[R] This interdisciplinary introduction to Black Studies combines the teaching of foundational texts in the field with instruction in reading and writing. The first half of the course employs How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren as a guide to the careful reading of books focusing on the slave trade and its effects in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Important readings in this part of the course include Black Odyssey by Nathan Huggins, Racism: A Short History by George Frederickson, and The Black Jacobins by C. L. R. James. The second half of the course addresses important themes from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Beginning with The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois, it proceeds through a range of seminal texts, including The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. This part of the course utilizes Revising Prose by Richard Lanham to extend the lesson in reading from the first half of the semester into an exploration of precision and style in writing. Computer exercises based on Revising Prose and three short essays—one on a single book, another comparing two books, and the last on a major theme in the course—provide the main opportunity to apply and reinforce skills in reading and writing learned throughout the semester. After taking this course, students at all levels of preparation should emerge not only with a good foundation for advancement in Black Studies but also with a useful set of guidelines for further achievement in the humanities and the social sciences.
Limited to 20 students per section. Fall semester: Professor Vaughan. Spring semester: Professor Polk.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
(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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as BLST 131 [US] and HIST 131 [US/TS]) This course will explore the rise and fall of African American social movements over the course of the twentieth century. It will survey the critical organizations, institutions, and figures of the black freedom struggle and will examine the ideological diversity of a movement that encompassed ever-shifting combinations of uplift politics, black nationalism, liberalism, and leftism. We will explore a number of critical black lives over the course of the semester, including Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Pauli Murray, Ralph Bunche, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Angela Davis. The course will also introduce students to foundational debates and issues in the field of African American history, and push students to ponder how the political, socioeconomic, and cultural endeavors of African Americans have and continue to alter conventional understandings of "freedom," "justice," "democracy," and "equality" within and beyond the United States.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Hickmott.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as MUSI 126 and BLST 134 [US]) This course examines the cultural origins of hip hop and how this small, Bronx-based subculture expanded into one of the most influential styles of music in the world. The course will begin by analyzing the cultural conditions out of which hip hop arose in the mid-1970s; from there it will turn to examining how hip hop music, over the last thirty-five years, has sounded the identity of its creators as they have grappled with six major questions: What musical elements are crucial components of hip hop’s sound? What does realness in hip hop sound like, and why does it matter? How have artists negotiated expressing their specific geographic origins while simultaneously embracing globalization? How does this genre fit into the music industry, and how has the music industry affected hip hop? Should hip hop be political, and how should artists express their politics? How have technological developments altered hip hop’s sound? Through answering these questions, students will gain an understanding of how hip hop has developed into the styles that we hear today, and how hip hop has radically transformed American racial politics and popular culture more broadly.
Enrollment limit 45. Spring Semester. Assistant Professor Coddington.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 135 [US] and PHIL 366) What is distinctive about the African-American experience? How does that distinctiveness bear on the theory and practice of philosophy and philosophical thinking? And how does the African-American philosophical tradition alter European and Anglo-American philosophical accounts of subjectivity, knowledge, time, language, history, embodiment, memory, and justice? In this course, we will read a range of African-American thinkers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in order to develop an appreciation of the unique, critical philosophical voice in the Black intellectual tradition. Our readings of works by David Walker, Martin Delany, Maria Stewart, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, Ida Wells, Alain Locke, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Cornel West and others will open up crucial issues that transform philosophy's most central problems: knowing, being, and acting. As well, we will consider the cluster of thinkers with whom those works are critically concerned, including key texts from nineteenth-century German philosophy, American pragmatism, and contemporary existentialism and postmodernism. What emerges from these texts and critical encounters is a sense of philosophy and philosophical practice as embedded in the historical experience - in all of its complexity - of African-Americans in the twentieth century.
Spring semester. Professor Drabinski.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as THDA 155, BLST 144, and SWAG 155) In this introductory course we will look at dance performance as reflective of culture, gender, race and politics. Class sessions will incorporate viewings of recorded performances and in-depth discussions; attendance at live performances will also be part of the course. Selected readings in gender, critical race and queer theories (among others) will be assigned and used to develop a critical understanding of the relationship between bodies and performance, both on and off stage. Selected readings for this course include Judith Butler, Brenda Dixon Gottschild, and Jose Esteban Munoz, among others. Selected choreographers include Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham, Faye Driscoll, William Forsythe, and Martha Graham.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Brown.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as REL 130 and BLST 145) Is there something called black religion? If so, what makes it black? This course will explore the nature and the meaning of black religion. We will examine the historical development of African American religion in the United States, focusing on diverse African American religious groups, including the Nation of Islam, the Moorish Science Temple of America, Black Jews of Harlem, the Black Church, and others. Specific attention will be paid to the ways in which African American religious groups have endeavored to overcome race, class, gender, and other forms of social oppression. The course will have two sections. First, we will attempt to define black religion in the larger context of religious studies. Second, we will explore what is “black,” or unique about African American forms of religion by examining the theological, social, and ritualistic concerns of various African American religious groups.
Fall Semester. Visiting Post-Doctoral Fellow Jeffries.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 146 and SOCI 204) This introductory course explores role power, race-relations, and identity in qualitative research. Through readings, methodological practices, and discussion, students will consider the ways research can reproduce and disrupt the status quo. We will examine how we walk through the world; explore the skill sets we need to conduct race-related inquiry; and reflect upon the motivations behind methodological decisions. Additionally, we will engage key topics in qualitative research methods and experiment with varied research approaches including the fundamentals of data collection through interviews, participant-observation, and document analysis. Students will document their evolving curiosities and questions about qualitative research and reflect on the roles and responsibilities of being a researcher in general and a researcher of race in particular.
