Spring 2024

Black and Queer Agency in World War II Military Performance

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-257  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-257  |  Theater and Dance, as THDA-257


Riley Caldwell-O'Keefe (Section 01)


(Offered as BLST 257, SWAG 257, and THDA 257)  This course provides an exploration of the African American and LGBTQ military experience during World War II. We will study WWII military theatrical performance, the racialized and gendered construction of “American” and military identities during this time, and racial segregation in the US military during WWII. We will deepen our understanding of this topic by looking closely at military servicemembers’ experiences such as the Black, queer, scholar-artist Owen Dodson who served in the Navy at Camp Robert Smalls, a segregated unit for Black sailors within Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois. His provocative and strategic theatrical productions by and for Black soldiers were designed to bring together the Black community through performance that provided a space of resistance, beauty, and agency. Our work together in this course will draw on interviews and other first-person accounts, scholarly texts and theory, poetry, literature, music, playscripts, and archival documents such as personal and official military correspondence. Students will learn or further develop archival research methodologies, deepen critical reading skills across textual genres, and individually or collaboratively engage in research on a topic relevant to Black or LGBTQ military servicemembers' agency during World War II.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Dr. Caldwell-O'Keefe.

How to handle overenrollment: Aim to admit a mix of students from different class years and with different disciplinary backgrounds and interests in order to foster a rich interdisciplinary conversation, then priority will be given to second-year students

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Reading engagement, critical analysis, and written and in-class reflection; optional creative work; regular class attendance and engagement; field trip to Yale Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library; independent or collaborative research.

BLST 257 - LEC

Section 01
M 2:00 PM - 3:20 PM FROS 211
W 2:00 PM - 3:20 PM FROS 211

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Particle and Wave: A Conversation 53rd State Press (2021) Daniel Alexander Jones and Alexis Pauline Gumbs Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2024