Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-395
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John Erwin Drabinski (Section 01)
[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.
Spring semester. Professor Drabinski.