Fall semester. Professor Hill.2019-20: Not offered
(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. Omitted 2018-19. Senior Lecturer Delaney.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ARHA 157, ARCH 157, and BLST 193 [D]) This introductory course engages the buildings, cities, and landscapes of former colonies in Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean. Beginning with the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the non-European territories, which once comprised the lucrative possessions of modern European empires, quickly became independent states charged with developing infrastructure, erecting national monuments, and handling the influx of laborers drawn to the metropolises that were formed as sleepy colonial towns grew into bustling postcolonial cities. This class will examine the buildings, urban spaces, rural landscapes, and national capitals that emerged in response to these political histories. We will approach a number of issues, such as the architecture of national independence monuments, the preservation of buildings linked to the colonial past, the growth of new urban centers in Africa and India after independence, architecture and regimes of postcolonial oppression, the built environments of tourism in the independent Caribbean, and artists’ responses to all of these events. Some of the places that we will address include: Johannesburg, South Africa; Chandigarh, India; Negril, Jamaica; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Lilongwe, Malawi. Our goal will be to determine what, if any, continuities linked the buildings, landscapes, and spaces of post-independence Africa, India, and the Caribbean in the twentieth century.
Over the course of the semester, students will gain skills in analyzing buildings, town plans, and other visual materials. Also, this class will aid students in developing their writing skills, particularly their ability to write about architecture and urban space.
Spring semester. Professor Carey.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
[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 Drabinski. Spring semester: Professor Hickmott.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(Offered as BLST 201 [D] and HIST 267 [AF/LA/TEp]) The formation of "the Black Atlantic" or "the African Diaspora" began with the earliest moments of European explorations of the West African coast in the fifteenth century and ended with the abolition of Brazilian slavery in 1888. This momentous historical event irrevocably reshaped the modern world. This class will trace the history of this transformation at two levels; first, we examine large scale historical processes including the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the development of plantation economies, and the birth of liberal democracy. With these sweeping stories as our backdrop, we will also explore the lives of individual Africans and African-Americans, the communities they built, and the cultures they created. We will consider the diversity of the Black Atlantic by examining the lives of a broad array of individuals, including black intellectuals, statesmen, soldiers, religious leaders, healers and rebels. Furthermore, we will pay special attention to trans-Atlantic historical formations common during this period, especially the contributions of Africans and their descendants to Atlantic cultures, societies, and ideas, ultimately understanding enslaved people as creative (rather than reactive) agents of history. So, our questions will be: What is the Black Atlantic? How can we understand both the commonalities and diversity of the experiences of Africans in the Diaspora? What kinds of communities, affinities and identities did Africans create after being uprooted by the slave trade? What methods do scholars use to understand this history? And finally, what is the modern legacy of the Black Atlantic? Class time will be divided between lecture, small and large group discussion.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Hicks.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as SWAG 279, BLST 202, and ENGL 279) What do we mean by “women’s fiction”? How do we understand women’s genres in different national contexts? This course examines topics in feminist thought such as marriage, sexuality, desire and the home in novels written by women writers from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. We will draw on postcolonial literary theory, essays on transnational feminism and historical studies to situate our analyses of these novels. Texts include South African writer Nadine Gordimer’s My Son’s Story, Indian novelist Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, and Caribbean author Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night.
Spring semester. Professor Shandilya.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as BLST 203 [D], ENGL 216, and SWAG 203) The term “Women Writers” suggests, and perhaps assumes, a particular category. How useful is this term in describing the writers we tend to include under the frame? And further, how useful are the designations "African" and "African Diaspora"? We will begin by critically examining these central questions, and revisit them frequently as we read specific texts and the body of works included in this course. Our readings comprise a range of literary and scholarly works by canonical and more recent female writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and continental America. Framed primarily by Postcolonial Criticism, our explorations will center on how writers treat historical and contemporary issues specifically connected to women’s experiences, as well as other issues, such as globalization, modernity, and sexuality. We will consider the continuities and points of departure between writers, periods, and regions, and explore the significance of the writers’ stylistic choices. Here our emphasis will be on how writers appropriate vernacular and conventional modes of writing.
Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Bailey.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(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.
Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2018-19.2019-20: Not offered
[D]What was colonialism? What sort of shadow does it cast over the formerly colonized world, even after formal colonial relations have ended? How does colonialism survive independence? What is the postcolonial moment? And what does it call for in processes of decolonization? This course introduces postcolonial theory as a form of philosophical thinking, political strategy, and transformative cultural intervention. We will read works on the meaning of colonialism and the imperatives of decolonial thinking from the black Atlantic world, including early thinkers like Albert Memmi, Aimé Césaire, and Frantz Fanon and their legacy in more contemporary thinkers like Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Wole Soyinka, Édouard Glissant, and Achille Mbembe. As well, we will read selections from key figures in global postcolonial theory including Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, and Subcomandante Marcos. Our aim across these readings is to register the deep and complex harm of centuries of conquest, enslavement, and colonial rule, and the complicated, often paradoxical task of making a world after colonialism. That complicated and paradoxical task, as we shall see, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to make clean distinctions between the individual and the collective, ethnicity and race, history and memory, and ultimately culture and politics.
Omitted 2018-19. Professor Drabinski.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as MATH 205, BLST 209 and HIST 209 [US]) This course will look at issues surrounding inequality in K-12 math education. Mathematics has a reputation for being something that either you can do or you can’t: the so-called "geniuses" know all the answers already, whereas for everyone else it is a constant struggle. In addition, math and other STEM fields have traditionally been discouraged as career paths for women and for students from underrepresented groups. At Amherst today, students from those groups are still in the minority in math classes. We’ll ask why this is, whether it can and should be changed, and if so, how.
Our discussions will be guided by some of the following questions: To what extent is math ability an innate talent that you are either born with or not? How and why is variation in accomplishment in mathematics related to race, gender and socio-economic class? What mathematics should we teach in schools and how should those teachers be prepared? What is "math phobia," how does it develop and how can it be treated? How do attitudes towards math in the general public affect student learning?
