Courses

AFR 104Travel Narratives and African History

Last offered Spring 2015

In a way, all historical thinking and writing deals with travel accounts given that, as many scholars have noted, the past can be likened to a foreign country and the historian can be viewed as a traveler in foreign places. Nevertheless, actual travel narratives--narratives about the actual physical visits of writers to distant lands--call for careful and critical analysis because they can be seductive, and they can shape the ways we think about the present--and the past--of distant lands and cultures. This course discusses Arab, Indian, European, African and African American travel narratives about various regions of Africa since the 14th century. We will mine the travel accounts for descriptions of local contexts. We will also explore what travel writing says about the author's perceptions of self, home, and "other." Ultimately, we will investigate the authors' biases and how the narratives influence both our perception of Africa and the writing of African history. This course is highly interdisciplinary and draws heavily on literary, anthropological, geographical, and historical methodologies. [ more ]

AFR 105(F)Materials, Meanings, and Messages in the Arts of Africa

This course introduces students to the wealth, power, and diversity of expressive forms that have characterized the arts of Africa and its Diaspora from prehistory to the present. Pulling extensively from the collections at the Williams College Museum of Art and other campus resources, students will not only experience firsthand the wide array of objects that have been produced within this vast geography, but will also come to recognize how multiple senses including sight, sound, smell, and touch play a key role in understanding how these objects work within their respective contexts. As tools of political control, social protest, divine manifestation, and spiritual intervention, these objects and their associated performances also challenge what we might typically consider art in the Western tradition and as such students will be pushed to think beyond such terms in their examinations of these rich creative traditions. [ more ]

AFR 113(S)Musics of Africa

This course introduces a selection of musical cultures from the geographical breadth of Africa. Following an introductory exploration of the fundamental aesthetic and social parameters governing African musical practice, we will engage in a series of case studies considering a diverse array of musical practices and related social and political issues in specific locales. Featured countries include Ghana, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Algeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This course samples a wide range of musical practices from the Ghanaian dance craze, azonto, to Ethiopian liturgical chants, to Shona mbira music in Zimbabwe. Performance analysis and critical reading and listing assignments are combined with a number of hands-on workshops and musical exercises. [ more ]

AFR 126(F, S)Black Literature Matters

Black literature remains central to struggles for freedom and equality across the African diaspora. In this course, we will examine why black literature matters: What are its aesthetic and political imperatives? How have black writers used certain literary forms in their constructions of identity, freedom, and citizenship? Through our exploration of these questions, we will discover the significant matters of African American literature from the Harlem Renaissance moment to the Black Lives Matter movement. By reading a broad range of texts---essays, novels, drama, music, and poetry---by such authors as Alain Locke, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Audre Lorde, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Jesmyn Ward, and Kendrick Lamar, we will develop a critical vocabulary for evaluating and engaging with this body of literature. This course contributes to the DIfference, Power, and Equity requirement by centering on the relationship between black literature and black political movements from the 1920s to the present. [ more ]

AFR 129(F)Twentieth-Century Black Poets

From Langston Hughes to contemporary poets such as Angela Jackson and Claudia Rankine, African American poets have been preoccupied with the relations of poetry to other traditions. Vernacular speech, English poetry, jazz and other musical forms, folk humor, and African mythology have all been seen as essential sources for black poetry. This course will survey major poets such as Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Countee Cullen, Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Jackson, and Yusef Komunyakaa, reading their poems and their essays and interviews about poetic craft. We will ask how black poetry has been defined and whether there is a single black poetic tradition or several. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

AFR 132(F)Contemporary Africana Social and Political Philosophy

This introductory seminar investigates the relationship between three major schools of thought in contemporary Africana social and political philosophy, namely the African, Afro-American, and Afro-Caribbean intellectual traditions. We will discuss a range of thinkers including Aimé Césaire, Angela Y. Davis, Édouard Glissant, Lewis R. Gordon, Kwame Gyekye, Paget Henry, bell hooks, Charles W. Mills, Nkiru Nzegwu, Lucius Outlaw, Oyèrónke Oyewùmi, Tommie Shelby, and Sylvia Wynter. A primary goal of the course is to provide students with the intellectual resources to decipher problems central to philosophical discourse and to allow students an opportunity to apply what they learn to critical issues in current geopolitics. [ more ]

AFR 136Slavery and the Making of a Literary Tradition

Last offered Spring 2018

How has the subject and iconography of slavery continued to preoccupy the American literary and cultural imagination? In this course, we will examine the transatlantic circulation of ideas regarding race, nation, citizenship, self-mastery, agency, and freedom in colonial and antebellum America and consider how these debates have continued to the present. We will read such authors as Phyllis Wheatley, Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, and Toni Morrison. Forms will include poetry, slave narratives, novels, advertisements, broadsides, pamphlets, and other ephemera. We will also view cinematic representations of slavery, such as WGN's Underground, the adaptation of Solomon Northrop's 12 Years a Slave, and Issa Rae's parody "Due North" in Insecure. [ more ]

AFR 140Black Autobiography

Last offered Spring 2018

Autobiography--whether slave narrative, memoir, or semi-fictional life account-has served as a primary form of writing for people of African descent. Although primarily understood as a textual means for articulating selfhood, Black autobiographies also ask other questions like: How do Black reflections on the self necessitate critiques of society and culture? How have Black autobiographies been utilized for political mobilization? And, what might a collective analysis of Black autobiographies reveal about changes in conceptions of Black selfhood over time? We will explore these concerns by reading autobiographies across time and space by authors like Ottobah Cugoano, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Alice Walker. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

AFR 156Thirteen Ways of Looking at Jazz

Last offered Fall 2015

Taking its title from the Wallace Stevens poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," which interprets the blackbird in different ways, this course similarly explores a more complex, multi-layered perspective on jazz, from jazz and American democracy to jazz in visual art. Accordingly, the course introduces students to several genres, including historical documents, cultural criticism, music, literature, film, photography and art. The course does not draw on a musicological method but rather a socio-cultural analysis of the concept, music and its effect--so students are not required to have any prior musical knowledge or ability. In this writing intensive course, students will write and revise short close analyses of multiple types of media, ultimately honing their writing skills on one form of media for a polished, original analysis that weds their increased critical thinking skills. [ more ]

AFR 164(S)Slavery in the American South

This writing intensive seminar will focus on slavery in the southern United States--one of the most difficult and challenging subjects in this country's history. After looking at several different approaches to North American slavery and examining in depth two of the key primary sources for the study of this institution, students will select an aspect of slavery for intensive research. The rich sources of the Chapin and Sawyer Libraries will be examined to show students the extensive body of materials available on campus for their research projects. [ more ]

AFR 167(F)Let Freedom Ring? African Americans and Emancipation

This course will examine African Americans' transition from slavery to freedom. In the years that encompassed the Civil War and immediately after, most African Americans changed from being legal property, able to be bought, sold, mortgaged, rented out, and leveraged into U.S. citizens, with the Constitutional right to male suffrage. This course examines this transition. How did it come about? To what extent were African Americans able to exercise their rights that the constitution guaranteed? How did Emancipation shape African American family relations, culture and demography? This is a research seminar. We will examine work of historians and discuss the contradictions and nuances of emancipation. Readings will include monographs, scholarly articles and heavy dose of primary sources, as many as possible written by African Americans themselves. Assignments include an original research paper on an aspect of Emancipation. We will devote considerable time throughout the semester to finding primary and secondary sources and on the writing process. [ more ]

AFR 200(F, S)Introduction to Africana Studies

This course introduces students to the content and contours of Africana Studies as a vibrant field of knowledge. Through exploration of the genealogy, disciplinary diversity, and evolution of the field, we will examine the depth and range of experiences of African-descended peoples throughout the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa. We will also give some attention to how members of the Diaspora remember and encounter Africa, as well as their diverse responses to the history of enslavement, colonialism, apartheid, racism, and globalization. Through materials that embrace both historical and contemporary perspectives, we seek to help students develop critical frameworks for understanding African diasporic experience while simultaneously illumining disjunctures and challenges for the field. This course features two pedagogical strategies: 1) a rotational, interdisciplinary approach that includes the expertise, methods, and specializations of Africana faculty; and 2) the incorporation of aesthetic materials--film, photography, music, dance, performance, and artwork--to enhance student ability to draw ongoing connections between visual and textual sources covered in the course. Close textual analysis, vibrant debate, and engaging discourse are expected. [ more ]

AFR 201(F)African Dance and Percussion

This course focuses on selected dance and music forms from the African continent for example, Kpanlogo from Ghana, Lamban from Guinea, Senegal and Mali or Bira from Zimbabwe. We will examine their origins (people, history and cultures) and influence beyond geographic perimeter to more fully understand the function of these forms in contemporary times. Students will study movement and percussion and are evaluated on the quality of progress with the selected forms throughout the semester. Forms may not be the same every semester. This course can be taken for academic and/or PE credit [ more ]

AFR 202Public Speaking: Traditions and Practice

Last offered Fall 2015

Effective oral communication skills are necessary for any student, regardless of major or area of concentration. This course is designed to give students an introduction into the fundamentals of oral communication. We will discuss the critical role of both speakers and listeners within the transactional process of communication. Together we will explore African American oratorical traditions through viewing, listening to, and reading speeches from notable figures such as Frederick Douglass, Fannie Lou Hamer, Barak Obama, and many others. With an emphasis placed on Aristotelian and African American rhetorical methods of persuasion, evidence-based research, and organization, students will gain a better understanding of what it means to be an ethical and responsible communicator. Students will give three formal speech presentations with a focus on informative and persuasive elements. Through discussions, lectures, activities, readings, and speech presentations, students will develop meaningful skills to effectively communicate in the public setting. [ more ]

AFR 203Modern African History

Last offered Fall 2016

This course surveys the history of 19th and 20th century Africa. The first section of the course focuses on the European conquest of Africa and the dynamics of colonial rule--especially its socio-economic and cultural consequences. The second section looks at how the rising tide of African nationalism, in the form of labor strikes and guerrilla wars, ushered out colonialism. The third section examines the postcolonial states, focusing on the politics of development, recent civil wars in countries like Rwanda and Liberia, and the growing AIDS epidemics. The last section surveys the history of Apartheid in South Africa up to 1994.Course materials include fiction, poetry, memoirs, videos, newspaper articles, and outstanding recent scholarship. The course is structured around discussions. [ more ]

AFR 204Introduction to Francophone Literatures

Last offered Fall 2016

What is the Francophone world comprised of? Who speaks French today and why? What does the idea of Francophonie really mean? Is this term really relevant? Why, how, and by whom is this idea being criticized? How does the littérature-monde manifesto fit within these interrogations? Is the French-speaking world merely a linguistic community or is it also a political, cultural, and economic project? Last but not least, why is the idea of Francophonie so important for France? We will answer these questions through the lens of literary and cinematic texts from Québec, Sénégal, Vietnam, France (l'hexagone), and Haiti among others. [ more ]

AFR 205 TShe Speaks in Color: Examining the 'Color Complex' in Toni Morrison's Writings

Last offered Fall 2016

The practice of colorism, or skin color discrimination, is very familiar to people of color globally. Often described as intra-racial racism, colorism within the Black American context is part of the colonial legacy of institutionalized slavery where the vestiges of white supremacy have created color castes among Blacks that still, to this day, have serious consequences for those on the darkest end of the color spectrum. The impact of this practice is far-reaching, influencing everything from romantic partnering, economic and educational attainment, and perceptions of beauty, attractiveness, and criminality. Although the vast majority of colorism scholarship is empirically based, there is much that we can glean from a literary investigation of this practice by analyzing the works of renowned writer, theorist, and folklorist Toni Morrison. Her work is particularly useful in examining issues of skin color, as this topic has been persistent yet underexplored in Morrison's writings. Employing the methods of literary and rhetorical criticism, this tutorial will investigate five Morrison novels, The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), Love (2003) and God Help the Child (2015). In our discussions of each text, we will examine the problem of the "color complex" at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class and sexual violence, and how the characters manage these overlapping issues. We will bring the novels into conversation with social science articles on the practices of colorism in daily life. Because the tutorial blends different kinds of investigations into colorism, it will equip first year students with tools to critically engage and interrogate fictional literature; help them identify the real and nuanced ways that color discrimination affects Black communities; and consider how Morrison, one of our foremost writers, bridges literary creativity with ethnographic observation. [ more ]

