Black Studies
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Amherst College Black Studies for 2013-14

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: Professor de Moral.  Spring semester:  Professor Polk.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015
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

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.

Omitted 2013-14. Professor Redding.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013

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.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

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.

Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Parham.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

147 Race, Place, and the Law

(Offered as LJST 105 and BLST 147 [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.

Limited to 40 students. Fall semester.  Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2013

200 Critical Debates in Black Studies

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

Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester: Professor Polk. Spring semester: Professor Knight.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014

203 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

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

Spring semester.  Visiting lecturer Bailey.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014

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. 

Omitted 2013-14.  Five College Professor Omojola.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

211 Africa Before the European Conquest

(Offered as HIST 284 [AFP] and BLST 211 [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.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013

214 Master Musicians of Africa I: West Africa

(Offered as BLST 214 [A] and MUSI 106.) 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 2013-14.  Five College Professor Omojola.

2014-15: Not offered

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. Spring semester.  Professor Goheen.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2014

217 Apartheid

(Offered as LJST 206 and BLST 217) 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 2013-14.  Professor Sitze.

2014-15: Not offered

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.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

231 African American History from the Slave Trade to Reconstruction

(Offered as BLST 231 [US] and HIST 247 [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. Fall semester.  Professor Moss.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2013

233  New Territory:  Introduction to Black Performance Studies  

(Offered as BLST 233 [US] and THDA 233.)  What does it mean to say that we "perform" our identities?  What role can performance play in the fight for racial and social justice?  As a people long denied access to literacy, what role has performance played in shaping the history of black Americans?  Performance studies--an interdisciplinary field devoted to the study of a range of aesthetic practices--offers us insight into such questions.  In this course, we will investigate various performance "sites" including contemporary plays, movies, and television as well as social media.  We will query the relationship between identities like race, gender, class, and performance as well as the connection between performance onstage and everyday life.  We will also examine the kinds of political questions that performers raise with their work as well as what role spectators play in shaping how performances communicate meaning.

Fall semester.  Visiting Professor Knight.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

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.   Professor Polk.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

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.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

241 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present

(Offered as BLST 241 [US] and HIST 248 [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.

Limited to 50 students. Omitted 2013-14.

2014-15: Not offered

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

(Offered as WAGS 202  and BLST 242 [US].)  Love, courtship, and putting a “ring on it” continue to be a central concern in African American women's literature and contemporary black popular culture.  Do these thematic issues around matrimony signal apolitical yearnings or an allegory for political subjectivity?  In this course we will examine what gender, race, class, and sexuality reveal about the politics of marriage and family.  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 love and marriage and connect them to black women's literature, culture, and black feminist literary theory. We will explore love and family through literature, music, film, documentary, and popular fiction.  Authors and texts covered will range from Nella Larsen to Ann Petry and Bessie Smith to Aretha Franklin. Writing Attentive. Expectations include diligent reading, active participation, two writing projects, weekly response papers, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.

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

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

243 Marvelous Blackness: Surrealism and Negritude

[D]  In the moment of anti-colonial struggle, what meanings can be found in cultural forms and expressions? Are the colonized suffocated by the violence of history and the imposition of foreign cultural forms? Or is another language, poetics, community, and politics possible? How might another language, poetics, etc., redefine the meaning of blackness after colonialism? In this course we will examine these questions as they arise in the anti-colonial movements of mid-twentieth century Francophone Africa and the Caribbean. Our readings will engage questions of nation, identity, language, and the cultural and political meaning of diaspora in the Surrealist and Negritude movements. In particular, we will examine the complex and subtle debate between theorists, artists, and poets René Ménil, Aimé Césaire, Léon Damas, and Léopold Senghor regarding the theory and practice of anti-colonial culture and politics. What are the limits and possibilities of Surrealism and its conception of "the marvelous"? How is that conception of the marvelous transformed and politicized in the pan-African context of the Negritude movement? What does blackness mean in these two movements? How are questions of race transformed by the Surrealist and Negritude methods of cultural and political creation? As well, we will consider the lesser-known contributions by Suzanne Césaire, Paulette Nardal, and Jane Nardal to these movements and consider crucial questions of gender in the politics of cultural meaning. Last, we will measure the veracity of Surrealism and Negritude in relation to the political movements, poetry, and plastic arts produced by those movements, with special attention to Césaire's Martinique and Senghor's Sénégal. 

 

Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Drabinski.

2014-15: Not offered

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.

Omitted 2013-14. Professor Robinson.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

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.

Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Drabinski.

2014-15: 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.