Limited to 25 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2018-19.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 210 [A] HIST 210 [AF] and RELI 220) The course will examine the transformative impact of Christianity and Islam on West African societies since the wave of Muslim reformist and Christian evangelical movements in the nineteenth century. While providing a regional West African overview, the course will focus on a detailed case study of the Nigerian region (the diverse communities that constitute contemporary Nigeria). With significant populations of Christians, Muslims, and adherents of traditional African religions, Nigeria is a notable example of a West African country where religious encounters profoundly transformed state-society relations from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first century. Drawing on historical and social science texts, the course will explore the impact of Christianity and Islam on pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial West African states and societies.
Fall semester. Professor Vaughan.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(Offered as HIST 284 [AF/TEP] 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. It is this varied history of states and cultures in the period before 1885 that this course will examine. The course will explore four topics in depth: slave-ownership within African societies and the impact of both the trans-Atlantic and east African slave trades; the interaction of religion and power on the rise and fall of the central African kingdom of Kongo; the genesis of the Zulu state in southern Africa and the historical evidence behind the contradictory histories of Tshaka; and the changing roles of women as economic, political, and social actors. We will discuss some of the differences between oral historical narratives and written ones to understand both the history of the people living on the continent as well as the active process of writing and interpreting that history. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2018-19. Professor Redding.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 278 and BLST 212 [A]) This course will examine how African writers incorporate digital technologies into their work when they publish traditional print texts, experiment with digital formats, or use the internet to redefine their relationship to local and international audiences. We will reflect on how words and values shift in response to new forms of mediation; on the limits these forms place on the bodies they represent, and on the protections they occasionally offer. Students will read fictional works in print, serialized narratives on blogs, as well as other literary products that circulate via social media. Students also will be introduced to a selection of digital humanities tools that will assist them in accessing, analyzing and responding to these works. Course materials include print, digital and hybrid publications by Oyono, Farah, Adichie, Cole, Maphoto, and Wainaina, among others.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor R. Cobham-Sander.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(Offered as ENGL 258 and BLST 213 [D]) The very idea of the future presents a particular challenge when thinking about Black populations characterized by multiple overlapping experiences of displacement, including displacements in space—diaspora, migration, enslavement—and displacements in time—the middle passage as temporal fracture but also as beginning, the materiality of African pasts. How have futures been conceptualized by Black diasporic communities? What does it mean to transform heavy presents and pasts into visions for better, more livable worlds? This semester we will survey black speculative fiction from the nineteenth through twentieth centuries, looking at topics including Afrofuturism, enslavement, colonialism, science and technology, environmentalism, and dystopia.
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Parham.2019-20: Not offered
(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.
Limited to 30 students. Omitted in 2018-19. Five College Professor Omojola.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 181 [AF/TE] and BLST 221 [A]) Africa is a continent of fifty-four countries, but in many people’s minds the continent’s name conjures up a host of stereotyped images—some positive and many negative—that misrepresent the continent as an undifferentiated whole. The primary goal of this course is to address the images of Africa by putting the continent’s contemporary situation into historical perspective from the late nineteenth century until the present day. The main themes will be the social, political and economic impacts of imperial policies on African societies, the constructions and alterations of “tribal” identities and nationalist politics, issues concerning medicine and public health, the development of “gatekeeper” states, and problems faced by post-colonial states. We will explore the variety of experiences as people from multiple societies have often innovated new cultural forms in the wake of colonial rule, and the advent of “resource conflicts,” particularly those involving petroleum, diamonds, and other minerals. Three class meetings per week.
Spring semester. Professor Redding.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as HIST 283 [AF/TE/TSP] and BLST 222 [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.2019-20: Not offered
(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.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Moss.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(Offered as MUSI 226 and BLST 234 [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. This course examines its early roots in late 19th-century American popular culture and its role as American popular music in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. Using themes that connect the evolution of jazz practices to social and racial politics in American popular culture, we will look closely at the work of well-known historical figures (Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and several others) as well as the vibrant communities that nurtured and prompted their innovative musical practices. Two class meetings per week.
Spring semester. Professor Robinson.2019-20: Not offered
[US] The iconic, militant images of the Black Power and Black Panther movements are familiar, embodying so many of the cultural and political shifts in African-American life after the civil rights movement. But what sort of concepts of liberation, identity, and revolution generated such iconic images? Why did armed struggle and other forms of militancy emerge as centerpieces of political thinking and mobilization? This course reads key players in the Black Power and Black Panther movements as vernacular intellectuals, revolutionary theorists, and transformative figures in African-American culture, from the early blending of the civil rights struggle with armed resistance in the writings of Robert F. Williams to charismatic and influential figures like Stokely Carmichael and Huey Newton to key feminist interventions by Elaine Brown and Angela Davis. We also read the revolutionary sources of both movements, with particular focus on W.E.B. DuBois, Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, and Mao Tse-Tung, in order to engage fully with their sense of Black militancy and a revolutionary global south. Lastly, the course will draw out key differences in the cultural and political visions of the Black Power and Black Panther movements, including conceptions of race, gender, class, internationalism, and sexuality.
Omitted 2018-19. Professor Drabinski.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 236 [US] and SWAG 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. Fall semester. Professor Polk.2019-20: Not offered
[US] This course explores the complex relationship between race, racism, and mass incarceration. Readings from the African-American intellectual tradition, contemporary critics of the prison industrial complex, and memoirs from political prisoners will help us understand the depth and structure of the historical and cultural meaning of racialized imprisonment. In particular, we will look at how incarceration has been both a metaphor for the Black experience in the United States and a constant presence in that experience as a form of social, cultural, and political control. We will also examine how economic factors intersect with race and racism in the expansion of the prison system in the United States. Lastly, we will read a cluster of prison memoirs in light of contemporary historical and critical race analysis in order to discern the effects and affects of imprisonment on African-American life.
Omitted 2018-19. Professor Drabinski.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(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.