AFR 206African Dance and Percussion

Last offered Spring 2018

Course continues the investigation of selected music and dance from the African continent. Advancing dance and music skills, deepening understanding of history and context of the material are focus of readings, discussions and projects throughout the semester. Questions we will address include the impact of religion, colonialism, travel, immigration, media tradition and the continued emergence of new forms. Material may include Gum Boots (Isicathulo) from Southern Africa, Juju in Nigeria or Hip Hop in several nations. This course can be taken for academic and/or PE credit. [ more ]

AFR 208 T(F)Time and Blackness

The concept of time is one of the most examined, yet least theorized, concepts in Africana Studies. While the field is saturated with historical studies and literary analyses that take up issues of cultural memory, both of which involve thinking about time, time itself is rarely the subject of sustained inquiry. This may be due to its abstractness as an idea and the level of analysis its conceptualization demands, or because time in the African American experience cannot be understood outside of the meaning of race, which itself is far from tangible. In this tutorial, "Time and Blackness," we will explore how African American writers across a number of genres understand time. We will read select texts of fiction as well as spiritual autobiographies, historical narratives, and sociological studies to understand how writers draw from--and create--paradigms of time to organize their work. The following questions will structure our investigation: What are the constituent elements of time in African American writing? How does race shape the ways a writer conceives of the experience of time? In examining writings across genres, is there something that we can call an identifiable African-American "timescape"? [ more ]

AFR 210Culture and Incarceration

Last offered Fall 2011

This seminar examines incarceration, immigration detention centers, and the death penalty from historical and contemporary perspectives. Students will study and examine interdisciplinary texts as well primary sources (legislature and criminal codes and writings by the incarcerated). The emphasis will be on the study of social attitudes concerning ethnic groups, gender/sexuality and class as they pertain to a "penal culture" in the United States. [ more ]

AFR 211(F)Race and the Environment

In contemporary societies, race remains an enduring impediment to the achievement of equality. Generally understood as a socially meaningful way of classifying human bodies hierarchically, race manifests itself in a number of arenas, including personal experience, economic production and distribution, and political organization. In this course, we will explore how race emerges in local and global environmental issues, like pollution and climate change. We will begin with a review of some of the landmark texts in Environmental Studies that address "environmental racism," like Robert Bullard's Dumping in Dixie and David Pellow's Garbage Wars. We will examine how and to what extent polluting facilities like landfills, oil refineries, and sewage treatment plants are disproportionately located in communities of color; we will also pay attention to how specific corporations create the underlying rationale for plotting industrial sites. After outlining some of the core issues raised in this scholarship, we will turn to cultural productions--like literature, film, and music--to understand how people of color respond to environmental injustice and imagine the natural world. [ more ]

AFR 212Jazz Theory and Improvisation I

Last offered Spring 2018

The theory and application of basic techniques in jazz improvisation and performance styles, including blues forms, swing, bebop, modally based composition, Afro-Cuban, etc. Appropriate for students with skill on their instrument and some basic theoretical knowledge. Knowledge of all key signatures, major/minor keys and modes, intervals, triads and basic seventh chords and their functions within keys. Students should be able to play and demonstrate these concepts on their instruments-competence on an instrument is essential (vocalists and drummers will be encouraged to study the piano). Pianists and guitarists should be able to sight read chords on a jazz lead sheet. [ more ]

AFR 213 T(S)Race, Gender, and the Alien Body: Octavia Butler's Science Fiction

Science fiction is a genre well known for its ability to envision new realities, and Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) is among the most highly regarded science fiction writers. Butler's uncanny ability to imagine the future anew and to merge those ruminations with her experiences as an African American woman provide powerful commentary on--and often disrupt--modern understandings of race, gender, and human embodiment. We will explore questions such as: What role does 'gender' play in Butler's fiction? How does Butler's treatment of the 'alien' cause us to reconsider what it means to be human? How does Butler incorporate `race' and the concept of 'other' into her fiction, and how do these techniques help us situate contemporary discussions of a post-race society? We will examine the relationship between Butler's visions for the future and what her narratives of future worlds invariably suggest about the present. We will read key texts including the best-selling text Kindred (1979), the haunting dystopian novel Parable of the Sower (1994), the popular vampire text Fledgling (2005), and the collection Bloodchild and Other Stories (1996). We will also explore contemporary engagement with Butler's work including the relationship between the main character from her book Dawn (1987), and Henrietta Lacks, the African American woman from whom the immortal cell line (HeLa) used for medical research derives. This tutorial will engage Octavia Butler's work broadly, and with particular attention to how the concepts 'race,' 'gender', `alien' and 'body' are interrogated in her writings. [ more ]

AFR 214Jazz Theory and Improvisation II

Last offered Spring 2017

A continuation of MUS 104b, this course builds upon theoretical knowledge, performance and aural skills developed previously. Students will deal with more complex theoretical and performance issues, including the use of symmetric scales, strategies for chord reharmonization, pentatonic and hexatonic scale shapes, and Coltrane's "Three Tonic" harmonic system. [ more ]

AFR 215Ways of Knowing: Music, Movement, Memory

Last offered Fall 2017

This interdisciplinary seminar proceeds from the premise that the body knows. Ongoing colonial modernity is rooted in a racialized hierarchy: the "civilized" life of the mind vs. the "primitive" instincts of the flesh. According to this binary, the body is marked as irrational, sinful, outside of the archive. The body cannot know because the happenings of the body are ephemeral: unlike documents, they don't last. In this course, we will subject this logic to close scrutiny. As performance scholar Diana Taylor asks, "Whose memories, traditions, and claims to history disappear if performance practices lack the staying power to transmit vital knowledge?" In this course, we look to music, movement, and other repertoires as ways of knowing, remembering, and world-making. How does embodied knowledge travel across time and space? How have performance practices served as modes of what Ashinaabe cultural theorist Gerald Vizenor calls "survivance" (survival + resistance) for indigenous, nomadic, queer, and colored communities. Case studies include: the Middle Passage and the syncretic birth of the Blues in the Americas; nomadism, the nation-state, and the migration of Romani music; and the evolution of queer ball culture. Students will engage with a variety of texts (verbal, sonic, visual, kinesthetic) and respond to them critically not only through writing and discussion, but also through their own performance practices. [ more ]

AFR 218(S)Gender and Sexuality in the Neo-slave Narrative

Hortense Spillers has noted that ex-slave Harriet Jacobs, "between the lines of her narrative, demarcates a sexuality that is neuterbound" and we live with the aftermath of her observation. "Ungendering," one of the transformations undergone by bodies subjected to the Middle Passage, is one of the keywords that forms the foundation for a conversation about slavery, gender, and sexuality. Throughout this course we will wrestle with the questions: How does the designation "slave" rupture, reify, or expand our understandings of sexuality and gender? What conditions have necessitated the neo-slave narrative form? Texts include: slave narratives and neo-slave narratives in the forms of novels such as Octavia E. Butler's Kindred, Jewelle Gomez's Gilda Stories, visual art such as Kerry James Marshall's "Heirlooms and Accessories" and Glenn Ligon's "Runaways", and film such as Jordan Peele's Get Out. [ more ]

AFR 219Spiritualities of Dissent

Last offered Spring 2018

This course seeks to understand how protest fuels the creation and sustenance of black religious movements and novel spiritual systems in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will examine the dissentive qualities of selected African-descended activists, community workers, scholars, spiritual/religious leaders and creative writers. By the end of this course, students will be able to thoughtfully respond to the questions, "What is spirituality?"; "What is dissent?"; and "Has blackness required resistive spiritual communities?" [ more ]

AFR 220(S)Introduction to African American Literature

What does it mean, socially, culturally, historically, personally, and spiritually, to be African American? No single, simple answer suffices, but African American literature as a genre is defined by its ongoing engagement with this complex question. This course will examine a series of texts that in various ways epitomize the fraught literary grappling with the entailments of American blackness. Readings will include texts by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, and Ishmael Reed. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

AFR 221Giving God a Backbeat: Rap Music, Religion & Spirituality

Last offered Spring 2017

On the surface, religion and rap music may seem as if they have little in common. Yet, like other Black musical traditions such as spirituals and the blues, rap is rooted in African American religious traditions. In this course, we will explore the ways in which rap music intersects with the sacred and secular worlds. Through an examination of black religious traditions, lyrics, music videos, and digital media, we will unearth what Anthony Pinn calls the "spiritual and religious sensibilities" of rap music. Grounded in culture-centered criticism, we will investigate the rhetoric of rap and religion through the theoretical ideas of Black Liberation Theology and hip-hop feminism. [ more ]

AFR 223Politics of Performance/Performing Politics in Contemporary Africa

Last offered Spring 2016

Using select examples from throughout Africa, this course highlights genres, artists, and works that engage with social and ideological change. Students practice critical listening and performance analysis, while also considering the social contexts that render these performances meaningful and provocative. Topics include: challenges to mass mediated stereotypes of African populations, the social and economic impact of cultural tourism, music as a form of social critique, changing attitudes toward women and the LGBTQ community, music and global aid organizations, issues of migration and displacement, and the changing roles of traditional musical occupations. Popular genres--among them Afrobeat, kwaito, soukous, raï, mbalax, Chimurenga music, and a variety of rap and hip-hop styles--are discussed alongside numerous traditional and ceremonial genres, national/political anthems, and concert pieces. Active participation in class discussion is an important component of this course. [ more ]

AFR 225Musics of the Caribbean

Last offered Spring 2017

From witty and politically charged calypsos to soulful bachatas, from folkloric displays that advertise a country's cultural diversity to ritual performances that facilitate communication with the spirit world, the music of the Caribbean is astonishingly diverse, both sonically and in its social application. This course serves as an introduction to a wide spectrum of Caribbean music in its broader social and historical context. Through engaging with audio and video sources, readings, performance exercises and workshops, students will learn to identify distinguishing features associated with particular countries and regions, while also exploring the sounds and musical structures that are shared between them. Featured genres include reggae, steel pan, calypso, zouk, Maroon music from Suriname and Jamaica, chutney, salsa, merengue and music from Haitian Vodu and Cuban Santería religions. Interlaced with discussion of musical genres and innovative musicians are a number of central questions about the social role of music within the region: How has slavery and colonial enterprise shaped the musical landscape of the Caribbean? How do the realms of sacred and secular performance relate to each other? What role does tourism and global circulation play in influencing musical tastes and practices? Finally, how do music and dance interconnect? [ more ]

AFR 226Black France/France Noire

Last offered Spring 2018

On the eve of the new millennium, the year 1998 saw the emergence in France of "Black studies à la française" (Ndiaye). Inspired, in part, by the 150th anniversary of the 1848 abolition of slavery, the French black minority "made itself more visible" (Faes and Smith). This course examines a wide range of discursive practices through which athletes, artists, authors, politicians, activists, and scholars amplified their voices in the French hexagone. It retraces the rise of these discourses and how they assert, reframe, and establish blackness as a legitimate field of knowledge and a space of affirmation and contestation. Following a study of the interwar period (1918-1939), when the work of "negritude women" (Sharpley-Whiting) such as "afro-latinité" spurred the negritude movement, we will discuss publications, documentaries, and seminal moments of protest in the early twenty-first century. Course material may include works by Suzanne Césaire, Jane and Paulette Nardal, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Achille Mbembé, Françoise Vergès, Pascal Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel and Sandrine Lemaire, Pap Ndiaye, Gaston Kelman, Rokhaya Diallo, Alice Diop, Léonora Miano, and Fabienne and Véronique Kanor. Conducted in French. [ more ]

