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Amherst College Black Studies for 2012-13

101 Black Diaspora from Emancipation to the Present

(Offered as HIST 161 [LA/AF] and BLST 101 [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.

Omitted 2012-13. Professor Castro Alves.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012

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 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: Visiting Professor Polk.  Spring semester:  Professor Drabinski.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
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, Fall 2015, Spring 2016

121 Introduction to South African History

(Offered as HIST 283 [AFP] and BLST 121 [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.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

123 Survey of African Art

(Offered as ARHA 149 and BLST 123 [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.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

132 Foundations of African American Literature

(Offered as ENGL 160 and BLST 132 [US].)  The focus of this introduction to African American literature is the complex intertextuality at the heart of the African American literary tradition.  Tracing the tradition’s major formal and thematic concerns means looking for connections between different kinds of texts:  music, art, the written word, and the spoken word–-and students who take this class will acquire the critical writing and interpretive skills necessary to any future study of literature.

Fall semester.  Professor Parham.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

191 Black Diaspora from Africa to the Haitian Revolution

(Offered as HIST 160 [LAP/AFP] and BLST 191 [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.

Fall semester. Professor Castro Alves.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

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.

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

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
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, Fall 2015, Spring 2016

203 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(Offered as BLST 203 [D] and WAGS 203.) This course focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first century texts by black women writers based in Africa and the Americas. We will consider the stylistic choices that these women writers make in response to the broad range of challenges confronting them within the modern and postcolonial contexts in which they write.  The reading list varies from year to year.  This year we will read works by Edwidge Danicat, Marie Elena John, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie and Suzan-Lori Parks.

Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Bailey.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

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. 

Fall semester.  Five College Professor Omojola.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2016

216 African Cultures and Societies

(Offered as ANTH 226 and BLST 216 [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. Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Goheen.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2014

221 Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(Offered as HIST 181 [AF] and BLST 221 [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.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

226 Conceptualizing White Identity in the United States

(Offered as SOCI 331 and BLST 226 [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 20 students. Omitted 2012-2013.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2011

236 Black Sexualities

(Offered as BLST 236 [US] and WAGS 330)  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.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Polk.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015

238 African-American Religious History

(Offered as RELI 238 and BLST 238 [US].  A study of African-American religion, from the time of slavery to the present, in the context of American social, political, and religious history.  Consideration will be given to debates concerning the "Africanity" of black religion in the United States, to the role of Islam in African-American religious history, and to the religious impact of recent Caribbean immigration.  The major emphasis throughout the course, however, will be on the history of African-American Christianity in the United States.  Topics covered will include the emergence of African-American Christianity in the slavery era, the founding of the independent black churches (especially the AME church) and their institutional development in the nineteenth century, the predominant role of the black Baptist denominations in the twentieth century, the origins and growth of black Pentecostalism, the increasing importance of African-American Catholicism, the role of the churches in social protest movements (especially the civil rights movement) and electoral politics, the changing forms of black theology, and the distinctive worship traditions of the black churches.

Fall semester.  Professor Wills.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

242 Black Women's Narratives and Counternarratives: Love and the Family

(Offered as WAGS 202  and BLST 242 [US].) Why does love and courtship continue to be a central concern in black women's literature and contemporary black popular culture?  Do these thematic issues signal apolitical yearnings or an allegory for political subjectivity?  We will draw on a literature, music, magazines, and film to examine what gender, race, class, and sexuality reveal about the politics of love and courtship.  Surveying the growing discourse in media outlets such as CNN and The Washington Post regarding the "crisis" of the single black woman, students will analyze the contentious public debates regarding courtship and marriage and connect them to black women's literature and black feminist literary theory.  Authors and texts covered will range from Nella Larsen and Toni Morrison to Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige. Writing Attentive. Limited to 20 students.  Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor.