Omitted 2018-19.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 239 [US] and HIST 239 [US]) This course will examine the practices, cultures, and consequences of racial segregation in the modern United States. Beginning with the Jim Crow South, students will learn to interpret segregation not simply as a system of racial separation but as a critical site of political, economic, and psychological investment. Two questions will animate this class: how did segregation work and for whom, historically, did it work? In attempting to answer these questions, students will learn to see the ways in which a supposedly bygone institution has continued to profoundly shape the nature and distribution of power in the United States. Students will, for instance, ponder connections between the color line in the South and the history of red-lining in the urban North. In doing so, this class will ask students to consider the ways in which southern history might be understood as national history, and the ways in which the presence of segregation remains central to the persistence of inequality in American life.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Hickmott.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as AMST 216 and BLST 240 [CLA/US]) Who is an “Afro-Latino”? Are they Latinos or are they Black? Afro-Latinos are African-descended peoples from Latin America and the Caribbean who reside in the United States. In this course, a focus on Afro-Latinos allows us to study the history of racial ideologies and racial formation in the Americas.
We take a multi-layered approach to the study of modern Afro-Latino history (late nineteenth century to the twentieth century). First, the history of Afro-Latinos has been shaped by the historical relationship between race and nation in Latin America. Therefore, we look closely at the varied histories of African-descended peoples in Latin American countries. Second, the historical relationship between the United States and Latin America has shaped the experience of Afro-Latinos who reside in the U.S. The long history of U.S. economic dominance and military interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean generated an equally long history of Latin American migration to the U.S. In the twentieth century black migrants came from nations that promoted myths of racial democracy to a nation that practiced racial segregation and violence. Afro-Latino migrants experienced racial segregation and violence in the U.S. in ways similar to but different than other Latinos and African Americans. Therefore, third, we examine the history of Afro-Latinos in relation to Latinos in the U.S. The history of Latinos is at the core of U.S. continental expansion, labor practices, and exclusionary citizenship. The category “Latino” has also been shaped by racial hierarchies. The relatively new category of “Afro-Latino” allows us to examine a history that has been silenced within the broader categories of “Latino” or “African American.”
In this course, we examine how Afro-Latinos maneuvered between different racial contexts in Latin American nations and the United States. It is a history that highlights the competing and conflicting racial ideologies that have shaped the Americas.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor del Moral.2019-20: Not offered
(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 2018-19.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as SWAG 202, BLST 242 [US], and ENGL 259) Why do love and courtship continue to be central concerns in black women's literature and contemporary black popular fiction? Are these thematic issues representative of apolitical yearnings or an allegory for political subjectivity? Drawing on a wide range of texts, we will examine the chasm between the "popular" and the literary, as we uncover how representations of love and courtship vary in both genres. 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 black women and love and connect them to black women's literature and black feminist literary theory. Authors covered will range from Nella Larsen to Terry McMillan and topics will include gender, race, class, and sexuality.
Limited to 18 students. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Henderson.2019-20: Not offered
(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. This course 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 2018-19.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as HIST 250 [US] and BLST 245) This course will explore the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through a deep engagement with his published work and public rhetoric, relevant secondary literature, and personal papers, students will locate the civil rights leader within the broader upheavals of mid-century America. As such, the course serves as an introduction to modern US history, the black freedom struggle, and the archive of civil rights. Moving beyond mythology, this course will emphasize his connections to American liberalism, the labor movement, the black prophetic tradition and human rights. As such, this course will excavate the radical King, a man whose life and work often challenged the liberal consensus on questions of class, race, and empire, and thus questions later ahistorical characterizations of the Civil Rights Movement as either “moderate” or “conservative.” The course will culminate in a student research-led conference, to mark and reflect upon the fiftieth anniversary of King’s assassination in 1968. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2018-19. Visiting Lecturer Hickmott.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 246 [US] and SWAG 246) The course introduces students to theories, methods, and analytical approaches to the study of Black girlhood. Students will interrogate Black girlhood as a political category of identity and symbol of agency, addressing such topics as foundations of the field, utility of the categories of "girl" and "woman" and representation of Black girlhood in academic literature and popular culture. We will explore problems pressing upon the lives of Black girls with respect to their lived experiences of work, sexuality, and education and illuminate the strategies, genius and potential of Black girls and Black girlhood. Working within and beyond Black radical hip hop feminist frameworks, our learning will involve thinking through and embodying theories and practices—emancipatory, humanizing, radical acts—as produced by Black girls, artists, and scholars. Class materials will include journal articles, films, novels, music and student-generated ethnographic observations.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Hill.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 248 [US] and HIST 246 [US]) An unconventional history of capitalism, this class explores the various ways African Americans have experienced and responded to shifts in the organization of the American economy. Beginning with the middle passage and creation of plantation slavery in the New World, we will explore the commodification of African Americans' labor, and the ways in which that labor became a cornerstone of capital accumulation, both globally and in the United States. We continue through the revolutions of emancipation, the rise of Jim Crow and the making of urban America, to our present day reality of deeply rooted, and racialized, economic inequality. More than a history of exploitation, however, we will address the various ways in which African Americans chose to manage both the challenges and possibilities of American capitalist development. How, for instance, did black ownership of real estate in the segregated South shape Jim Crow governance? To what extent has black business contributed toward struggles for political and social equality? Finally, we will assess the numerous black critics, including intellectuals, activists and working African Americans, of the American political economy. How have such men and women called attention to the ways race and class have combined to shape both black lives and black political subjectivity?
Spring semester.. Professor Hickmott.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ARHA 257, ARCH 257, and BLST 253) Creole dwellings were first erected by enslaved builders working under Diego Colón (the son of Christopher Columbus) on the island of Hispaniola. By the end of the first wave of European expansion in the early nineteenth century, the creole style existed across imperial domains in the Caribbean, North and South America, Africa, the Indian Ocean, and even Asia. We will examine the global diffusion of this architectural typology from its emergence in the Spanish Caribbean to its florescence in British and French India in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. In doing so, we will address buildings and towns in Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonies worldwide. Some of the urban centers that we will engage include: Kingston, Jamaica; Pondicherry, India; Cape Town, South Africa; Cartagena, Colombia; Saint-Louis, Senegal; and Macau, China. In investigating both creole structures and the cities that harbored such forms, we will think through the social and economic factors that caused buildings and urban areas to display marked continuities despite geographical and imperial distinctions.