AFR 228Revolt and Revelation in 20th-Century Americas

Last offered Fall 2017

Writing in 1971, Dominican priest and Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez asked "Is the Church fulfilling a purely religious role when by its silence or friendly relationships it lends legitimacy to dictatorial and oppressive government?" Such a question encapsulates the sometimes agonistic and other times deeply intertwined relationships between religious institutions, religious thought, and movements for political transformation in the 20th century Americas. This course examines those forms of "God-talk" broadly termed "liberation theologies" that responded to and challenged social relationships of class, colonization, race, culture, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, and ecology. These theologies were borne out of and in turn deeply shaped struggles against oppressive regimes and structures in the Americas, and as such we will focus on some specific theological writings--such as those of Gutierrez--and their relationship to distinct social movements and struggles over land, economy, and political power, especially in Brazil, El Salvador, Perú, and the United States of America between 1960-2000. [ more ]

AFR 229(F)European Imperialism and Decolonization

This course will study European imperialism in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and the formidable opposition it provoked, both on the part of the socialist opposition at home and the movements for national liberation in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the New World. The first half of the course will focus on the expansion of Europe in the nineteenth century, particularly the British conquest of India, the Scramble for Africa, and the break-up of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. In the second half of the course, we will examine some of the most dramatic movements for national liberation, including the independence in India, the Algerian Revolution, and the torturous struggle for independence in Lumumba's Congo. [ more ]

AFR 230Gender, Sexuality, and Global HIV/AIDS

Last offered Fall 2017

The global pandemic of HIV/AIDS is now entering into its fourth decade. Throughout this history sexuality, gender and race and inequality have played a central role in the spread of the virus, and its apparent entrenchment in certain communities. This class will use a gendered, interdisciplinary perspective to investigate the pandemic's social, economic and political causes, impact, and conundrums--the problems it poses for scholarship, activism, public policy, and public health. Issues discussed will include the role of transaction sex and economic structures in both susceptibility to HIV and vulnerability to its impact; stigma and its challenges for HIV prevention, testing and treatment uptake; the role of positive youth in the next stages of the pandemic; and the evolving expressions of biopower in the global AIDS response. The class will look at examples of successful policies and activism as well as the failures, corruption and complacency that have characterized the global pandemic. There will be a particular geographical focus on experiences in the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa. [ more ]

AFR 234History of the Civil Rights Movement

Last offered Spring 2018

This course examines the American civil rights movement, arguably the most important social movement of the twentieth century, and its far reaching effects. We will set the movement's classic phase from 1954-1965, within a broader history organizing for freedom from the 1930s through the demise of Black Power in the 1970s. We will trace a wide variety of activists in southern struggle, examining familiar figures like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., from new perspectives, together with the often unsung heroes of local movements. We will also highlight freedom struggles in the North and West, whose timing, issues, and politics often differed, including the presence of a diverse cast of racial minorities including Latinxs and Asians. Throughout our study, we will interrogate the perspectives of both the participants and the historians who have written their stories about the time, space, issues, and strategy that define our understanding of the struggle for freedom. Class will consist of lecture and discussion. [ more ]

AFR 237Islam in the United States: From Black Muslims to the War on Terror

Last offered Fall 2017

Malcolm X is likely the most prominent and influential Muslim figure in the history of the United States. His story represents two fundamental themes in the history of Islam in America: conflict between Muslims over what is "authentic" or "orthodox" Islam; and the ways that American history, politics, and culture determine the contours of "American Islam". This course will explore these two themes through an array of topics in the history of American Islam. In so doing, we will examine the complex relation between religion, politics, and culture in the United States. Beginning with the story of Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam, and other African-American Muslim movements, we will try to understand: What made Islam so appealing to millions of African-Americans throughout the 20th century? And were these genuinely "religious" and "Islamic" movements, or just racial/political "black nationalist" movements in the guise of religion? What counts as legitimately "Islamic", and who gets to decide? We will then move into the latter half of the 20th century and the post-9/11 debates over authentic Islam. What happened to American Muslim communities and organizations after the waves of post-1965 immigration from Muslim countries? How have debates about Muslim identity shifted over time, from being configured in terms of black separatism, to transnational/diasporic identity, to the attempts at articulating an indigenous "American-Muslim" identity? How have national narratives around 9/11 and the "War on Terror" impacted these debates over identity and "true Islam"? And how have these debates intersected with gender, racial, and ethnic politics? Throughout the course, we will be studying historical and anthropological material, autobiographies, novels, documentaries, films, and social media. The course fosters critical thinking about diversity by challenging assumptions of who Muslims are, what being American means, and what Islam is. It also focuses on the complex interaction of different dimensions of diversity, from religion to race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, gender, language, and age. [ more ]

AFR 240Introduction to the Music of Duke Ellington

Last offered Spring 2015

This course will survey the career and compositional style of Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington (1899-1974). Students will learn to listen to and analyze music from throughout Ellington's five-decade career as a bandleader, composer, arranger, and writer. Particular emphasis will be placed on development of aural analysis skills, in terms of form, style, orchestration, and the ability to identify the individual sounds of key Ellingtonian soloists. Ellington's importance as a key figure in American cultural history, and relationships between his music and parallel stylistic developments and influences from both within and outside of the jazz tradition will be discussed. [ more ]

AFR 241The Banlieue in Literature, Music, and Film

Last offered Spring 2017

In this course we will read, watch, and listen to various constructions of the banlieue in French music, film, and literature to focus on the contestatory and affirmative dimensions of these narratives. [ more ]

AFR 242Introduction to the Music of John Coltrane

Last offered Fall 2016

This course offers the serious music student an opportunity to study the unique body of work produced by saxophonist and composer John Coltrane (1926-1967). The course traces the evolution of Coltrane's compositional and performance styles in the context of the musical and cultural environment in which they developed. Emphasis placed on Coltrane's musical style, representing a unique synthesis of influences, including jazz, world, and European Classical music and spirituality. Substantial reading assignments, including a biography and related criticism, as well as detailed score analysis and study, are required. [ more ]

AFR 246(F)African American History, 1619-1865

This course provides an introduction to the history of African Americans in United States during the colonial, early republic, and antebellum eras. The experience of enslavement necessarily dominates this history, and it is the contours and nuances of slavery-and the development of racial classifications-that give this course its focus. We will also explore African cultural influences, the significance of gender, the lives of free blacks, and the cultural and intellectual significance of the abolitionist movement. The course closes on the themes that emerge from the Civil War, and on the meaning of freedom and emancipation. Our readings will include primary sources and secondary literature. Class meetings will combine lecture and discussion. Informed participation in class discussion is essential. This Power etc course explores the experiences and expressions of the culturally diverse peoples of African descent in the New World (and the Old), as well as the myriad ways in which they confront, negotiate, and at times challenge dominant U.S. and/or European hierarchies of race, culture, gender and class. [ more ]

AFR 248The Caribbean: From Slavery to Independence

Last offered Spring 2018

This class will begin with and foreground the current crisis in Puerto Rico, an island emblematic of the history of colonialism, racism, environmental destruction, and economic exploitation of the region. But as the Caribbean has suffered, so has it resisted. From the Haitian Revolution to the Manley `Revolt' in Jamaica, the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, the Cuban Revolution, and the Grenadian Revolution, the Caribbean has been at the forefront of radical change in the New World. Pioneering slave emancipation, independence from European empires, and unique experiments in socialism, communism, and Black Power, these small islands have been world leaders. But their innovative social and political experimentation--expressed in vivid artistic and musical forms--have all too often met with disdain and repression by their more powerful neighbors or former colonial rulers. This course will examine the audacious experiments of the Caribbean people from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries as well as the repression they have faced from abroad. We will pay attention to the rich cultural diversity of the region, using film, music, literature and art to examine diverse phenomenon, including voodoo, Santeria, and Rastafarianism. We will also explore the prospects for continuing change in the contemporary Caribbean, paying special attention to the environmental challenges they face amidst rising sea levels, drought, heat waves, and the effect of two hundred years of environmental destruction at the hands of rapacious foreigners, from slaveowners to cruise ship lines to bauxite and oil producers. [ more ]

AFR 254Bebop: The (R)evolution of Modern Jazz

Last offered Fall 2017

In the 1940s, Jazz turned a corner, transitioning from the functional and popular music of the swing era to the increasingly complex art music known as bebop. The practitioners of this new sub-genre were seen not as showmen or entertainers, but (in the words of poet Ralph Ellison) as "frozen faced introverts, dedicated to chaos." This music was simultaneously old and new, a musical evolution interpreted through the lens of cultural revolution. This class will survey the lives, music and continuing impact of bebop's most pivotal figures: Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke among many others. Through score study and guided listening assignments, the class will examine the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic innovations associated with this pivotal era in jazz history. We will evaluate, compare and contrast examples of contemporary theoretical scholarship concerning this musical vocabulary and it's evolution. Intersections between the music and parallel artistic, social and political movements will also be addressed. [ more ]

AFR 256Politics of Africa

Last offered Spring 2017

This course provides an introduction to the politics of contemporary Africa, emphasizing the diversity of African politics. It seeks to challenge the widespread image of African politics as universally and inexplicably lawless, violent, and anarchic. We begin by examining the colonization of Africa, nationalist movements, and patterns of rule in the first 30 years of independence. From there, we analyze the causes, achievements and limitations of the recent wave of political liberalization across Africa. We then consider patterns of economic development in Africa. Finally, we examine China's growing expansion into Africa and ask whether this is a new colonialism. [ more ]

AFR 257(F)Social Justice Traditions: 1960s to #Black Lives Matter

We live in a time of renewed social justice activism, as people from all walks of life confront economic inequality, police violence, discrimination against transgender individuals, and other forms of oppression. This course is designed to clarify where recent initiatives like Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street came from, and to evaluate how they might shape American life in the near future. Movements have histories, as today's activists draw on the "freedom dreams," tactics, and styles of rhetoric crafted by their predecessors, while making use of new technologies, such as Twitter, and evolving understandings of "justice." Taking a historical approach, we will begin by studying the civil rights, Black Power, anti-war, counter-culture, and feminist initiatives of the 1960s. We will then explore how progressive and radical activists adjusted their theories and strategies as the country became more conservative in the 1970s and 1980s. Making use of movement documents, documentary films, and scholarly accounts, we will study the development of LGBTQ, ecological, and economic justice initiatives up to the present day. Throughout, we will seek to understand how movements in the United States are shaped by global events and how activists balance their political work with other desires and commitments. [ more ]

AFR 258The Rhetoric(s) of Black Religious Traditions

Last offered Spring 2016

This course will introduce students to the rich religious expressions of Black Americans through their rhetorical traditions. We will begin with a survey of rhetorical productions like sermons, music, and other forms of public address in the historical literatures on Black religions. Our review will yield some of the primary themes of Black religious experiences--the injustices of modern racism, the significance of liberation, and continued meaning of Africa as a homeland. We will then investigate how secular processes like commodification alter rhetorical practices. [ more ]

AFR 259Bilad al-Sudan and Beyond: Arts of the Afro-Islamic World

Last offered Spring 2017

From the Swahili stone houses of East Africa to the massive earth and timber mosques of the Sahel, the story of Islam in Africa is one of cultural and spiritual hybridity expressed through material form. In this course, students will explore how artistic forms and traditions in Africa have functioned as vehicles of access and integration for Islam, enabling it to assimilate itself with numerous African contexts towards becoming the dominant religious force on the continent. In addition, students will investigate how the forms, functions, and meanings of Afro-Islamic objects across the continent reflect not just one African Islam, but many different iterations, each shaped by the specific frameworks of its cultural context. The contemporary component of the course will examine how modernity in the form of globalization, technology, and Westernization has affected Afro-Islamic artistic traditions, and how these shifts reflect larger evolutions within understandings of Islam in Africa in the contemporary period. [ more ]