Limited to 20 students.  Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Henderson.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

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

(Offered as MUSI 227 and BLST 244 [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 after 1945 explores the emergence of bebop in the 1940s, the shift of jazz's relationship with American popular culture after World War II, and the dramatic pluralization of jazz practice after the 1950s. We will also look at the emergence of fusion and the jazz avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s, and theorize the reformulation of "tradition" during the 1980s. Central to our examination will be the phenomenon of "neoclassicism" common in jazz discourse today, measuring that against the radical diversity of jazz practice around the world. Many figures central to the development of the varied post-bebop directions in jazz will be discussed: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Ornette Coleman, the New York Downtown scene, and many others. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Robinson.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2016

245 Introduction to African-American Philosophy

(Offered as BLST 245 and PHIL 245.)  What is distinctive about 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 conventional 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 twentieth century in order to develop an appreciation of the unique, critical philosophical voice in the black intellectual tradition.  Our readings of works by W.E.B. Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, Alain Locke, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Anthony Appiah and Cornel West 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.

Fall semester.  Visiting Professor Drabinski.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

252 Caribbean Poetry: The Anglophone Tradition

(Offered as ENGL 317 and BLST 252 [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.

Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Fall 2012

293 African Art and the Diaspora

(Offered as ARHA 270 and BLST 293 [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.

Fall semester. Professor Abiodun.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015

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 class 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. Spring semester. Professors Castro Alves and Ferguson.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

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.

Fall semester. Professor Abiodun.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015

315 Myth, Ritual and Iconography in West Africa

(Offered as ARHA 353 and BLST 315 [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.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

321 Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(Offered as HIST 488 [AF] and BLST 321 [A].) There were numerous rebellions against the 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 countries. This seminar will examine the development of several outbreaks of violence in Africa in the colonial and post-colonial periods to explore important questions in a comparative context. We will look at the economic, social, religious, and political roots of these disturbances; at the challenges faced both by rebel groups attempting to gain a foothold and by states with a fragile hold on ruling authority; and at the social disruptions caused by the participation of child and youth soldiers in various conflicts. We will also discuss the problems historians face in trying to narrate and analyze revolts whose strength often emerged from their protean character, and the legends and rumors that frequently swirled around violent revolts and their role in the construction of historical narratives. The events studied will include the Maji-maji rebellion in German-controlled Tanganyika in 1906-1907; the first (1896-1897) and second (1960-1980) Chimurengas (revolts) in southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; the widespread revolt in the 1980s and '90s in South Africa against the apartheid regime; and the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda in the late 1990s. Students will each write a 20- to 25-page research paper on an individually chosen topic as a final project; in addition there will be frequent, shorter writing assignments throughout the semester. There will be one class meeting per week.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Not open to first-year students.  Fall semester.  Professor Redding.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2015

330 Spike Lee’s Joints

(Offered as ENGL 374, BLST 330 [US], 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. This semester we will also pay special attention to the question of what it means to encapsulate a particular cultural moment, particularly vis-à-vis the often differing demands of fictional and non-fictional representation.

Spring semester. Professor Parham and Visiting Professor Drabinski.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016

331 The Black Arts Movement

(Offered as BLST 331 [US] and HIST 353 [AF].)  Students will encounter the Black Freedom struggle through the literature, music, art, and political activism of the Black Arts Movement.  The artistic corollary to Black Power, the Black Arts Movement flourished in the 1960s and 1970s as artists/activists sought to put a revolutionary cultural politics into practice around the country.  The Black Arts Movement had far-reaching consequences for the way artists and writers think about race, gender, history, identity, and the relationship between artist production and political liberation.  We'll read work by Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Larry Neal, among others.  We'll also trace the movement's extension through local political battles and the emergence of new institutions, including theaters, journals, and Black Studies programs.  We'll consider the overlap of the Black Arts Movement with other political currents of the late 1960s and early 1970s, explore its relationship to Black feminism, and trace the influence of the Black Arts Movement in hip-hop and film.

Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester.  Visiting Lecturer Rabig.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

335 Du Bois and After

[US]  This course offers a systematic study of the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, drawing on the whole range of his life and writing in order to assess his importance for theorizing race, racism, and the human condition. What do we mean by "race"?  How is our understanding of history, consciousness, and hope transformed by the experience of anti-black racism?  What is the role of gender, class, and nation in theorizing race and racism?  In Du Bois' early work on these questions, especially his masterpiece Souls of Black Folk, we encounter some of the most significant foundational work in the black intellectual tradition.  Themes of double-consciousness, the color line, and the veil set many of the terms of discussion for the twentieth century and after.  In this course, we will read this early work closely, but also consider the development of his later thought in historical and intellectual context, putting Du Bois in dialogue with his contemporaries William James, Booker T. Washington, Josiah Royce, and others, as well as considering contemporary appropriations of his work.  Lastly, we will read Du Bois critically by considering recent scholarship on his often fraught relationship to questions of gender, class, and transnational identity.  Across these readings, we will develop a deep, engaged appreciation of the scope and power of Du Bois' thinking and the fecundity of his intellectual legacy. 