Fall semester. Professor Carey.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
[D and C/LA] Who was Frantz Fanon as a theorist? How did he change our thinking about colonialism, its contestation, and what comes after? And how are we to assess his legacy after decades of critical assessment? Fanon is arguably the most important anti-colonial writer of his generation. His decade of work, beginning in 1952 with Black Skin, White Masks and ending upon his death in 1961, engaged the major trends of his day: existentialism, Négritude, surrealism, psychoanalysis, and Marxism. But Fanon makes those trends his own by infusing them with imperatives of anti-, de-, and post-colonial thinking, fundamentally revolutionizing basic philosophical and political categories, from language to dialectic to the self to a wide range of formal and informal social institutions. What is Fanonian thinking in these intersections? And what is its future? To those ends, the aim of this course is simple: read all of Fanon’s published work and assess its meaning and legacy. We will offer close readings of Fanon’s books, essays, and psychiatric case studies, and then examine how that work has been received both inside the Caribbean and Africa (Édouard Glissant, the creolist movement, Achille Mbembe, and others) and across the global South (Homi Bhabha and others). What will emerge from our studies is a deep understanding of Fanon the thinker and an appreciation of the complexity of anti-colonial, de-colonial, and post-colonial thought and practice in his wake.
Omitted 2018-19. Professor Drabinski.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as SPAN 242, BLST 282 [CLA] and SWAG 248) Historically speaking, discourses of mestizaje or racial mixture in Latin America, the Philippines, and the US-Mexican borderlands have implicitly or explicitly used “blackness” as a monolithic signifier connoting a perversity and backwardness to be rehabilitated by civilizational uplift. Students in this class will explore queer and trans texts that challenge this tradition and problematize the connection of the transracial to the transgender. Some of the theorists and authors we will engage include: Cathy Cohen, Fernando Ortiz, CLR James, Sylvia Wynter, Jessica Hagedorn, and Junot Díaz. While some class materials will be in English, the course will be conducted in Spanish.
Requisite: SPAN 211 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Coráñez Bolton.2019-20: Not offered
[A/D] This course will critically examine seminal works on African and African diaspora thought since the eighteenth century and will explore the following major issues: the consolidation of Atlantic slavery in the eighteenth century, the anti-slavery struggle in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Black freedom movements in the twentieth century, and the consolidation and fall of colonialism in Africa and the Caribbean in the twentieth century. Discussed in their appropriate historical context, the course will explore anti-slavery, pan-Africanist, Black feminist, and Black nationalist thinkers, notably Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Fowell Buxton, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edward Blyden, Alexander Crummell, Frantz Fanon, Claudia Jones, and Angela Davis.
Spring semester. Professor Vaughan.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as RUSS 252, BLST 292 [D] and FAMS 352) This course focuses on the modes by which race has been represented in Russian and Soviet culture. We approach this topic in two ways: first, we examine how Russian and Soviet culture grappled with questions of race, focusing on episodes in the representation of minority peoples throughout the empire and the Soviet Union; secondly, we consider how Russian and Soviet culture served as a mirror in which minorities from other countries saw their experiences partially reflected or as a source from which they found models to articulate their own experience of race. These two concerns guide us through the course as we study such works as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground as it enters into dialogue with Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man and Leonid Tsypkin’s Summer in Baden Baden; the representation of Central Asia by such figures as Langston Hughes and Andrei Platonov; the appeal of the Soviet Union to Western intellectuals, in particular African-American thinkers and writers, from W.E.B. Du Bois, Hughes, and Claude McKay; Alexander Pushkin and the question of his “blackness” and universality; the cinematic representation of minorities in the films of Dziga Vertov and Vsevolod Pudovkin. We will draw our critical theoretical models from Homi Bhabha, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Patricia Hall Collins, Johannes Fabian, Stuart Hall, and Mary Louise Pratt, among others.
Omitted 2018-19. Professor Kunichika.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(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.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(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 2018-19. Professor Polk.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
[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 Professor Hill.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
[CLA/D] This course examines the meaning of “the postmodern” in contemporary Caribbean and African-American philosophy, cultural theory, and the arts. What is the postmodern? And how does the experience of the Americas transform the meaning of postmodernity? Four basic concepts guide our inquiry: fragmentation, nomad, rhizome, and creoleness. Short readings from European theorists will provide the backdrop for our treatment of how the experiences of the Middle Passage, colonialism, and postcolony life fundamentally transform postmodern ideas. In tracking this transformation, readings and reflections will explore the possible meanings of the AfroPostmodern in the works of Édouard Glissant, Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Wilson Harris, and Patrick Chamoiseau. In addition, with such theoretical considerations in place, the class will examine the specifically AfroPostmodern significance of aesthetic practices in dub, sampling, graffiti, and anti-racist irony. Lastly, the class will consider how AfroPostmodern conceptions of mixture, counter-narrative, and syncretism offer an alternative to dominant accounts of modernity and globalization.