AFR 261Haitian and French Caribbean Literatures and Films

Last offered Fall 2016

Over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, authors and filmmakers have questioned prevalent representations of the Creole and French-speaking Caribbean such as the idea of Haiti as the First Black republic and the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere and and of Martinique and Guadeloupe as the "French" Caribbean. They have also interrogated their forebears by reclaiming modernity, reframing History, and telling "intimist" stories (Ferly). This course focuses on the diverging paths by Haitian and French Caribbean literatures (short stories, play, poem, novels) and film (short, feature and documentaries) as critical interventions that bring into focus gender, slavery, identity, exile, migration, imperialism, culture, and (non) sovereignty. [ more ]

AFR 276 TBlack Europeans

Last offered Spring 2018

This course explores the in/visibility of Black Europeans from the Enlightenment to the present with a particular focus on French, German, Austrian, Dutch, British, and Russian history. With the European Enlightenment as point of departure, the tutorial investigates the large presence of Blacks as objectified subjects in paintings and decorative artifacts of the 18th and 19th centuries while interrogating their century-long absence from European historiography until fairly recently. In this tutorial, we will start discussing the significance of the Code Noir (1685) as well as the major economic impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on European countries such as Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands. We will read historical biographies about a handful of outstanding Black Europeans in France (composer Monsieur de Saint George), Germany (Prussian officer Gustav Sabac el Cher, philosopher Wilhelm Anton Amo), Austria (royal tutor Angelo Soliman), Holland (Prince Kwasi Boachi), and Russia (military leader Abram Petrovitch Gannibal) during the 18th and 19th centuries, study paintings and decorative artifacts of the 18th and 19th centuries depicting black servants--such as Hyacinthe Rigaud's Portrait of Marquise de Louville (1708), Nicolas Lancret's The Escaped Bird (1730), and Manet's Olympia (1863) to name a few--and watch the biopic Belle by Amma Asante (2013), narrating the life of black heiress Dido Elizabeth Belle in 18th-century England. We will also do a quick survey of 20th-century European cinema, that has until now cast very few black actors in supporting and leading roles, and we will ponder the representation of black people in recent films that were commercially successful at the box office (such as Les Intouchables by Nakache/Toledano, France 2011). Finally, we will reflect on the deep roots of European colonialism that takes the form of national debates surrounding the naming of chocolate-coated treats and licorice sweets (Têtes de nègre, Mohrenkopf, and Negerkuss) or of a controversy around cultural identity resulting from the grotesque depiction of black men in folkloric tradition (like Zwarte Piet in the Netherlands). [ more ]

AFR 280African American History: An Introduction

Last offered Spring 2012

This course provides a survey of African American History from the earliest importation and migration of Africans to North American through the present day. Our readings and discussions will take up the development, expansion, and organization of slavery, the coming and meaning of freedom, and the political and cultural landscapes of African Americans over time. We will discuss slavery, freedom, civil rights, and racial ideologies. Finally, we will examine the post Civil Rights era, the changing meaning of the designation "African American" in light of global migrations, and African American political power in the 21st century. Our readings, which will include both primary and secondary sources, will help us to interrogate American history and gain an understanding and overview of African American history. The course will be primarily discussion based. [ more ]

AFR 283(F)Black Queer Looks: Race, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary African-American Film

In this course we will foreground questions around visibility and memory. We will explore representations of Black queer bodies in experimental, documentary and narrative film. This course will engage foundational texts from Black Queer Studies. We will pair texts with film in order to examine the various relationships between art and scholarship. You will also be asked to think about yourself as a filmmaker. We will screen films such as Looking for Langston (Isaac Julien, 1989), The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996), U People (Olive Demetrius and Hanifah Walidah, 2009), Tongues Untied (Marlon Riggs, 1989) and Litany for Survival (Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson, 1995). Throughout the course we will evaluate the different ways filmmakers represent Black queerness on screen. The goal is to think about the possibilities and limitations of representation and visibility. Each of you will be asked to facilitate a class discussion. You also will be required to do weekly critical response papers. In lieu of a final paper you will create a detailed proposal for a short film that "represents" some segment of Black queer living. [ more ]

AFR 299Rastafari: Dread, Politics, Agency

Last offered Spring 2018

The emergence of Rastafari in the twentieth century marked a distinct phase in the theory and practice of political agency. From its heretical roots in Jamaica, Garveyism, Ethiopianism, and Pan-Africanism, Rastafari has evolved from a Caribbean theological movement to an international political actor. This course investigates the political theory of Rastafari in order to develop intellectual resources for theorizing the concept of agency in contemporary Africana thought and political theory. We will analyze texts and audio-visual works on the political economy of late colonial Jamaica, core Rastafari thinking, political theology, the role of reggae music, the notion of agency, and the influence of Rastafari on global politics. [ more ]

AFR 301Experimental African American Poetry

Last offered Fall 2015

Contemporary African American poets in various cities and towns across the nation--from New York City to Los Angeles, from Berkeley to Durham, N.C.--are currently producing a vibrant and thriving body of formally experimental work, yet this poetry is largely unknown to readers both within and outside the academy. This formally innovative poetry defamiliarizes what we normally expect of "black writing" and pushes us to question our assumptions and presumptions about black identity, "identity politics," the avant-garde (for example, is it implicitly raced?), formalism, socially "relevant" writing, the (false) dichotomy of form versus content, the black "community," digital poetics, and other issues of race and aesthetics. We will examine the writings of living poets, who range widely in age, and those of their avant-garde predecessors in the twentieth century. We will also be making links between this poetry and African American music and visual art. [ more ]

AFR 302Complexion Complexities: Colorism in Literature, Lyrics & Everyday Life

Last offered Spring 2018

Often viewed as the "dirty laundry" of the Black American past, colorism, or skin color bias, is a pervasive force within modern global society. Although it is not a new issue, its impact is far reaching and continues to have damaging effects on people of color-especially members within the African Diaspora. From skin bleaching creams like "Whitenicious" to rap music's fetishization of light-skinned women, colorism is a very real and present issue affecting Black life. From the literary works of Wallace Thurman and Toni Morrison, to the lyrics of blues crooner Big Bill Broonzy and rapper Lil Wayne, we will analyze the many ways that the politics of color influence standards of beauty and attractiveness, perceptions of behavior and criminality, and economic attainment and stability. [ more ]

AFR 303A History of Islam in Africa

Last offered Fall 2016

This course examines the history of Islam in Africa from the seventh century to the present. We will start off by looking at the spread of Islam in different parts of Africa. We will then analyze the social, political, economic, and cultural impact of Islam on African societies, the interaction between Islam and indigenous African institutions, the Islamic revolutions in the nineteenth century, the impact of European colonial rule on Muslim societies, and the development of Islam in the post-independence period. We will also examine how African Muslims reconstructed and asserted their religious identities by localizing Islamic intellectual traditions, healing practices, music, arts, cultural norms, and formal and informal religious festivals. By the end of the semester students should be able to appreciate Islam's common framework as well as its diversity and dynamics within that larger framework and over time. [ more ]

AFR 304South Africa and Apartheid

Last offered Spring 2017

This course introduces students to the spatial, legal, economic, social and political structures that created Apartheid in South Africa, and to the factors that led to the collapse of the racist order. We will examine the many forms of black oppression and, also, the various forms of resistance to Apartheid. Some of the themes we will explore include industrialization and the formation of the black working classes, the constructions of race, ethnicities and sexualities, land alienation and rural struggles, township poverty and violence, Black education, and the Black Consciousness Movement. [ more ]

AFR 306Queer of Color Critique: Race, Sex and Urban Life

Last offered Spring 2015

This seminar is an introduction to queer of color critique, a field of scholarship that seeks to intervene in the predominantly white canon of queer studies. We will examine the history of this line of critique, beginning with Black and Chicana feminisms and extending into present day issues and activism highlighting intersectionality, exploring how and why QOCC became a necessary intervention into the then still emerging field of queer studies. Our texts include scholarly works as well as science fiction novels, plays, films, diaries, and graphic novels. Methodologically, we draw on many fields of study, including anthropology, literary studies, feminist studies, and ethnic studies. We focus primarily but by no means exclusively on US contexts, paying particular attention to the role that urban environments have served for queer communities of color. Topics include: feminisms of color, inter-racial desire and fetishization, orientalism and colonial fantasy, black queer science fiction, transgender subjectivities, and the political economy of sexual desire. A key feature of this course will also be the inclusion of numerous and diverse authors to appear on Skype or in person to answer questions about their work as we read it in class. [ more ]

AFR 307Contemporary Short Stories from North Africa

Last offered Fall 2017

Short stories are the vibrant center of the literary landscape in North Africa today. Written in French, Arabic and sometimes Amazigh languages, short stories provide timely interventions in political and social discourse. In this course, we will read short stories that use humor and satire to address the effects of globalization on local communities, that experiment with language to portray war and revolution, and that seek to create a new space for the discussion of gender. We will also analyze films, sociological texts and Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian online newspapers in order to explore contemporary transformations of life in North Africa. Readings by Maissa Bey, Abdelfattah Kilito, Zeina Tabi, Mohamed Zafzaf, Ahmed Bouzfour, Soumaya Zahy and Fouad Laroui among others. Conducted in French. [ more ]

AFR 309 TScriptures and Race

Last offered Spring 2018

This course focuses on the relationships between constructions of race in the post-1492 American world and "Christian scriptures." The big questions of the course examine the ways that contestations of power are intertwined with the making of, interpretation, and transformation of sacred texts. Both scriptures and race are conceptual constellations of human social imagination, and yet their conceptualization has often been embroiled in the hopes and traumas of everyday life in the Americas. How and why did these two terms come to have any relationship to each other? How and why do peoples engage "scriptures"? In what ways have "scriptures" informed how people imagine themselves, their communities, and their relationship to religious and racial "others"? How did "scriptures" and "race" inform each other in modern colonialisms and imperialisms? In this course, we will examine the ways that scriptures have been employed in order to understand and develop notions of race, and we will examine how ideas about and lived experiences of race have informed the concept of scriptures as well as practices of scriptural interpretation. [ more ]

AFR 310(F)Womanist/Black Feminist Thought

This course explores the genealogy and development of black feminist and womanist thought. We will investigate the expansion of womanist thought from a theologically dominated discourse to a broader category of critical reflection associated more commonly with black feminism, analyze the relationship between womanism and black feminism, and review the historical interventions of black feminism. As critical reflections upon western norms of patriarchy, heterosexism, and racism, womanism and black feminism begin with the assumption that the experiences of women of color--particularly black women--are significant standpoints in modern western society. Through the examination of interdisciplinary and methodological diversity within these fields, students will be introduced to key figures including Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Katie Cannon, and will engage materials that draw from multiple fields, including, but not limited to, literature, history, anthropology, and religious studies. [ more ]

AFR 312Francographic Islands

Last offered Fall 2014

Utopia, paradise, shipwreck, abandonment, exile, death. Man's fascination and obsession with the island as place of discovery, beauty and imprisonment stretches across the centuries. In this class, we will read French literary and imagined islands alongside islands constructed by Francophone Caribbean, Indian Ocean and non-Western writers in French. What does the island symbolize in individual, community, national, and imperial imaginations? And how does the island become an agent in discussions of gender, race, modernity and history? Readings will include works by Paul Gauguin, Pierre Loti, Aimé Césaire, Michel Tournier, Ananda Devi, Maryse Condé, Patrick Chamoiseau and Edouard Glissant. Conducted in French. [ more ]