Fall semester.  Visiting Professor Drabinski.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

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

(Offered as HIST 355 [US; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the major] and BLST 341 [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.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

390, 490 Special Topics

Fall and spring semesters. Members of the Department.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016

401 Black Liberation Theology

(Offered as BLST 401[D] and HIST 468 [LA].) The seminar traces historically the rise and development of black liberation theology across the black diaspora, particularly in the Caribbean, Africa, England and the U.S.  Two central questions structure this course:  How did disenfranchised and diasporic Christian communities reinterpret the biblical text according to their lived experiences?  How did their faith and new theologial formulations inform their political praxis?  The dialogical encounters between Marxism and Christianity, black liberation theology and anti-colonial politics, Christian theology and anti-black racism and sexism from the 1960s to the present, will underpin the weekly readings and discussions.  Students will read the central texts in the large field of liberation theology, and black liberation theology in particular, from thinkers such as Gustavo Gutierrez, Leonardo Boff, James H. Cone, Delores S. Williams, Jacquelyn Grant, Katie G. Cannon, Desmond Tutu, Alan Boesak, John Mbit, Elgelbert Mvent, and Anthony Reddie. 

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 18 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Castro-Alves.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013

431 Great Thinkers of the African American Intellectual Tradition

This seminar provides students an opportunity to study closely the works of a single great African American intellectual, such as Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, or Toni Morrison.  The specific topic for the course will be announced and available from the Black Studies Academic Department Coordinator four months in advance each time it is taught.  Readings will include major and minor works of the author, secondary sources such as biographies and literary criticism, and archival resources when available at a local or regional library.  Classes will place a strong emphasis on in-depth discussion of individual works and class participation will constitute a substantial proportion of the final grade.  Students will also be required to develop their own research project that will serve as the basis for a 20-25-page term paper, due at the end of the semester.  Students will also be asked at the discretion of the instructor to report to the class from time to time regarding the progress of their research project.

Not open to first-year students.  Open to sophomores with the consent of the instructor.  Recommended requisite:  BLST 300.  Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2012-13. Professor Ferguson.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012

432 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. Spring Semester. Professor Ferguson.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015

441 Ghosts in Shells? Virtuality and Embodiment from Passing to the Posthuman

(Offered as ENGL 456, BLST 441 [US], and FAMS 451.) This class begins with narratives about individuals who pass–that is, who come to be recognized as someone different from whom they were sexually or racially “born as.”  Such stories suggest that one’s identity depends minimally on the body into which one is born, and is more attached to the supplementation and presentation of that body in support of whichever cultural story the body is desired to tell.  Drawing on familiar liberal humanist claims, which centralize human identity in the mind, these narratives also respond to the growing sophistication of human experience with virtual worlds–from acts of reading to immersions in computer simulation.  But what kinds of tensions emerge when bodies nonetheless signify beyond an individual’s self-imagination?  As technology expands the possibilities of the virtual, for instance surrogacy, cloning, and cybernetics, what pressures are brought to bear on the physical human body and its processes to signify authentic humanness?  Rather than ask whether identity is natural or cultural, our discussions will project these questions into a not-so-distant future:  What would it mean to take “human” as only one identity, as a category amongst many others, each also acknowledged as equally subject to the same social and biological matrices of desire, creation, and recognition? We will approach these questions through works of literature, philosophy, media history, and contemporary science writing.

Junior/Senior seminar.  Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Parham.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2015

491 Black Marxism

(Offered as HIST 418 [C] and BLST 491 [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. Not open to first year students. Fall semester. Professor Castro Alves.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

498, 499, 499D Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester. Members of the Department.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015