Spring semester. Professor Drabinski.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 350 [AF/LA/TECP] and BLST 309 [CLA/D]) One of the longest and largest migrations in world history was between Western Africa and Brazil; over the course of four centuries the slave trade displaced nearly six million Africans to the then-Portuguese colony. In this course, students will explore the material, cultural, intellectual, linguistic and economic exchanges that defined the relationship between Western Africa and Brazil from 1500 to the present. Through this history, students will consider how this unique connection spurred new forms of transatlantic consciousness and identity in Brazilian society. Our examination of the linked histories of Africa and Brazil will allow us to probe a number of questions: How does this history help us understand Brazil’s emergence as the world’s first self-described “racial democracy”? Who decides what is “modern”? How is race related to ideas of civilization, order and progress? What does “authenticity” mean? Does understanding black history outside of the United States challenge our ideas of how racial identities are created, experienced and maintained? And finally, is black consciousness universal? Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Hicks.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 311 [A/D] and HIST 311 [AF]) As the crisis of the postcolonial nation-state deepens in the context of globalization and statism in African countries especially in the last three decades, African societies have experienced significant migration of skilled and unskilled workers. These migration flows are raising new questions about the nature of politics, economics, and culture in various African national and transational contexts. To explore the political, social, and economic consequences of these waves of migration in African states and among countries receiving African migrants, this course will examine the following topics at the core of the transformation of African states in the global age: colonialism and the construction of modern African states; globalization and political legitimacy in postcolonial African states; globalization and African labor migration; globalization and African popular culture; globalization and Africa's new religious movements; globalization and Africa's refugee crisis; Africa and globalization of the media; Africa and the global discourse on gender and sexuality; Africa and the global discourse on AIDS/HIV; Africa and the globalization of football (soccer). Course readings will focus not only on the impact of globalization and state crisis on African societies, but also on how emerging national and transnational African populations are shaping the processes of globalization.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Vaughan.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(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.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
[A] This course will focus on African popular culture, with emphasis on music, literature, cinema, and fine art. African popular arts have been marginalized in the academia because they usually deviate from pre-colonial indigenous forms and are often nonconforming to the aesthetic preferences of European elite artistic traditions that were introduced to the continent during colonial rule. This course will examine the status of African popular arts as artistic categories and sites of contested ideas as well as the ways in which they challenge, undermine, and complicate entrenched notions of aesthetics and authenticity. Class discussions will be richly illustrated with relevant literary and dramatic texts, music, film, painting and sculpture in examining the political significance of artistic hybridity and the role of individual agency in the process of recasting older African and European art forms in new ways. Professional artists and scholars with diverse expertise will visit the class.
Requisite: At least three Five-College courses in African Studies or consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Open to juniors and seniors. Spring semester. Professor Abiodun and Five College Africanist Faculty.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as ENGL 317 and BLST 317 [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; and more recent poetry by women writers and performance (“dub”) poets.
Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 488 [AF/TE] 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. One class meeting per week.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Redding.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(Offered as AMST 320 and BLST 332) Throughout this class we will consider the "crossroads," marked by an X, as a visual and symbolic point of intersection with undefined meaning and the potential for fateful outcomes. Reading literary and historical texts students will consider how the crossroads X carries specific meanings for an Afro-Native literary tradition. We will bring Scott Lyons's theory of the X mark, as the signature Native people placed on treaties, to issues of coercion and consent in African American literature and history. Thus, this class focuses on texts that speak in a triple voice, inflected by echoes of a Native American oral tradition, flashes of African American vernacular culture, and forms and techniques adapted from various models of modern Western literature. Students will read literary works as well as primary and secondary historical sources that point to the sometimes powerful and also fraught intersections of Black and Indian histories in the United States from the nineteenth century to the decades following the Civil Rights and Black and Red Power movements. Topics of particular attention include land and politics, history and identity, and gender and sexuality. We will also focus on themes of race, place, family, and belonging. Some of the authors featured in this course are Tiya Miles, Craig Womack, Lauret Savoy, LeAnne Howe, and Michael Dorris. In addition to active participation in seminar discussions, students will write a series of short papers in response to the readings and conduct short research assignments.
Fall semester. Professor Vigil.2019-20: Not offered
[US] This course examines the interplay of Blackness, embodiment, and schooling. Conceptualizing schooling as a hierarchical organizing and socializing process, the course examines how schooling sculpts, appraises, and understands Black bodies, behavior, and performance of identity in and beyond formal educational spaces. Course participants examine distinctions between schooling and education as well as investigate the behind-the-scene politics of lived educational experiences. Framing the Black body as a contested and potential-filled site, the course also explores how different pedagogical forms can serve as interventions to schooling and expand possibilities for understanding and assigning meaning to Blackness, bodies, and Black embodiment.
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Hill.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as SOCI 334 and BLST 336 [US]) 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: SOCI 112 or equivalent. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Lembo.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as BLST 342 [US] and HIST 358 [US]) Often overshadowed by the long 1960s and the conservative ascendancy in the 1980s, the 1970s provides an important transitional moment for the United States, one that arguably linked local experiences to global dynamics and social movements in unprecedented ways. It was also a decade fraught with contradictions. On the one hand, Americans experienced widespread disillusionment with the power of the federal government to promote and protect the minority from the majority. Historians seeking to understand the collapse of the welfare state or the origins of white resistance to civil rights’ initiatives most often point to the 1970s as the time when the Supreme Court abandoned school desegregation and the federal government shifted the burden of the social welfare system onto the market, state and local governments, and onto poor people themselves. And yet, the 1970s also saw an explosion of progressive social activism, as the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and the environmental movement, among others, all came into their own. Likewise, this was also a time of U.S. retreat and military overextension, and a time of new hegemonies of human rights regimes and multinational corporations. This course asks students to consider how connecting the local with the global can help us better understand and resolve these apparent contradictions. How does our understanding of American politics, society, and culture change depending upon our point of view? What are the possibilities and limitations of global and local methods of inquiry? How might historians more fruitfully combine sub-disciplines to understand the ways in which Americans experienced and engaged with their historical realities as members of local, national, and global communities? One class meeting per week.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professors Moss and Walker.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as SWAG 208, BLST 345 [US], ENGL 276, and FAMS 379) Through a close reading of texts by African American authors, we will critically examine the characterization of female protagonists, with a specific focus on how writers negotiate literary forms alongside race, gender, sexuality, and class in their work. Coupled with our explication of poems, short stories, novels, and literary criticism, we will explore the stakes of adaptation in visual culture. Students will analyze the film and television adaptations of The Color Purple (1985), The Women of Brewster Place (1989), and Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005). Authors will include Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Gloria Naylor. Expectations include three writing projects, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.
