and Faulkner so often mentioned in the same breath–he, born in the South, white and wealthy, she, the daughter of a working-class black family in the Midwest?  Perhaps it is because in a country that works hard to live without a racial past, both Morrison’s and Faulkner’s work bring deep articulation to the often unseen, and more commonly–the unspeakable.  This class will explore the breadth of each author’s work, looking for where their texts converge and diverge.  And we will learn how to talk and write about the visions, dreams, and nightmares–all represented as daily life–that these authors offer.

Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Parham.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Fall 2013

57 African American History from the Slave Trade to Reconstruction

(Offered as BLST 57 [US] and HIST 41 [US; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the History major].) This course is a survey of the history of African American men and women from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries through the Civil War and Reconstruction. The content is a mixture of the social, cultural, and political history of blacks during two and a half centuries of slavery with the story of the black freedom struggle and its role in America’s national development. Among the major topics addressed: the slave trade in its moral and economic dimensions; African retentions in African American culture; origins of racism in colonial America; how blacks used the rhetoric and reality of the American and Haitian Revolutions to their advancement; antebellum slavery; black religion and family under slavery and freedom; the free black experience in the North and South; the crises of the 1850s; the role of race and slavery in the causes, course, and consequences of the Civil War; and the meaning of emancipation and Reconstruction for blacks. Readings include historical monographs, slave narratives by men and women, and one work of fiction.

Combined enrollment limited to 50 students. Omitted 2010-2011.  Professor Moss.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2013

58 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present

(Offered as BLST 58 [US] and HIST 42 [US; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the History major].) This course is a survey of the social, cultural, and political history of African American men and women since the 1870s. Among the major topics addressed: the legacies of Reconstruction; the political and economic origins of Jim Crow; the new racism of the 1890s; black leadership and organizational strategies; the Great Migration of the World War I era; the Harlem Renaissance; the urbanization of black life and culture; the impact of the Great Depression and the New Deal; the social and military experience of World War II; the causes, course and consequences of the modern civil rights movement; the experience of blacks in the Vietnam War; and issues of race and class in the 1970s and 1980s. Readings and materials include historical monographs, fiction, and documentary films.

Combined enrollment limited to 50 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Moss.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012

62 Exploring Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

[US] Ralph Waldo Ellison wrote Invisible Man to confirm the existence of the universal in the particulars of the black American experience. The same can be said of the larger aim of this course. It will provide students with the opportunity to explore the broadest themes of Black Studies through the careful reading of a particular text. Due to its broad range of influence and reference, Invisible Man is one of the most appropriate books in the black tradition for this kind of attention. The course will proceed through a series of comparisons with works that influenced the literary style and the philosophical content of the novel. The first part of the course will focus on comparisons to world literature. Readings will include James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo; and H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man. The second part of the course will focus on comparisons to American literature. The readings in this part of the course will include Herman Melville, The Confidence Man; William Faulkner, “The Bear”; and some of Emerson’s essays. The last part of the course will focus on comparisons with books in the black tradition. Some of the readings in this part of the course will include W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk and Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery. Requires 20-25 page research paper.

Limited to 15 students. Open to juniors and seniors. Preference given to Black Studies majors. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Ferguson.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2014

64 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 class is required of Black Studies majors. It is open to non-majors with the consent of the instructor. Although Black Studies 11 and 12 are not required for admission, preference will go to those who have taken one or both of these courses.  Spring semester. Professors Castro Alves and Cobham-Sander.