Omitted 2013-14. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
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.

Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Abiodun.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

294 Black Europe

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

Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Polk.

2014-15: Not offered

295 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.

Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Drabinski.

2014-15: Not offered

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. Professor Cobham-Sander and Visiting Lecturer Rabig.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

305 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 BLST 111 or 200. Omitted 2013-14.

2014-15: Not offered

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.

Omitted 2013-14. Professor Abiodun.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

315 Myth, Ritual and Iconography in West Africa

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

Spring semester. Professor Abiodun.

 

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

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.  Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Redding.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

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.

Omitted 2013-14. Professors Parham and Drabinski.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013

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.  Omitted 2013-14.  Visiting Lecturer Rabig.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

332 Reading Popular Culture:  Girl Power

(Offered as ENGL 271, BLST 332 [US], FAMS 374, and WAGS 271.)  Girl Power is the pop-culture term for what some commentators have also dubbed “postfeminism.”  The 1990s saw a dramatic transformation in cultural representations of women’s relationships to their own sense of power.  But did this still rising phenomenon of “women who kick ass” come at a cost?  Might such representations signify genuine reassessments of some of the intersections between gender, power, and the individual?  Or are they, at best, superficial appropriations of what had otherwise been historically construed as male power?  With such questions in mind, this class will teach students to use theoretical and primary texts to research, assess, and critique contemporary popular culture.  Each student will also be trained to produce a critical multimedia project.  One class meeting per week, which includes a 135-minute seminar and a 60-minute workshop and lab.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor.  Limited to 30 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Parham.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

333 The (Black) Artist as Historian

(Offered as BLST 333 [US], ARHA 355 and THDA 333.)  Beginning with theorists Mark Godfrey and Hal Foster, this course will investigate what has been called a historical or archival turn in contemporary art production.  Through the lens of black visual art, we will explore the varied ways that black artists have probed the meaning and production of history throughout the twentieth century, but also how these explorations have changed over time and in relationship to particular subject material (e.g., the history of slavery or more local and personal history).  We will challenge the periodization that labels the "artist as historian" a recent phenomenon, but we will also pay close attention to experiences voiced by black Americans, whether artists or scholars, that contextualize their concerns with history, the archive, and the politics of representation more generally.  We will investigate cultural production from the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights, and Black Power Movements, the era of "identity politics," as well as contemporary art in dialogue with digital media and the internet.

Fall semester.  Visiting Professor Knight.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

334 The Postwar African American Novel

(Offered as ENGL 363 and BLST 334 [US].)  In this course, we will trace the history of the African American novel from 1945 to the present.  After a brief introduction to the slave narrative, “uplift” fiction, and the literature of the Harlem Renaissance, we will settle into an immersive experience of eight major works:  Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Gwendolyn Brooks’s Maud Martha, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Toni Morrison’s Sula, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters, Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, and Edward P. Jones’s The Known World.  Our highly particularized responses to these works will extend, via discussions, supplementary readings, and written assignments, into explorations of the pasts from which they emerge and the futures toward which they point.

Limited to 35 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Sanborn.

2014-15: Not offered

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. 

Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Drabinski.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

336 Contours of a Colorblind Culture

(Offered as  BLST 336 [US] and SOCI 334) The passage of civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965 was a defining moment in American race relations. By comparison to what preceded it, the post-civil rights era amounted to a great social transformation, leading many to assert ours is now a “colorblind” culture. This course will use the idea of colorblind culture to examine the changing role of race and racism in the contemporary United States.  We will examine specific claims that United States culture is, or is not, colorblind, while exploring the social structural, institutional, and broader cultural factors that shape present-day race relations.

Requisite: Sociology 112 or equivalent. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Lembo.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014

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.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

343 Slavery in American Art, Literature, and Performance

(Offered as BLST 343 [US] and THDA 343. Why is slavery such a common theme in American cultural production?  Does engaging with such a topic address historical trauma or reinscribe it?  Have the ways that artists engage with slavery changed over time?  This course examines how black artists throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have chosen to represent the history and legacy of slavery, how those representations shape popular beliefs as well as what role fiction can play in historical representation.  Beginning with a brief history of slavery in the Americas, we will engage primary sources as varied as early-twentieth century plays, the neo-slave narrative tradition of the 1970s and 1980s, late-twentieth century epic poetry and contemporary visual art and installation.  Using recent criticism, we will also explore changes in the historiography of slavery; secondary texts will include works by Saidiya Hartman, Daphne Brooks, Huey Copeland, and Darby English.

