(Offered as LJST 105 and BLST 147 [US]) Understandings of and conflicts about place are of central significance to the experience and history of race and race relations in America. The shaping and reshaping of places is an important ingredient in the constitution and revision of racial identities: think of “the ghetto,” Chinatown, or “Indian Country.” Law, in its various manifestations, has been intimately involved in the processes which have shaped geographies of race from the colonial period to the present day: legally mandated racial segregation was intended to impose and maintain both spatial and social distance between members of different races.
The objective of this course is to explore the complex intersections of race, place, and law. Our aim is to gain some understanding of geographies of race “on-the-ground” in real places, and of the role of legal practices—especially legal argument—in efforts to challenge and reinforce these racial geographies. We will ask, for example, how claims about responsibility, community, rationality, equality, justice, and democracy have been used to justify or resist both racial segregation and integration, access and expulsion. In short, we will ask how moral argument and legal discourse have contributed to the formation of the geographies of race that we all inhabit. Much of our attention will be given to a legal-geographic exploration of African-American experiences. But we will also look at how race, place and the law have shaped the distinctive experiences of Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans.
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 204 [A] and MUSI 105) This course focuses on twentieth-century African popular music; it examines musical genres from different parts of the continent, investigating their relationships to the historical, political and social dynamics of their respective national and regional origins. Regional examples like highlife, soukous, chimurenga, and afro-beate will be studied to assess the significance of popular music as a creative response to social and political developments in colonial and postcolonial Africa. The course also discusses the growth of hip-hop music in selected countries by exploring how indigenous cultural tropes have provided the basis for its local appropriation. Themes explored in this course include the use of music in the construction of identity; popular music, politics and resistance; the interaction of local and global elements; and the political significance of musical nostalgia.
Omitted 2023-24. Limited to 30 students. Five College Professor Omojola.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
[R] This interdisciplinary introduction to Black Studies combines the teaching of foundational texts in the field with instruction in reading and writing. The first half of the course employs How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren as a guide to the careful reading of books focusing on the slave trade and its effects in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Important readings in this part of the course include Black Odyssey by Nathan Huggins, Racism: A Short History by George Frederickson, and The Black Jacobins by C. L. R. James. The second half of the course addresses important themes from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Beginning with The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois, it proceeds through a range of seminal texts, including The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. This part of the course utilizes Revising Prose by Richard Lanham to extend the lesson in reading from the first half of the semester into an exploration of precision and style in writing. Computer exercises based on Revising Prose and three short essays—one on a single book, another comparing two books, and the last on a major theme in the course—provide the main opportunity to apply and reinforce skills in reading and writing learned throughout the semester. After taking this course, students at all levels of preparation should emerge not only with a good foundation for advancement in Black Studies but also with a useful set of guidelines for further achievement in the humanities and the social sciences.
Limited to 18 students per section. Fall semester: Professor Loggins. Spring semester: Professor Bradley.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
(Offered as BLST 117 [US] and SWAG 117) What role has “race” played in shaping the American imagination? How has its use as a metaphor in U.S. national life influenced our understandings of power, privilege, and justice? In what ways has popular culture influenced our understanding of race, and how do “creatives” today resist, reject, and reimagine racial and ethnic difference on social media? How do gender, sexuality, and other categories of difference intersect with race and ethnicity, and can these intersections give us a better understanding of American culture? In this course, we will examine contemporary racial discourse in the United States, surveying its use as a contested fact of social life by authors, artists, theorists, and activists in the twentieth and twenty-first century. By studying a range of creative and critical texts, including literature, poetry, music, art, film, comedy, cultural criticism, and social media, the course will prepare students to read racial discourse critically across genres and disciplines while also introducing them to the rigors of academic reading and writing.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Polk.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 181 [AF/TE/TR/TS] and BLST 121 [A]) This course focuses on the long twentieth century in Africa, from the onset of colonial rule in the 1880s through to the present moment of global engagement. We have three major questions that we will be pursuing throughout the semester. The first concerns the various images of Africa and Africans as they have been conceived in the West and then exported back into African societies. Can we distinguish the image from the reality, the myth from the reportage? The second question involves the causal relationship between colonial rule and the function and dysfunction of postcolonial rule: do some or all of Africa’s contemporary problems trace to the colonial past? Finally, we will try to understand what it was like to live within several African societies and through several events in this historical period. The underlying questions we will be exploring are when and how history matters for understanding why the present is the way it is and whether history offers any insights into how to resolve longstanding problems. In the first half of the course, we will study the imperial scramble to colonize Africa, the broad integration of African societies into global economic and social trends, the social, political, and economic impact of imperial policies, popular Western images of Africa in the colonial period, nationalist struggles, the genocide in Rwanda, and persistent problem faced by post-colonial states. In the second half of the course, we will investigate three case studies: the post-colonial Democratic Republic of Congo, the political economy of disease in Africa, and development quandaries and resource conflicts.
Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professor Redding.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST-122 and RELI-122) There is an aura of mystery that surrounds the meaning and practice of African religions. This is due to several factors: limited material on particular religions, the secrecy of most initiations, and the gradual disappearance of their rich heritage as a result of colonization. This course explores current scholarly understandings of the intricate dances, music, myths of creation, and various rituals associated with African religion, while going further to probe the inner meaning of these external manifestations. We will look in particular at African authors who have elucidated the stories, practices, and symbols of specific religions and revealed their esoteric meaning. Often these practitioners have undergone rigorous initiations and are able to engage the complex relationship between spirituality and practice in their writings. This course will address both the spiritual/mystical aspects of African religions as expressed by these authors, as well as the limitations of studying such a topic.
Omitted 2023-24.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ARHA 149 and BLST 123) An introduction to the ancient and traditional arts of Africa. Special attention will be given to the archaeological importance of the rock art paintings found in such disparate areas as the Sahara and South Africa, achievements in the architectural and sculptural art in clay of the early people in the area now called Zimbabwe and the aesthetic qualities of the terracotta and bronze sculptures of the Nok, Igbo-Ukwe, Ife and Benin cultures in West Africa, which date from the second century B.C.E. to the sixteenth century C.E. The study will also pursue a general socio-cultural survey of traditional arts of the major ethnic groups of Africa.
Spring semester. Professor Abiodun.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as MUSI 126 and BLST 134 [US]) This course examines the cultural origins of hip hop and how this small, minority, Bronx-based subculture expanded into one of the most influential styles of music in the world. The course will begin by analyzing the cultural conditions out of which hip hop arose in the mid-1970s; from there it will turn to examining how hip hop music, over the last thirty-five years, has sounded out the identity of its creators as they have grappled with six major questions: What musical elements are crucial components of hip hop’s sound? What does realness in hip hop sound like, and why does it matter? How have artists negotiated expressing their specific geographic origins while simultaneously embracing globalization? How does this genre fit into the music industry, and how has the music industry affected hip hop? Should hip hop be political, and how should artists express their politics? How have technological developments altered hip hop’s sound? Through answering these questions, students will gain an understanding of how hip hop has developed into the styles that we hear today, and how hip hop has radically transformed American racial politics and popular culture more broadly.
Limited to 30 students. Professor Coddington. Omitted 2023-24.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as MUSI 128 and BLST 344). This course examines the relationship between blues music and American culture. Using Amiri Baraka's influential 1963 book of music criticism, Blues People, as a central text, we will explore ways in which the "blues impulse" has been fundamental to conceptions of African-American identity. At the same time, we will trace the development of African-American music through its connection to West African musical traditions and through its emergence during slavery and the Jim Crow South. Our investigation will survey a number of precursors to the blues, work songs, spirituals, and minstrels and see how these impacted early blues styles, including delta blues, classic blues, and early blues-oriented gospel practices. The blues played a fundamental role in the emergence of new popular musics in the 1940s and 1950s, most notably rock and roll. Embedded within these new musical practices were ideas about African American modernism, urbanity, and self-representation. Culminating in an examination of hip-hop culture, we will analyze the connection between African-American musical practices and larger debates about race, class, gender, and ethnicity. We will see how the blues serves as a mode of activism, and how blues musicians engage questions about racial and ethnic identity through music making.
Professor Robinson. Fall Semester.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as AMST 130 and BLST 130[D]) The hustle and flow of bodies, ideas, inequalities and solidarities is core to our increasingly globalized world. This course offers an introduction to the Americas as a transnational space. We will explore the interplay of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and nationality from interdisciplinary perspectives. We will draw examples from the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Students will learn through a variety of methods including textual analysis, feminist ethnography, archival research, and cultural studies. We will also examine multiple approaches to American Studies such as critical race and ethnic studies, feminist and queer studies, indigenous studies, as well as theories of decolonization and settler colonialism. We will grapple with the complexities of identity and difference, immigration and border control, slavery, colonization, and empire.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Assistant Professor Jolly.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 313 [A] and ARHA 138) In the traditionally non-literate societies of Africa, verbal and visual arts constitute two systems of communication. The performance of verbal art and the display of visual art are governed by social and cultural rules. We will examine the epistemological process of understanding cultural symbols, of visualizing narratives, or proverbs, and of verbalizing sculptures or designs. Focusing on the Yoruba people of West Africa, the course will attempt to interpret the language of their verbal and visual arts and their interrelations in terms of cultural cosmologies, artistic performances, and historical changes in perception and meaning. We will explore new perspectives in the critical analysis of African verbal and visual arts, and their interdependence as they support each other through mutual references and allusions. In addition to visiting the Mead Art Museum to see African works, students will be required to listen to audio-recordings and engage selected visual images to enhance their understanding of the interrelationship of arts in Africa.