AFR 314Groovin' the Written Word: The Role of Music in African American Literature

Last offered Fall 2016

In an interview with Paul Gilroy, Toni Morrison once said, "Music provides a key to the whole medley of Afro-American artistic practices." Morrison is not the only one who believes that music speaks to numerous aspects of the African American experience. From Sterling Brown and Zora Neale Hurston to John Edgar Wideman and Suzan Lori-Parks, many African American authors have drawn on music to take political stands, shape creative aesthetics, and articulate black identity. In this course, students will explore the work of these authors and more, investigating music's ability to represent and critique African American culture in their literature. Texts will cover a range of literary forms including poetry, plays, short stories and novels alongside theoretical and critical essays. Students will discuss such key issues as assimilation into mainstream culture, authenticity claims on black music, and music used as a tool for protest. Additionally, class assignments will include musical examples in spirituals/gospel, blues, jazz, and rock/rhythm and blues. While this class requires students to practice in-depth literary and performance analysis skills, students are not required to have technical musical knowledge. [ more ]

AFR 315(S)Blackness 2.0: Race, Film and New Technologies

Are distinctions of race truly eliminated with digital technologies? Through an engagement with scholarship in media studies, cultural studies, gender studies, and Africana studies (to name a few), this course will investigate the nuanced ways blackness is (re)constructed and (re)presented in digital technologies. Although we will largely focus on representations of blackness in modern film, we will examine the impact of 'new' technologies upon the broader categories of race, gender, and sexuality. Additional topics may include: avatar-based entertainment; race in the 'real' vs 'virtual' world; emoji wars; blogosphere politics; internet and hashtag activism; social networking and a post-race future; and fandom in the twitter era. [ more ]

AFR 316Sacred Cinema: Black Religion and the Movies

Last offered Spring 2015

Although they represent different genres, what popular films Madea's Family Reunion (2006), First Sunday (2008), The Princess and the Frog (2009) have in common is that they each offer complex and at times contradictory images of black religious expression in North America. These films, which present varied perspectives of African American experience, implicitly and explicitly engage themes inherent to the study of religion, such as the role of faith in decision-making processes and the use of religious tradition as a means of reinforcing or contesting socio-cultural norms. This course is as much about the use of film to study black religious expression as it is about the use of paradigms of religious thought to study the intersections of gender, race, and religion in film. We will study films of different genres to facilitate discussion about the various dimensions of black religious expression. Conversely, we will use images, metaphors, and teachings found in Religious Studies to discuss what appears on screen. Through interdisciplinary, critical approaches in Film Studies and Popular Culture Studies, this course will examine how black religious expression pervades modern cinema, and will offer constructive strategies for engaging in dialogue with this phenomenon. [ more ]

AFR 317Black Migrations: African American Performance at Home and Abroad

Last offered Fall 2017

In this course, students will investigate, critique and define the concepts migration and diaspora with primary attention to the experiences of African Americans in the United States and Europe. Drawing on a broad definition of performance, students will explore everything from writing and painting to sports and dance to inquire how performance reflects, critiques and negotiates migratory experiences in the African diaspora. For example, how did musician Sidney Bechet's migration from New Orleans to Chicago to London influence the early jazz era? How did Katherine Dunham's dance performances in Germany help her shape a new black dance aesthetic? Why did writer James Baldwin go all the way to Switzerland to write his first novel on black, religious culture in Harlem? What drew actor/singer Paul Robeson to Russia, and why did the U.S. revoke his passport in response to his speeches abroad? These questions will lead students to investigate multiple migrations in the African diasporic experience and aid our exploration of the reasons for migration throughout history and geography. In addition to critical discussions and written analysis, students will explore these topics through their own individual and group performances in class. No prior performance experience is necessary. [ more ]

AFR 319Ethnographic Approaches to Africana Studies

Last offered Spring 2012

Ethnography is the systematic study and recording of human cultures. It involves the collection and analysis of information from multiple sources including (but not limited to) first-person accounts, life histories, interviews, observations, and autobiographical materials. Within Africana Studies, ethnographic approaches have been utilized to reflect complex narratives of black experience throughout the Diaspora. This seminar is a critical introduction to the theory, method, and practice of ethnography in Africana studies. We will explore a variety of cultures and settings, and discuss the practical, methodological, and ethical issues related to ethnography. Three broad questions will dominate our discussions: 1) What are the theoretical, practical, and stylistic tools needed to fashion compelling ethnographies that get to the heart of what it means to document Africana experience? 2) What are the ethical and political implications of representing Africana perspectives in fieldwork studies? 3) What are the strengths and limitations of ethnography as a research method in Africana studies? Each student will utilize the materials covered in the course to research and write their own ethnography. [ more ]

AFR 320Dangerous Bodies: Black Womanhood, Sexuality & Popular Culture

Last offered Spring 2015

Whether presented as maternal saints, divas, video vixens, or bitches, black female celebrities navigate a tumultuous terrain in popular culture. This course considers the ways that black female celebrities such as Oprah, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, and Michelle Obama negotiate womanhood and sexuality, and the popular landscapes through which we witness that negotiation. It also engages contemporary black feminist scholarship, which most frequently presents the presentation of black female bodies in popular media forms as exploitive. We will review historical stereotypes of black women in popular media forms, discuss the history of the "politics of respectability" within black culture, engage black feminist responses to these types, and examine theoretical approaches to assess social constructions of womanhood and sexuality. We will also consider provocative questions relevant to discussions of contemporary black sexual politics: Should we view these women as feminists? Are they merely representatives of cultural commodification and control of black women's bodies? Do these women best exemplify the reiteration of problematic characterizations? Are they positive models for demonstrating female empowerment, agency, or "fierceness?" This course explores the histories of representation of black female figures in popular culture, and in so doing, troubles contemporary considerations of black womanhood and sexuality. [ more ]

AFR 321Trending Black: Race & Social Media in the 21st Century

Last offered Fall 2017

The 21st Century ushered in new and exciting ways for people to communicate digitally. With the creation of social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more recently Vine, connecting with the world is literally one click, or selfie away. Though much of the attention around social media is focused on people with race and educational privilege, people of color have created their own spaces to curate, articulate, and produce culture. Through the methods of rhetorical criticism, critical discourse analysis, cultural criticism and ethnography, we will investigate the ways Africana cultures, specifically in the United States, utilize social media to shape community and influence popular culture. This course will give students hands-on experience analyzing various texts, and a deeper understanding of rhetorical methodologies. [ more ]

AFR 322(F)Race, Culture, Incarceration

This course explores racially-fashioned policing and incarceration from the Reconstruction era convict prison lease system to contemporary mass incarceration and "stop and frisk" policies of urban areas in the United States. Also explored will be political imprisonment in the United States. [ more ]

AFR 323Comic Lives: Graphic Novels & Dangerous Histories of the African Diaspora

Last offered Spring 2018

This course explores how the graphic novel has been an effective, provocative and at times controversial medium for representing racialized histories. Drawing on graphic novels such as Jeremy Love's Bayou and Ho Che Anderson's King: A Comic Biography, this course illustrates and critiques multiple ways the graphic novel commingles word and image to create more sensorial access into ethnic traumas, challenges and interventions in critical moments of resistance throughout history. Students will practice analyzing graphic novels and comic strips, with the help of critical essays, reviews and film; the chosen texts will center on Africana cultures, prompting students to consider how the graphic novel may act as a useful alternate history for marginalized peoples. During the course, students will keep a journal with images, themes and reflections and will use Comic Life software and ipads to create their own graphic short stories based on historical and/or autobiographical narratives. [ more ]

AFR 325Television, Social Media, and Black Women 'Unscripted'

Last offered Fall 2017

Nene Leaks, Shonda Rhimes, Oprah Winfrey, Kerry Washington and now Lavern Cox and Melissa Harris-Perry have become common household names. Whether from the television shows they star in, the TV shows they have created, or the social media presence they have developed--these women continue to influence and shape popular culture. In this course we will situate Black women as creators and contributors to popular culture as a whole, but specifically through television (scripted and "unscripted") and social media. We will begin by covering the history of Black women in television. This historical approach will then lead us to examine selected TV episodes, and investigate social media pages of Black actresses, television producers, and the fans of these shows. The aim of this course is to analyze the ways in which Black women continually shift the popular culture paradigm and how they serve as key players determining what is indeed popular. [ more ]

AFR 326(F)Gender, Race, and the Power of Personal Aesthetics

This course focuses on the politics of personal style among women of color in an era of viral video clips, the 24-hour news cycle, and e-commerce sites dedicated to the dermatological concerns of "minority" females. With a comparative, transnational emphasis on the ways in which gender, sexuality, ethno-racial identity, and class inform standards of beauty, we will examine a variety of materials including commercial websites, histories, personal narratives, ethnographies, sociological case studies, and feminist theory. Departing from the assumption that personal aesthetics are intimately tied to issues of power and privilege, we will engage the following questions: What are the everyday functions of personal style among women of color? Is it feasible to assert that an easily identifiable "African American," "Latina," "Arab American" or "Asian American" female aesthetic exists? What role do transnational media play in the development and circulation of popular aesthetic forms? How might the belief in personal style as activist strategy challenge traditional understandings of feminist political activity? [ more ]

AFR 330(S)Modern Folklore: Postcolonial Dance and Music in Africa

"Folklore is a mixture of traditions, poems, songs, dances and legends of the people, it can be no other than the reflection of the life of the country and if that country develops, there is no reason why the folklore which is the living expression, should not develop as well. Modern folklore in present Africa is as authentic as the Africa of old." --Keita Fodeba, founding Artistic Director of Les Ballet Africain, Guinea, West Africa. This course will involve intensive dance and musical practice that is rooted in traditional and contemporary/forms from the African continent and the Diaspora. We will examine the international impact of countries who achieved independence from Europe in the late 1950's-1990s such as Les Ballets Africain, National Dance Company of Senegal, Bembeya Jazz, Ghana Dance Ensemble, and the national dance and music companies of Zimbabwe, Jamaica, and Cuba. Our study will include the impact of artists such as James Brown, Miriam Makeba, Michael Jackson, and Youssou N'Dour, as well as Hip Hop culture and the emergence of new forms of music and dance or modern folklore. [ more ]

AFR 331(S)Senior Seminar: The Drag of Black Masculinity

In this seminar, we will study the evolution of Black masculinities through cultural, social, and political movements from 19th century to the present. This course engages Black feminist thought, Black masculinities studies, queer theory, and performance studies. We will examine the relationship and constitutive nature of masculinity and femininity. How is blackness always already gendered? How is gender always already racialized? What are the effects of these gendering and racializing practices on Black bodies, spaces, and places? We will trouble the relationship between manhood and masculinity by examining the ways in which masculinity can move across various kinds of bodies. By examining representations and presentations of Black masculinities, we will pursue questions such as: How has dominant society attempted to define Black masculinity? In what ways have Black people undermined these narratives and redefined themselves? How do racial stereotypes about Black men's sexuality inform representations of Black masculinities? Can we/should we be moving beyond heteropatriarchy and gender binaries? What is the future of Black Gender? By reading critical and creative texts, viewing films and engaging other kinds of media, students will hone their critical theorization skills. [ more ]

AFR 334(S)Radical Theories of Political Struggle: Anti-Black Racism and the Obama Administration

This seminar reviews contemporary theories of "anti-black racism"; their articulation or assimilation within current political movements and mobilizations; and the influence and impact such theories-expressed in and/or as activism-on social justice and civil rights. Critical race theory, Afro-pessimism, feminist/queer theory and the works of the incarcerated are studied. Theorists studied include: Frank Wilderson; Angela Davis; Derrick Bell; Cheryl Harris. Students write weekly mini-reflection papers on assigned readings and collectively make analytical presentations. [ more ]