Limited to 18 students. Priority given to those students who attend the first day of the class. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Henderson.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as BLST 346 [US] and ENGL 362) What is the political responsibility of the writer? Is the Black writer obligated to testify to, represent, and subject to critique the deep effects and affects of anti-Black racism? Or is the responsibility also something different, something better when committed to documenting life outside and in the cracks of an anti-Black racist world? What is art in relation to politics, politics in relation to art? What ought the artist do with the rage generated by three and a half centuries of anti-blackness? And with the pleasures of life that exist alongside that rage? This course explores the mid-century dispute between Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin concerning the meaning of the Black writer. Questions of colonialism, the uniqueness of the African-American experience, affective life (from rage to pleasure), community, and the genesis of cultural production will frame our readings and critical discussions. Beginning with exemplary novels by Wright, Ellison, and Baldwin—Native Son, Invisible Man, and Go Tell It on the Mountain—we will then consider their non-fiction, focusing on how each thinks through problems of nihilism, art, racialized subjectivity, gender, language, sexuality, class, region, and politics in a national and transnational context. As well, the questions raised in the fiction and non-fiction will help us engage with a cluster of contemporaries (Lorraine Hansberry, Norman Mailer, Kenneth Clark, others) and predecessors (Bessie Smith, W.E.B. Du Bois, Louis Armstrong, Alain Locke, Zora Neale Hurston), all of whom hold important critical positions in this argument.
Fall semester. Professor Drabinski.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 347 [US] and SWAG 347) From the aftermath of the Civil War to today's "global war on terror," the U.S. military has functioned as a vital arbiter of the overlapping taxonomies of race, gender, and sexuality in America and around the world. This course examines the global trek of American militarism through times of war and peace in the twentieth century. In a variety of texts and contexts, we will investigate how the U.S. military's production of new ideas about race and racialization, masculinity and femininity, and sexuality and citizenship impacted the lives of soldiers and civilians, men and women, at "home" and abroad. Our interdisciplinary focus will allow us to study the multiple intersections of difference within the military, enabling us to address a number of topics, including: How have African American soldiers functioned as both subjects and agents of American militarism? What role has the U.S. military played in the creation of contemporary gay and lesbian subjectivity? Is military sexual assault a contemporary phenomenon or can it be traced to longer practices of sexual exploitation occurring on or around U.S. bases globally?
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Polk.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(Offered as HIST 352 [US/TC/TS], AMST 352, and BLST 351) Focusing on the United States, this course introduces students to foundational questions and texts central to the history of education and education studies. We will explore the competing goals and priorities Americans have held for primary, secondary and post-secondary education and ask how and why these visions have influenced – or failed to influence – classrooms, schools, and educational policy. We will pay particular attention to sources of educational stratification; the tensions between the public and private purposes of schooling; and the relationship between schooling and equality. In the first part of the course, students will reflect on how Americans have imagined the purpose of self-education, literacy, public schooling, and the liberal arts. Among the questions we will consider: What do Americans want from public schools? Does education promote liberation? Has a liberal arts education outlived its usefulness? How has the organization of schools and school systems promoted some educational objectives in lieu of others? In the second section of the course, we will concentrate on the politics of schooling. Here, we will pay particular attention to several issues central to understanding educational inequality and its relationship to American politics, culture, and society: localism; state and federal authority; desegregation; and the complicated relationship between schooling and racial, linguistic, class-based, gender, and ethnic hierarchies. Finally, we will explore how competing ideas about the purpose and politics of education manifest themselves in current policy debates about privatization, charters, testing, and school discipline. Throughout the course, students will reflect on both the limits and possibilities of American schools to challenge and reconfigure the social order. Course assignments will consist of a mix of short papers and analytical reading exercises. One class meeting per week.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Visiting Associate Professor L. Gordon.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as AMST 371 and BLST 371 [C/LA]) Race and revolution are at the heart of Cuban history. As the slave-based plantation economy expanded in nineteenth-century Cuba, enslaved and free black Cubans looked to Haiti as an example of black liberation. Inspired by the Haitian Revolution, in 1812 free black José Antonio Aponte organized an island-wide rebellion to free Cuba from slavery and Spanish rule. When Cuban elites called for independence from Spain in 1868, they relied on enslaved and free blacks for military support and promised gradual abolition in return. The concept of “racelessness” in a Free Cuba powerfully shaped the national identities that emerged during the 1895 War of Independence. In 1912, black veterans organized the Partido Independiente de Color (PIC, Independent Party of People of Color) and demanded that the state recognize the equal rights of black Cubans. The government responded by accusing the PIC of launching a “race war” and massacred thousands of PIC members and other black Cubans. The abolition of racial inequality was a central goal of the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The new revolutionary state invested heavily in social policies designed to promote racial equity. In the United States, white Cuban émigrés reproduced the racial hierarchies of pre-revolutionary Cuba, while subsequent Afro-Cuban immigrants challenged racism in the diaspora. Since the Special Period of the early 1990s, economic liberalization policies have widened economic disparities on the island, threatening the revolutionary goal of equality for all Cubans.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor del Moral.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as REL 325 and BLST 375) Why channel the spirits of the dead? What does it mean to be possessed? In this course, we’ll explore mediumship and exorcism practices in the Atlantic World from the early modern period to today. Through case studies that include Haitian Vodou in Brooklyn, Umbanda in Brazil, and Palo Monte in Cuba, we will take a broad look at the different ritual practices that fall under the academic category of spirit possession. We will consider the questions that spirit possession raises about race, gender, and sexuality, particularly in the contemporary context. We will also ask more fundamental questions: why have outsiders commonly described the spirits’ presence in terms of possession—a term rarely used by practitioners themselves—and how does the trope of the possessed person serve as a foil for the construction of the autonomous (i.e., self-possessed) modern subject?