Spring semester. Visiting Professor Knight.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014

345 Black Feminist Literary Tradition

(Offered as WAGS 208 and BLST 345.)  Reading the work of black feminist literary theorists and black women writers, we will examine the construction of black female identity in American literature. How have black women writers negotiated race, gender, sexuality, and class in theory and in literature?  What are the fissures and continuities between black feminist literary theory and black women's writing? What was the relationship between black women’s literary tradition and the canon? Finally, how has that relationship changed over time? Authors will include Toni Morrison, Hazel Carby, Dorothy West, Barbara Christian, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Hortense Spillers among others.  Writing Attentive. Expectations include diligent reading, active participation, two writing projects, weekly response papers, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.

Limited to 20 students.  Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Keiter Fellow and Visiting Professor Henderson.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

362 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

(Offered as ENGL 318 and BLST 362 [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.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014

390, 490 Special Topics

Fall and spring semesters. Members of the Department.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014

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 2013-14.

2014-15: 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.  Omitted 2013-14. Professor Ferguson.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2013

435 Representing Slavery

[before 1800]  (Offered as ENGL 466, BLST 435 [US], and FAMS 314.)  Mining a variety of archives in search of captivity narratives created by American slaves and their progeny, this class will use its materials to consider larger questions regarding the overlapping roles of voice, testimony, trauma, and narrative in cultural and historical understanding.  Work for this semester will culminate in the production of a multimedia research project, but no previous familiarity with media production is required.

Junior/Senior seminar. Limited to 15 students.  Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Parham.

2014-15: Not offered

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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Parham.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013

442 Toomer, Faulkner, and Morrison

(Offered as ENGL 454 and BLST 442.)  William Faulkner and Toni Morrison are generally understood as two of the most important writers of the twentieth century.  In a country that works hard to live without a racial past, both authors have brought deep articulation to what it means to experience that which is often otherwise ignored and regardless unspoken. This semester we will explore several key novels from each author’s oeuvre, looking for where their texts converge and diverge.  We will also spend time with Jean Toomer–-a modernist writer critical to understanding what might be at stake in Faulkner and Morrison’s writerly manipulations of time, space, place, and memory–-and with several philosophical texts that will help us to conceptualize what it means to “know” something like race or to “understand” history.

Open to juniors and seniors.  Limited to 15 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Parham.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Fall 2013

452 Panama Silver, Asian Gold:  Migration and the Birth of Modern Caribbean Literature

(Offered as ENGL 474 and BLST 452.)  Concurrent migrations of Chinese and Indian indentured laborers to the Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean workers to and from the Panama Canal, at the turn of the twentieth century, profoundly influenced the style and scope of modern Caribbean literature.  Both migrant groups worked under difficult conditions for exploitative wages, yet members of each managed to save enough to enter the educated middle class.  Their cultural forms and political aspirations shaped Caribbean literary production as well as anti-colonial political movements.  In this course, students will learn how to use digital, print, and audio-visual archival material related to these migrations to enrich their reading of Caribbean literature.  Librarians at Frost as well as scholars, librarians, and students at two other universities will join us.  We will hold some class discussions online and students at all three campuses will learn how to create finding aids for the archives we use.  We will read works by Claude McKay, H.G. de Lisser, Marcus Garvey, George Lamming, V.S. Naipaul, Ismith Khan, Ramabai Espinet, Meiling Jin, and Patricia Powell.

A previous course in English, History, or Black Studies is recommended.  Open to juniors and seniors.  Limited to 12 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Cobham-Sander.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

461 The Creole Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 491 and BLST 461 [CLA].)  What would it mean to write in the language in which we dream?  A language that we can hear, but cannot (yet) see?  Is it possible to conceive a language outside the socio-symbolic order?  And can one language subvert the codes and values of another?  Questions like these have animated the creolité/nation language debate among Caribbean intellectuals since the mid-1970s, producing some of the most significant francophone and anglophone writing of the twentieth century.  This course reads across philosophy, cultural theory, politics, and literature in order to consider the claims such works make for the Creole imagination.  We will engage the theoretical and creative work of Édouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat.  We also will consider how these writers transform some of the fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, and critical historiography.  At stake in our readings will be the various aesthetic and political aspects of postcolonial struggle–how to think outside the colonial architecture of language; how to contest and subvert what remains from history’s violence; and how to evaluate the claims to authenticity of creolized New World cultural forms.

Junior/Senior seminar. Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Cobham-Sander and Professor Drabinski.

2014-15: Not offered

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

Fall semester. Members of the Department.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013
 

Cooper House