AFR 336Blackness, Theater, Theatricality

Last offered Spring 2017

Representations of African American life have pervaded the various genres and tiers of American culture, embodying a carnival of competing attitudes and perspectives. Many oddities and ironies result from this curious history. For example, African Americans as theatrical figures enter American consciousness via the minstrel stage, where white entertainers wearing burnt cork lampooned Negroes to amuse white audiences. Eventually, black performers created their own versions of minstrelsy, black playwrights created dramas more sympathetic to black life, and representations of black life proliferated in every noteworthy medium. This course will consider how attitudes about blackness have informed or deformed theatrical representations of African American life. It will examine major texts by African American writers, considering both their social importance and their aesthetic experiments and innovations. It will range from politically oriented works of social realism such as Theodore Ward's Big White Fog and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun to expressionistic protest works like Amiri Baraka's Dutchman and Slave Ship and Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls to August Wilson's earnest histories and the post-modern satires of Adrienne Kennedy and Suzan-Lori Parks. Alongside these, we will also consider a variety of comic traditions, ranging from minstrelsy to Spike Lee's film Bamboozled and characters created by comedians such as Jackie "Moms" Mabley and Richard Pryor. And how should we assess Porgy, a play by the white writer Dubose Heyward, which evolved into America's greatest opera, Porgy and Bess? This course will be an ongoing inquiry into the riotous theatricality of American blackness. [ more ]

AFR 338 TGarveyism

Last offered Fall 2014

This course explores the life, work, political thought, and activism associated with the Jamaican Pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the transnational movement--Garveyism--that Garvey ushered into the modern world. We will investigate the founding of Garveyism on the island of Jamaica, the evolution of Garveyism during the early twentieth century across the Americas and in Africa, Garveyism in Europe in the mid-twentieth century, and the contemporary branches of the Garvey movement in our own late modern times. The implications of Garvey's conflict with W. E. B. Du Bois and the subsequent cleavages in political thought and allegiances among their respective adherents will be addressed, along with various other core issues including: the relationship between race, nation, and empire; transnationalism; the meaning of power; notions of leadership; the limitations of understanding Garveyism by the phrase "Back-to-Africa"; the moral philosophy of respect, reparation, and redemption; prophetic political theory; Pan-Africanism; the impact of Garveyism on political theological movements such as the Nation of Islam and Rastafari; women in the Garvey movement; and Garveyite strategies for forging models of political solidarity in dark times. [ more ]

AFR 340African Diaspora Religions in the Americas and the Caribbean

Last offered Spring 2017

Over the last century, historians, social scientists, and religionists have labored to discover the meaning of African dispersal beyond the African continent and its accompanying spiritual lineages. What did it mean to move from the African continent (as opposed to the Australian continent, for example)? What theories of encounter sufficiently adjudicate the synthetic religious cultures of African descended persons in North America, South America, and the Caribbean? What are the cross-disciplinary methodologies that scholars utilize to understand African religious cultures in the Western hemisphere? Firstly, this course will consider a brief historiography of Africana Religious Studies. This background will inform the second and primary objective of the course: privileging knowledge, place, and performance as central lenses for thematizing and exploring West and Central African religious traditions housed in the Americas. We will cover diverse African diasporic religious traditions including Conjure, Dagara, Kumina, New Orleans Voodoo, Spiritual Baptist, Winti, and Yoruba (Candomblé, Ifa, Lucumí, and "Orisha-Vodu"). We will also explore other African diasporic religious sensibilities that transgress regional and institutional boundaries. [ more ]

AFR 341Caste, Race, Hierarchy

Last offered Spring 2017

Caste in India looms large in global social thought as a kind of benchmark against which hierarchical social systems across the world are measured. This prominence has much to do with British colonial ideologies of rule, but it also has a deeper and different history: the Buddha compared caste to Greek slavery, early modern Jesuits related it to the system of European estates, and since the nineteenth century, anti-caste radicals from Dalit, or "untouchable," backgrounds have drawn a sustained comparison between the forms of oppression they face and those with which African Americans contend in the United States. Reciprocally, thinkers from W.E.B. DuBois to Toni Morrison have deployed the category of caste in their writings on race. What can the study of caste in postcolonial South Asia contribute to global debates over the persistence of "traditional" forms of social hierarchy? What are the stakes of bringing caste and race into the same conversation, and what are the implications of refusing to do so? In this seminar we will acquire a thorough grounding in the anthropological literature on caste and then investigate the politics of the caste-race comparison over the last hundred years. Assignments include weekly postings of 1-page critical response papers and either a research paper or an interview-based, ethnographic final project examining "caste" in one's own community. [ more ]

AFR 342Racial Capitalism

Last offered Spring 2017

This class will interrogate the ways in which capitalist economies have "always and everywhere" relied upon forms of racist domination and exclusion. Although the United States will be in the foreground, the subject requires an international perspective by its very nature. We will consider the ways in which the violent expropriation of land from the indigenous peoples of the Americas, paired with chattel slavery and other coercive forms of labor, made possible the rise of a capitalist world economy centered in Europe during the early modern period. We will then explore ways racial divisions have undermined the potential for unified movements of poor and working people to challenge the prerogatives of wealthy citizens, and served to excuse imperial violence waged in the name of securing resources and "opening markets". Ideas about gender and sexuality always undergird racial imaginaries, so we will study, for instance, the ways rhetoric about "welfare queens" has impacted public assistance programs, and claims about the embodiment of Asian women play into the international division of labor. We will also be attentive to the means - from interracial unionism to national liberation struggles - by which subjects of racial capitalism have resisted its dehumanizing effects. This is a reading intensive course that will challenge students to synthesize historical knowledge with concepts drawn from scholars working in the traditions of Marxist, decolonial, and materialist feminist thought, including: Angela Davis, Cedric Robinson, Anibal Quijano, Chandra Mohanty, David Roediger, Stuart Hall, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Silvia Federici [ more ]

AFR 343 T(F, S)Representations of Racial-Sexual Violence from Enslavement to Emancipation

This tutorial examines representations of and resistance to racial-sexual violence in American society, from colonial America to contemporary US culture. Interdisciplinary texts cover history, politics, literature, film, feminist studies, American studies, lgbtq and ethnic/black studies. Books include Southern Horrors; Intimate Matters; Scenes of Subjection; Trauma and Recovery; The Delectable Negro; At the Dark End of the Street; films include Birth of a Nation; Bush Mama; To Kill a Mockingbird. The primary focus is on racial and sexual vulnerability to violence and mobilization for freedom from the 18th-21st centuries. [ more ]

AFR 345Race and Feeling in Twentieth Century Literature

Last offered Spring 2018

Although we now take for granted that race is socially constructed, the terrain of racial feeling is less certain. In this course, we recognize that states of feeling are also socially constructed; they are marked and shaped by race and other categories. Questions concerning the circulation of feeling between individuals and their generative possibilities have preoccupied sociologists, psychologists, and literary theorists since the mid-1990s, and we will take up where they left off. In this course, we will study the ways in which literary representations of shame in African American literature offer insight into the interior lives of individuals who have been stigmatized by histories of disempowerment, trauma, and the real or imagined racialized gaze. We will analyze the influence of shame in works by such authors as James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Sherley Anne Williams, Phyllis J. Perry, Toni Morrison, and E. Lynn Harris, and we will engage the ways in which shame, and its correlative feelings --- guilt, pride, humiliation, and love --- emerge in texts through various formal and aesthetic choices. We will also engage such theorists as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Sara Ahmed, Sianne Ngai, Heather Love, Darieck Scott, Erving Goffman, and Melissa Harris-Perry to assist us in our inquiry into the intersections of race, feeling, and literature. [ more ]

AFR 347Negative Affects in African American Literature

Last offered Spring 2018

"My pessimism was stronger than my longing," wrote Saidiya Hartman in her genre-breaking Lose Your Mother in her search for the afterlife of kinship in the remains of a Ghanaian slave fort. In this course we will discuss a mixture of contradictory "bad" feelings burdening the individual and the collective; for example, how hope and desire compete in Hartman's statement with habituated disappointment and exhaustion. How do black subjects creatively overcome the racial foreclosure to write and recite violence, rage, refusal, anxiety, depression, idleness, grief, silence, etc.? And, further, how do we make sense of the sorts of affects that become negative when practiced by black subjects, such as love, empathy, and desire? Together, we will explore interventions by critical theorists of blackness, gender, and sexuality including Saidiya Hartman, Darieck Scott, Abdul JanMohamed, Christina Sharpe, Frantz Fanon, Ann Cvetkovich, Heather Love, and Lauren Berlant to assist us in confronting the sometimes perilous terrain of negative expression for black subjects. Primary texts will include work by Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Kara Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, and Richard Wright. This course will be driven by student discussion and collaboration. [ more ]

AFR 348 T(S)The Black Radical Tradition

The black radical tradition is a modern tradition of thought and action begun after transatlantic slavery's advent. Contemporary social science and the humanities overwhelmingly portray it as a critique of black politics in the latter's liberal, libertarian, and conservative forms. This tutorial unsettles that framing, first by situating the black radical tradition as a species of black politics, and second through expanding the boundaries of black politics beyond the United States. Central to the black radical tradition's architecture are inquiries into the concepts of freedom, race, equality, rights, and humanism; meaning of "radical"; the national-transnational relationship; notions of leadership; status of global capitalism; the nexus of theory and praxis; and revolutionary politics. We begin with examinations of these central notions and debates, and then move to investigations of the political thought of four key late modern Afro-Caribbean and African-American thinkers within the tradition: Walter Rodney, Sylvia Wynter, Cedric Robinson, and Angela Davis. [ more ]

AFR 350Organizing Resistance: Black Activism, Then and Now

Last offered Spring 2016

This Africana class will be an experiential learning class designed both to study and to do activism as a way of learning how to be effective organizers in the Black world today. Our study component will focus on important past organizations and movements--Fannie Lou Hamer and the organizing of the Mississippi Freedom Summer and "Freedom Democrats" challenge to the Democratic Party, The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, The National Welfare Rights Organization, The Poor People's Budget, The Free Breakfast Program of the Black Panther Party--with an eye towards understanding how they actually organized and determining their successes and failure. The activism component of the class will include work in Pittsfield and/or Albany--with immigrant rights group, prison rights organizations, educational entities--and we will take a Spring break activism trip (for one of our two weeks off), either to Ferguson, Missouri, or to Florida to continue work on environmental justice already in place via Africana WS 25. We will also be exploring online activism, especially in relationship to the growing activism against police and other racist violence in Ferguson, Missouri, Sanford, Florida, Oakland, California and New York City. [ more ]

AFR 351(S)Spirits of Rebellion: The L.A. Rebellion Filmmakers

When Beyoncé unveiled the Lemonade visual album in 2016, her production captured the artistic spirit and gave new life to an earlier work: Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust (1991), a luminous film about three generations of the Gullah people and the first motion picture by a Black woman to obtain wide theatrical release in the United States. Many, however, are unaware of the decades-long cinematic movement to which Dash belongs. In this course, we will devote our critical inquiry to the creative output of the L.A. Rebellion, a group of Black cinematic artists trained at the UCLA Film and Television School between the 1960s and 1990s. Our visual journey will take us through a diverse set of filmmakers like Charles Burnett, Ben Caldwell, Barbara McCullough, Julie Dash, Zeinabu irene Davis, Haile Gerima, Alile Sharon Larkin, Billy Woodberry, among many, many others, and how they sought to not only redefine the Black image on-screen but also reimagine the infinite possibilities of Blackness. We will pay close attention to the heterogeneity of genres, styles, and techniques that they put into practice from narrative to neorealism to documentary to avant-garde/experimental to African and African American musical and storytelling traditions. We will explore the various social and political issues that were represented by their films including: racial and class oppression, woman of color feminisms, Black Power, Afrocentrism, anti-colonialism and decolonization, police brutality and mass incarceration, radical social movements and coalition building, and the importance of community-based art and film practices. Finally, we will touch upon some of the recent works that have been inspired by the L.A. Rebellion, including the aforementioned Lemonade and Barry Jenkins' Moonlight (2016). Our viewership will be supplemented with readings in Black social and cultural criticism. [ more ]