Spring semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Amoruso.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as SWAG 329, BLST 377 [US], and ENGL 368) History has long valorized passive, obedient, and long-suffering African American women alongside assertive male protagonists and savants. This course provides an alternative narrative to this representation by exploring the ways in which African American female characters, writers, and artists have challenged ideals of stoicism and submission. Using an interdisciplinary focus, we will critically examine transgression across time and space in diverse twentieth- and early twenty-first century literary, sonic, and visual texts. Expectations include three writing projects, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.
Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Priority given to students who attend the first day of class. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Henderson.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as BLST 381 [CLA/D] and HIST 365 [LA/FA]) Did the emancipation of millions of African-descended people from the bonds of chattel slavery—beginning with the 1791 slave rebellion in Haiti and ending with Brazilian abolition in 1888—mark the beginning of an irrevocable march towards Black freedom? Or was it merely an evolution in the continuing exploitation of Black people throughout the Americas? This course scrutinizes the complex economic, political, ideological, social and cultural contexts which caused and were remade by emancipation. Students are asked to consider emancipation as a global historical process unconstrained by the boundaries of the modern nation-state, while exploring the reasons for and consequences of emancipation from a trans-national perspective that incorporates the histories of the U.S., the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. By focusing on the ideological ambiguities and lived experiences of enslaved people, political actors, abolitionists, religious leaders, employers and many others, this seminar will question what constitutes equality, citizenship, and freedom. Finally the course will explore what role emancipated slaves played in shaping the historical meanings and practices of modern democracy.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Hicks.2019-20: Not offered
[D/US] As one of the most important writers of his generation, James Baldwin articulated key truths about race and racism in the United States. His fiction and non-fiction bear witness to the cruelty of anti-black racism, while also attending to the complexities of love, hope, and community in the African-American context and the context of democracy in the United States more widely. But he lived and wrote in an era that saw an explosion of black writing across the diaspora. His era was also the era of the postcolonial global South, the source of radical and revolutionary writings about race, identity, revolution, and massive cultural upheaval. How does Baldwin’s long reflection on race and Americanness sit in relation to other theorizings of blackness and nation from that same historical moment in the Caribbean and West Africa? What critical tensions emerge when Baldwin’s work is drawn into conversation with figures like Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Léopold Senghor, and others? This course focuses on Baldwin’s non-fiction and its complicated relation to mid-century trends in black Atlantic theory, from the racialism of Négritude to various iterations of existentialism to post-independence notions of pan-Africanism and Black Power. What emerges from our considerations will be a portrait of Baldwin as a writer of the particularity of African-American experience and as a vernacular intellectual dedicated to the articulation of localized forms of knowing and being, while also being attentive to the blurry borders of blackness, whiteness, and the history of anti-black racism.
Omitted 2018-19. Professor Drabinski.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 412 [A] and ENGL 472) This advanced, digital humanities, project-based course allows students to develop individual projects that follow and critique the social media presences of selected twenty-first-century African writers for whom digital spaces have become significant sites for creating, disseminating, and theorizing their work. Alongside independent projects, students will work collaboratively to understand the social and political events that have shaped recent technological shifts in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as to locate and critique theoretical texts that attempt to account for how digital technologies shape new literary genres and publics. In collaboration with the library staff, students will develop their proficiency in using a variety of bibliographical resources and digital humanities tools. Possible projects may engage such online artifacts as the video loops created by Kenyan filmmaker Jim ChuChu, YouTube performances by the Ghanian duo, Fokn Bois, and fanzines dedicated to the work of Chinua Achebe, as well as tweets and Instagram postings of a range of writers who work in multiple hybrid forms.
Requisite: Previous coursework in or knowledge of Africa or previous work on digital humanities projects preferred. Limited to 15 students. Open to Juniors and Seniors. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 455 [US] and BLST 431 [US]) This course will explore the temporal, ideological and cultural dimensions of the American Civil Rights Movement. Following 1954’s Brown vs Board of Education decision, a diverse social movement of students, preachers, working people, activists and intellectuals challenged—and eventually dismantled—Jim Crow segregation in the American South. How did this happen? To answer this question, we will examine the origins of the movement, its institutional dimensions, its key figures, and its intellectual underpinnings. In addition, this class will trace the afterlife of the movement, assessing its national and global reverberations, as well as its relationship to the Black Power movement. As a research seminar, this course will culminate in the production of a 25-page research paper based on an analysis of primary sources related to the movement. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2018-19. Visiting Lecturer Hickmott.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 455 and BLST 439 [US]) When we say “race relations,” we are using a phrase drawn from early twentieth-century American sociology, a phrase that conjures up a scenario in which already existing racial groups are separated by prejudice and misunderstanding. As many sociologists and historians have argued, we need a new paradigm, one that implies neither that race is a primordial reality nor that racism is merely an informational problem. In this class, we will begin by familiarizing ourselves with critical race theory and with theories emerging from the “relational turn” in psychoanalysis. We will then bring both of those theoretical traditions to bear on Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition, Nella Larsen’s Passing, William Faulkner’s Light in August, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Sandra Cisneros’s Woman Hollering Creek, and Sherman Alexie’s The Toughest Indian in the World. In our discussions of these works, we will be aiming not to become (impossibly) post-racial, but to imagine, collectively, different futures for our (inevitably) racially inflected relations.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Sanborn.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(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. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Parham.2019-20: Not offered
[US] What relationships connect education, self-actualization, and transgressive acts? How can body centric and Black feminist pedagogies help us (re)imagine education? What insights and possibilities emerge from placing imagination, transgression, and education in conversation? "The Radical Black Imagination" ruminates on these questions. By studying texts and pedagogical practices of Black feminists, in particular, this course endeavors to illuminate under-explored pathways of freedom and transgression as educative tools.
The course entails class discussion, engagement with artistic mediums, translation of traditional texts into creative and transgressive terms, as well as opportunities to put the pedagogical theories covered in the course into practice. The course will culminate with a collective public presentation.
Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Hill.2019-20: Not offered
(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.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Cobham-Sander.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
Independent reading course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
Fall semester. The Department.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019