2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

65 Gandhi and King

(Offered as BLST 65 and POSC 95 [US].) As the leader of the Indian independence struggle in the first half of the 20th century, M. K.Gandhi galvanized the marginalized and the voiceless in an epic struggle to gain recognition and freedom.  A student of Gandhi’s philosophy, Martin Luther King did much the same as the most important leader of the civil rights movement in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.  Because they successfully mobilized millions of ordinary men and women to oppose imperialism and racism, these two figures epitomize the best possibilities of force directed toward democratic ends.  Nevertheless, they both expressed profound discomfort with politics. For example, each opposed violence as a matter of principle, celebrated individual interiority, and emphasized the importance of religious practice.  This seminar will explore the tension between the political influence of these important figures and their equally deep ambivalence towards politics.  Themes for discussion will include (1) the relationship between interiority and citizenship (2) the relationship between a care of the self and a conception of the self as the bearer of political rights (3) the role of imprisonment and freedom (4) nonviolence and its relationship to the individual and as an instrument for public advancement and (5) the relationship between technology and modernity.  This seminar will focus specifically on the writings of Gandhi and King, and less on the context and history of their times. Readings will include: Autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Hind Swaraj, and Satyagragha in South Africa by M. K. Gandhi and A Testament of Hope: Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.  Requirements will include a five-page paper during the semester, a class presentation, and a 20-page paper due at the conclusion of the class.

Requisite: One course in either Political Science or Black Studies. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professors Ferguson and Mehta.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010

67 Topics in African American History: Race and Educational Opportunity in America

(Offered as HIST 82 [US; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the major] and BLST 67 [US].) This seminar is an interdisciplinary exploration of the relationship between race and educational opportunity in American history. Students will gain a historical understanding of the divergent educational experiences of various groups within American society. The course is divided into four units: ethnicity and educational access in early America, education and segregation in Jim Crow America, desegregation (implementation and opposition) after Brown v. Board of Education, and contemporary discussions over race and access to education. In the first section of the course, students will pay special attention to trends including northern and southern resistance to African American education, education as assimilation, and vocational vs. classical education. Next, they will delve into twentieth- and twenty-first-century issues involving race and education. For example, they will examine how specific communities--northern, southern, and western--grappled with the desegregation process. Finally, students will assess the extent to which desegregation has been achieved and the transformative effects of this policy on public schools. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Moss.

2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

67 Topics in African-American History: Slavery and the American Imagination

(Offered as HIST 82 [US; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the major] and BLST 67 [US].) This interdisciplinary seminar explores how Americans have imagined slavery over time. Drawing from works of history, fiction, and film, this course examines depictions of the “peculiar institution” to uncover connections between America’s racial past and its racial present. Specific discussion topics include the origins of American slavery; the slave narrative; the emergence of radical abolitionism and pro-slavery ideology; the invention of the South; the politics of slavery in the Civil Rights era; the “discovery” of slave society; the “Roots” of black power; agency and resistance; slavery in contemporary fiction; and slavery and autobiography. Weekly readings will span a wide array of primary sources including poetry, short essays, novels, and slave narratives. There will also be occasional film screenings. Two class meetings per week. 

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Moss.  To be offered as First-Year Seminar in 2010-11.

2015-16: Not offered

71 Race, Place, and the Law

(Offered as LJST 05 and BLST 71 [US].) Understandings of and conflicts about place are of central significance to the experience and history of race and race relations in America. The shaping and reshaping of places is an important ingredient in the constitution and revision of racial identities: think of “the ghetto,” Chinatown, or “Indian Country.” Law, in its various manifestations, has been intimately involved in the processes which have shaped geographies of race from the colonial period to the present day: legally mandated racial segregation was intended to impose and maintain both spatial and social distance between members of different races.

The objective of this course is to explore the complex intersections of race, place, and law. Our aim is to gain some understanding of geographies of race “on-the-ground” in real places, and of the role of legal practices--especially legal argument--in efforts to challenge and reinforce these racial geographies. We will ask, for example, how claims about responsibility, community, rationality, equality, justice, and democracy have been used to justify or resist both racial segregation and integration, access and expulsion. In short, we will ask how moral argument and legal discourse have contributed to the formation of the geographies of race that we all inhabit. Much of our attention will be given to a legal-geographic exploration of African-American experiences. But we will also look at how race, place and the law have shaped the distinctive experiences of Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans.

Omitted 2010-11.  Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

77, 77D, 78, 78D Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester. Members of the Department.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

97, 98, 97H, 98H Special Topics

Fall semester. Members of the Department.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010

Cooper House