AFR 352Mystic Spirituality in Black Women's Social Justice Activism: Brazil-USA

Last offered Spring 2018

This course examines the meanings and manifestations of mystic spirituality in the lives and work of selected Black women artists/activists in the USA and Brazil. The writings of Lucille Clifton (poet), Rosemarie Freeney Harding (activist and counselor) and Makota Valdina Pinto (activist and Candomblé ritual elder) are key texts for our exploration of the uses of mystic sensibilities and Afro-Atlantic ritual traditions--such as dreams and visions, prayer, divination, sacred dance, healing rites and other forms of unmediated intimate encounter with the sacred--as resources for creativity, community organizing, self-care and as aspects of political and social critique in African American and Afro-Brazilian contexts. The methodology of the course blends historical, literary and womanist approaches in an investigation of the conjunctions of spiritual practice and activism in the experience of women in the Afro-Atlantic diaspora. [ more ]

AFR 355The Black Atlantic as Scriptural Formation

Last offered Spring 2017

"...I don't read such small stuff as letters, I read men and nations..." The unpacking of this provocative and unsettling statement ascribed to Sojourner Truth can be taken as a springboard for this seminar that explores the politics of the scriptural (or writing) as analytical window onto the complex formation of the circum-Black Atlantic (and its complex relationships to colonial and post-colonial Atlantic worlds). The isolation of selected Black Atlantic "readings" as cultural sites, rituals, performances, institutions, as different and conflicting types of politics and social orientation---from first contacts through slavery to the contemporary irruptions of protest and fundamentalist movements--will structure the seminar. [ more ]

AFR 356The Plantation and Its Afterlife

Last offered Fall 2017

This course is a meditation on the significance of the plantation in modern life. Rather than treating the plantation as solely a socio-economic formation that utilizes captive labor for the efficient production of goods, we will consider the plantation as a space that has defined, and continues to define, social, economic, and spatial relations. In so doing, we will explore numerous literatures and cultural productions about the plantation in Africa and its diaspora, including historical and sociological studies, fiction, visual art, and music. We will not only interrogate how the plantation form is reproduced over time, but also how it appears in collective memory, and how it enables political mobilization. [ more ]

AFR 360(F)The Political Thought of Frantz Fanon

Martinican psychiatrist, philosopher, and revolutionary Frantz Fanon was among the leading critical theorists and Africana thinkers of the twentieth century. Fanon ushered in the decolonial turn in critical theory, a move calling on those both within and outside of Europe to challenge the coloniality of the age and to forge a new vision of politics in the postcolonial period. This course is an advanced seminar devoted to a comprehensive examination of Fanon's political thought. We will begin with an analysis of primary texts by Fanon and end by considering how Fanon has been interpreted by his contemporaries as well as activists and critical theorists writing today. [ more ]

AFR 361The Carceral State

Last offered Spring 2018

This seminar will examine the rise and character of the "carceral state," a term scholars use to denote "the vast apparatus of punishment and control tat exists in the contemporary United States." We will begin with systems of policing, processing, and punishment that came under criticism in the 1960s from civil rights advocates, simultaneous with the rise of "law and order" politics. The middle of the course will trace out how in the aftermath of civil rights reform, conservatives and liberals together paved the way for the expansion of punitive capacities at the local, state, and federal level. We will pay particular attention the uneven development of mass incarceration across states and localities, and the different patterns of racial disparity that this produced. Finally, we will look at the effects of the carceral state on American society and politics, and the movements to dismantle it. [ more ]

AFR 364(F)History of the Old South

During the course of the semester, we shall investigate two broad, interrelated topics: slavery in the antebellum South, and the impact of slavery on Southern civilization. Our approach will be primarily topical. In the first half of the course, we shall look at subjects like the foreign and domestic slave trade, patterns of work and treatment, the nature of the master-slave relationship, resistance and rebellion, and slave cultural, social, and family life. The second half of the course will concentrate on the influence of the institution of slavery on the mind, social structure, and economy of the Old South, and slavery's impact on Southern politics and the decision for secession in 1860-61. [ more ]

AFR 365(S)History of the New South

A study of the history of the American South from 1877 to the present. Social, political and economic trends will be examined in some detail: the rule of the "Redeemers" following the end of Reconstruction; tenancy, sharecropping, and the rise of agrarian radicalism; Southern Progressivism; the coming of racial segregation and the destruction of the Jim Crow system during the years of the Civil Rights movement; Southern politics during the depression and post-World War II years. [ more ]

AFR 366African American Urban History

Last offered Fall 2015

In the mid twentieth century, "inner city" became synonymous with poor African Americans living in the urban centers of the industrial North and West. However, urban African American history stretches back to before the Declaration of Independence. African Americans built and dwelled in great cities North and South. This course will explore the history of African Americans in places like New York, Savannah, Chicago, Miami, and Oakland. We will explore such themes as slavery and freedom in cities, migrations to cities in the early 20th century, the shape of Jim Crow in the North, and the contention over the definition of "black" as Caribbean and African migrants came to urban centers after 1960. We will pay particular attention the history of black urban culture and style, reading texts on fashion, music, dance, and leisure. Students will write one book review (2-3 pages), do an oral presentation, and write two papers. One brief research paper (7-10 pages) and one historiographic essay (7-10 pages). [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

AFR 367Black Metropolis: Writing About Race and the City

Last offered Fall 2017

This course investigates how scholars, writers, and activists have written about the black urban experience in the twentieth century. Today, there exists a complex relationship between black and urban, with much public discourse stereotyping black people as residents of the "inner city." At the beginning of the 20th century this development would have been highly improbable; circa 1900, African-Americans remained the country's most rural demographic group, disproportionately working in agriculture. This class addresses why, how, and when black people migrated to cities, and the structural mechanisms that channeled them into segregated neighborhoods and jobs, even as these changed over time. More importantly, though, we will focus on the way in which African-Americans themselves sought to understand, explore, and contest these experience of ghettoization. How did black people express themselves and build communities for survival, pleasure, and profit? Throughout the course we will put in dialogue various types of writing: these include social scientific studies of black life, urban history, and the journalism, poetry, and literature produced by black urbanites during the first half of the 20th century. By examining of these different modes of writing about race in the city together, we will gain perspective on the specific practices of historical writing and how historians differ from other inquirers in the questions they ask, the sources they use (and how they use them), and the arguments they make. [ more ]

AFR 368(F)The Diasporic Impulse in African American Art

Since the mid-20th century, growing numbers of African American artists have explored historical, symbolic, and ritual meanings shared by Blacks in the USA and people of African descent in other parts of the diaspora. Using specific visual, musical, literary, and kinetic themes, Black creatives--across genres--develop work that addresses explicit and implicit points of diasporic connection around issues of identity, indigenous/ancestral wisdom, cultural and political critique, and alternative religious orientations. Looking especially at the work of playwright August Wilson, painters John Biggers and Daniel Minter, dancer Katherine Dunham, and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett Mora, this course examines the symbolic and ritual vocabularies of African American art in diasporic perspective. [ more ]

AFR 369 T(S)African Art and the Western Museum

This tutorial provides a focused study of the issues associated with the exhibition of African objects within Western institutions from the formative period of the practice in the early 19th century to the modern era. Covering topics ranging from early collection and display methodologies to exhibition-based practice in the contemporary digital era, this tutorial will provide an opportunity for robust discussion about the interactions that have occurred between the arts of Africa and the Western museum over the lengthy history of their engagement. Students will investigate the nature of the cross-cultural dialogues taking place and the politics of display at work in regional museum spaces that display African art towards fleshing out how exhibitions function through the strategic organization and display of objects. In other words, students will explore how the dialogues created between objects and individuals often speak to the voices and agendas that collide, collaborate, and even compete with each other within the environment of the museum. [ more ]

AFR 371Women Activists and Social Movements

Last offered Spring 2011

This seminar examines the role of women in "liberation movements," it focuses on their contributions to civil and human rights, democratic culture, and theories of political and social change. Students will examine multi-disciplinary texts, such as academic historical narratives, memoirs, political analyses, in critical and comparative readings of mid-late 20th century struggles. Women studied include: Mamie Till Mobley, Anne Moody, Ella Baker, Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Bettina Aptheker, Assata Shakur, Yuri Kochiyama, Denise Oliver, Domitilia Chungara. [ more ]

AFR 375History of American Childhood

Last offered Fall 2014

Over the course of American history both the experience of childhood and our understandings of childhood have changed radically. Children have been bought and sold as slaves, hanged as convicted witches, and purchased slaves themselves. A century ago many children were sent "out to work" at ages that our society now defines as too young even to be left alone in the house. Common experiences of modern middle-class American childhood--summer camp, secondary school, and organized youth sports teams--are recent additions to American life. Through reading works of history and autobiography we will explore American childhood and what attitudes toward specific groups of children reveals about American society. [ more ]

AFR 379Black Women in the United States

Last offered Spring 2017

As slaves and free women, activists, domestics, artists and writers, African Americans have played exciting and often unexpected roles in U.S. political, social, and cultural history. In this course we will examine black women's lives from the earliest importation of slaves from Africa and the Caribbean through to the expansion of slavery, the Civil War, freedom, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movements, and up to the present day. Consistent themes we will explore are the significance of gender in African American history and the changing roles and public perceptions of black women both inside and outside the black community. We will read and discuss a combination of primary and secondary sources; we will also consider music, art, and literature, as well as more standard "historical" texts. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

AFR 380(F)Freedom Dreams, Afro-Futures & Visionary Fictions

In this course we will examine the various ways Black scholars, artists, & writers use science fiction and visionary fiction to imagine freedom and new world orders. We will focus on the role of history, particularly slavery, in the Black radical imagination. "Freedom" is the keyword throughout the course. We will grapple with the various and sometimes conflicting meanings and uses of freedom as it relates to blackness, gender, sexuality, class and ability. We will explore multiple forms of scholarship and cultural productions, including film, music, novels, short-stories, art, poetry, and other academic texts. All students will be asked to discover and develop their writerly voices through various critical, creative, experimental and performative assignments. [ more ]

AFR 382(S)Contemporary Afro-Latin American Social Movements

This seminar course will provide students with an introduction to diverse histories, political beliefs, and mobilization strategies of 20th and 21st century Afro-Latin American social movements, as well as their relationship with their respective governments. Primary documents, audiovisual texts and social science research will complement lectures and class discussions to prepare students to discuss the contributions and critiques of the movements within broader discussions of the politics of blackness in the African Diaspora. While the course focuses on contemporary experiences activism, each topic is introduced with a historical overview of African-descended peoples in Latin America. By the course's conclusion, students should be able to discuss a wide range of ideas, experiences, and strategies of black politics in the Latin America as well as the similarities in themes and characteristics that have shaped much of the experiences. Furthermore, students should be able to assess the ways in which black movements in Latin America have: challenged hegemonic narratives, approached politics of culture and multiculturalism, contested invisibility, utilized transnational diasporic politics, and (re)defined conceptualizations of citizenship and belonging. [ more ]

AFR 383Race and Ethnicity in Latin America

Last offered Spring 2018

Race and ethnicity have been central to the formation of national identities in Latin America, as well as to the creation of transnational networks that include Latin Americans. This seminar will critically examine familiar characterizations of Brazil and other countries as "racial democracies" and look at the historical roots and political impact of both "positive" and "negative" stereotypes of race relations in the region. To do this we will explore the rise and decline of slavery, the changing constructions of indigenous and Afro-Latin American identities at national and transnational levels, and to the emergence of new Black Movements and other racial and ethnic activism in Colombia, Guatemala, Brazil, and elsewhere. [ more ]

AFR 385(F)Civil War and Reconstruction

An examination of one of the most turbulent periods in American history, with special emphasis on the changing status of Afro-Americans during the era. During the war years, we shall study both the war itself and homefront conditions: military, naval, political, economic, and especially social aspects will be examined in some detail. Our study of Reconstruction will concentrate on the evolution of federal policy toward the Southern states and the workings out of that policy in the South, particularly as it relates to the freedmen. [ more ]

AFR 390(F, S)Transforming the New World and the Old: The Haitian and French Revolutions

This course focuses on the radical transformative power of the Haitian and French Revolutions, the ways in which they challenged the hierarchies of the New World--of racism, and slavery--and of the Old World--of monarchy, aristocracy, the Church, and even of the bourgeoisie--with long-lasting effect. It will show how the two revolutions were intricately interrelated--even though historians of the French Revolution have usually neglected the Haitian Revolution and downplayed its centrality--and how they initiated a century of Revolution on both sides of the Atlantic. Given the incomplete and unfinished character of both Revolutions, and the fact that the issues they attempted to address live on today, this class will make a conscious attempt to show the continuing relevance of these Revolutions to 21st century movements for change. [ more ]

AFR 402A History of Family in Africa

Last offered Spring 2017

The family is the center of private life, but it has also been a topic of constant discussion and contention in Africa. In this class we will examine how political upheavals and economic pressures have changed the concept of the family and the role it plays in various African societies. We will also consider the changing views of gender, race, age, class, and sexuality on the idea of family. [ more ]

AFR 403New Asian American, African American, Native American, and Latina/o Writing

Last offered Spring 2013

Critics reading minority writing often focus on its thematic--i.e., sociological--content. Such literature is usually presumed to be inseparable from the "identity"/body of the writer and read as autobiographical, ethnographic, representational, exotic. At the other end of the spectrum, avant-garde writing is seen to concern itself "purely" with formal questions, divorced from the socio-historical (and certainly not sullied by the taint of race). In the critical realm we currently inhabit, in which "race" is opposed to the "avant-garde," an experimental minority writer can indeed seem an oxymoron. In this class we will closely read recent work by Asian American, African American, Native American and Latino/a writers which challenges preconceptions about ethnic literature, avant-garde writing, genre categorization, among other things. The writing done by these mostly young, mostly urban, poets and fiction writers is some of the most exciting being written in the United States today; their texts push the boundaries of aesthetic form while simultaneously engaging questions of culture, politics, and history. Reading them forces us to re-think our received notions about literature. Authors to be read include Will Alexander, Sherwin Bitsui, Monica de la Torre, Sesshu Foster, Renee Gladman, Bhanu Kapil, Tan Lin, Tao Lin, Ed Roberson, James Thomas Stevens, Roberto Tejada, and Edwin Torres. [ more ]

AFR 404Making it in Africa: Business in African History

Last offered Fall 2011

Although Africa has come to be known as a continent that relies heavily on foreign aid, that aid rarely reaches ordinary people. In fact, recent studies have suggested that foreign aid has not helped develop Africa. In spite of the staggering problems that ordinary Africans face, many see Africa--now more than ever before--as a place bursting with promise and opportunity, even if that opportunity may require challenges to conventional economic and political thinking. Increasingly, an innovative class of entrepreneurs is emerging in Africa that is hustling in the formal and informal economy in order to accumulate capital. This seminar will trace the social and cultural history of entrepreneurship in Africa from the 19th century to the present. We will explore the individual journeys of several entrepreneurs, the values and objectives they nurtured, the changes in the strategy and structure of the businesses they created, and the dynamic environments in which they each lived and worked. The course will also examine the long-term impact of entrepreneurial innovation and market evolution on African communities and governments. Readings will include histories, biographies, autobiographies, ethnographies, and novels. [ more ]

AFR 405(S)CAPSTONE: Africana Studies and the Disciplines

Of the many things that distinguish Africana Studies from other fields of knowledge, most remarkable are its creative uses and critiques of disciplinary perspectives. In some instances, a scholar in the field might move between disciplines; in others, a scholar might integrate two or more disciplines into one point of view. Disciplinary creativity accommodates the array of information--written texts, music, visual art, film--that contributes to our understanding of the African Diaspora. This seminar will illuminate the disciplinary nuances and challenges of studying people of African descent. After outlining genealogies of Africana Studies and the field's complicated relationships to social science disciplines, students will closely read classic texts by some of the pioneers in the field and explore their uses of disciplinary perspectives. In the latter half of the course, students will have the opportunity to design and conduct their own research projects with the aforementioned disciplinary concerns in mind. [ more ]

AFR 406CAPSTONE: Crafting Research: Methods in Africana Studies

Last offered Fall 2015

Any student of Africana Studies swiftly recognizes there is a limitless breadth to what constitutes "Africana experience" and that there are diverse means through which Africana experience is examined. For example, while some scholars utilize a more historical approach to chronicle Africana experience, others study the black body via performance to unearth nuanced meanings of Africana experience. This capstone seminar will explore a variety of methods and strategies for crafting research within the field of Africana Studies. We will focus on approaches that derive from traditional disciplines as well as techniques that have emerged with the advent of dynamic new media and digital technologies. Some of the methodologies we will engage include: historiography; archival research; digital archiving; quantitative data analysis; ethnographic and qualitative analysis; critical textual analysis; reading the body as art and text; blogging and digital publishing; and evaluating films as text. Serving as a practicum, the course will provide considerable background in a variety of methods as well as hands-on learning. Students will have the opportunity to craft a final research project that is best explored through one or more of the methods we examine. [ more ]

AFR 410Black Literary and Cultural Theories

Last offered Fall 2016

This course will examine the writings of black twentieth- and twenty-first-century Anglophone and Francophone literary and cultural theorists in the African diaspora. We will begin with Sojourner Truth and W.E.B. Du Bois and end with current debates between the "Afro-Pessimists" and "Afro-Optimists." We will be reading writers from the United States, Britain, Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe, moving through the writings of the Harlem Renaissance, Négritude, Pan-Africanism, the Black Arts movement and Black Panthers, the Black Atlantic, and black feminism and queer studies. We will come to see that there is no easy separation between questions of politics (e.g., anti-colonialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist) and those of aesthetics and poetics. [ more ]

AFR 419Going to Ground: Considering Earth in the Arts of Africa

Last offered Fall 2015

Drawing its inspiration from the landmark exhibition Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa (National Museum of African Art, 2013), this seminar explores how earth has been conceptualized and integrated into African artistic thought as material, metaphor, geography, environment, and intervention, and how this interpretive flexibility has allowed it to become a symbol of power and presence in African art-making from prehistory to the present. The seminar will also focus on the ways in which earth has been used in contemporary art towards addressing the growing problems of pollution, unsustainable development, and the widespread depletion of earth-based natural resources in Africa. Over the course of this seminar, students will develop a knowledge base of earth-related issues that have been addressed in African artistic production, and engage with various cross-disciplinary methodologies to critically analyze the conceptual and aesthetic strategies deployed in these works. Students will also have the opportunity to interact with specialists from diverse disciplines and fields towards fleshing out their knowledge base. [ more ]

AFR 427Racial and Religious Mixture

Last offered Spring 2016

The very term "mixture" implies that two or more distinct substances have been brought together. Distinctions of race and religion are social fictions; yet, the lived ramifications of these social fictions involve tense struggles over the boundaries of racial and religious communities. These boundaries are not just ideas but also practices. In the history of the Americas, mixed racial and religious identities and experiences have more often been the result of violent clashes than romantic encounters. Still, the romanticization of the New World as a geography that makes such mixtures possible reaches back to the earliest days of Spanish conquest in the Americas. This course critically reconsiders varying ways that racial and religious mixtures have been imagined, defined, challenged, negotiated, and survived under imaginative and legal rubrics of mestizaje, creolization, transculturation, passing, syncretism, religious hybridity, and mixed race studies. [ more ]

AFR 440CAPSTONE: Performing Blackness

Last offered Spring 2018

In modern parlance and scholarship, blackness is understood not as a biological but rather a socially constructed phenomenon. This course extends common perceptions by working from the foundational concept that blackness is not only social construction but also performance and lived experience. Using the lens of performance on racial identity foregrounds the active and shifting nature of race in contrast to the potentially passive, static connotation of construction. But what is this term performance that is now so widely used as to be an anathema? In this course, we explore performance broadly as entertainment, representation, social function, and lived experience. By the end of the course, students will analyze multiple performance types from theatrical and dance performance to performance of race in everyday life. They will also study and practice at least four core black performance studies methodologies: oral interpretation of literature, ethnography, written performance analysis, and embodied performance (i.e. movement, music and/or theatre). In this way, students will begin to understand performance as both subject matter and method. The course will be structured around discussions, written responses, and performance exercises that help students analyze and practice each methodology. At the end of the semester, students will create final creative research projects that articulate key theories of black performance studies and draw on at least one of the featured performance methodologies. While preference is given to Africana Studies concentrators, students are not required to have prior performance experience. [ more ]

AFR 465Race and Abstraction

Last offered Spring 2015

Minority artists--writers and visual artists mainly and, to a lesser degree, musicians--face a difficult "double bind" when creating works of art: the expectation is that they, like their racially marked bodies, will exhibit their difference by means of concrete signifiers (details, tropes, narratives, themes) of racial difference. Thus, the work is judged primarily in terms of its embodied sociological content (material, empirical) and not by "abstract" standards of aesthetic subtlety, philosophical sophistication, and so on. At the same time, in the popular and academic imaginary, minority subjects and artists poets occupy a single abstract signifying category--homogeneous, undifferentiated, "other," marginalized, non-universal--while racially "unmarked" (white) artists occupy the position of being universal and individual at once. The irony, of course, is that, say, an African American poet's being read as an abstract signifier does not mean that the black subject or writer is seen as capable of engaging in abstract ideas. This course will ask questions about the problem of race and abstraction by looking at the work of various African American and Asian American writers, visual artists and musicians--including Will Alexander, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, David Hammons, Yayoi Kusama, Tan Lin, Nathaniel Mackey, and Cecil Taylor--as well as critics. We will pay particular attention to formally experimental works. This course will ask questions about the problem of race and abstraction by looking at the work of various African American and Asian American writers, visual artists and musicians--including Will Alexander, John Keene, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, John Yau, Cecil Taylor, David Hammons, and Yoko Ono--as well as critics. We will pay particular attention to formally experimental works. [ more ]

AFR 476(F)CAPSTONE: Black Radicalism

Amandla! Black Power! Venceremos! A Luta Continua! Ever since the end of slavery--brought about by the Haitian Revolution, slave rebellions, maroons, Quilombos, Civil War and various other means of resistance--transatlantic people of African descent have demanded radical change in the organization of modern societies. Their struggles and ideas have changed the ways we think and study--through the formation of Africana/African-American/Black-Studies--and the ways in which we express ideas--through the creation of rich traditions of music, dance, theater, poetry, carnivals, sculpture, and art that have acted as global conduits of cultures of resistance. In this Senior Seminar, we will study the most tumultuous period of Black radicalism in the 1960's, focusing on the Black Panther Party, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the Third World Women's Alliance/Angela Davis, and Caribbean and African radical movements, with an eye to examining their relevance to Black radical movements today. [ more ]

AFR 494(S)Honors Dossier

Candidates for honors in Africana Studies must do W31 for the winter study period and 494 the following spring. [ more ]