Omit 2023-24. Professor Abiodun.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as ENGL-252 and BLST-152) This course is a survey of nineteenth and twentieth century African American literature (and its attendant scholarly criticism). We will begin in the nineteenth century with the literature of black freedom, bondage, and abolition (vis-à-vis the work of writers such as Frederick Douglass, Henry Box Brown and Harriet Jacobs). From there, we will move to the twentieth century canon with a focus on four major historical periods and “movements”: the Harlem Renaissance, 1940 and 1950s Naturalism and Realism, the Black Arts Movement, and black literature in the post-soul/post-civil rights eras. Novelists and writers discussed will include Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Ann Petry, Lorraine Hansberry, August Wilson, Ntozake Shange, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Octavia Butler. Students should leave this course with a firm foundation in major debates/approaches to the study of African American literature.
Omitted 2023-24. Professor Roberts.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ARHA 157, ARCH 157, and BLST 193) This course engages the buildings, cities, and landscapes of the former colonies of Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean. Beginning with the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the non-European territories, which once comprised the lucrative possessions of modern European empires, quickly became independent states charged with developing infrastructure, erecting national monuments, and handling the influx of laborers drawn to the metropolises formed as sleepy colonial towns grew into bustling postcolonial cities. This class will examine the buildings, urban spaces, rural landscapes, and national capitals that emerged in response to these political histories. We will approach a number of issues, such as the architecture of national independence monuments, the preservation of buildings linked to the colonial past, the growth of new urban centers in Africa and India after independence, architecture and regimes of postcolonial oppression, the built environments of tourism in the independent Caribbean, and artists’ responses to all of these events. Some of the places that we will address include: Johannesburg, South Africa; Chandigarh, India; Negril, Jamaica; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Lilongwe, Malawi. Our goal will be to determine what, if any, continuities linked the buildings, landscapes, and spaces of post-independence Africa, India, and the Caribbean in the twentieth century. Over the course of the semester, students will gain skills in analyzing buildings, town plans, and other visual materials. Also, this class will aid students in developing their writing skills, particularly, their ability to write about architecture and urban space.
Spring semester. Professor Carey.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ENGL 162 and BLST 162 [D]) African and African-descended people have a long-documented and intimate relationship to the natural world as a source of healing, nurture, and wealth. However, for a people who were stripped of their land in colonial Africa, exploited to work the land by European enslavers in the New World, and hung from trees in the American South, and who still have a precarious relationship to water in such places as Flint, Michigan, and post-Maria Puerto Rico, inhabiting the earth is complicated. How might we begin to tell this entangled history? What kinds of stories have Africans and their descendants developed to address their relationship with nature? What does the term “environmental justice” even mean to and for people of African descent today?
In this course, we will encounter a range of texts, including slave narratives, novels, poems, visual art, and performance written by and about Black subjects, to begin to understand how various authors, artists, and activists represent the rich relationship between blackness and the natural world. Readings may include works by Olaudah Equiano, W. E. B Du Bois, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Zora Neale Hurston, Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, T. Dungy, Britt Rusert, Kimberly N. Ruffin, among others.
Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Cobham-Sander.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as BLST 195[D] and ENGL 195) During the middle decades of the twentieth century, existentialism dominated the European philosophical and literary scene. Prominent theorists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty put the experience of history, alienation, and the body at the center of philosophical and literary life. It should be no surprise, then, that existentialism appealed to so many Afro-Caribbean and African-American thinkers of the same period and after. This course examines the critical transformation of European existentialist ideas through close readings of black existentialists Aime Césaire, Frantz Fanon, George Lamming, and Wilson Harris, paired with key essays from Sartre, Camus, and Merleau-Ponty. We will engage black existentialism not just as a series of claims, but also as a method, which allows us to read works by African-American writers such as W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison in an existentialist frame. Last, we will consider the matter of how and why existentialism continues to function so centrally in contemporary Africana philosophy.
Omitted 2023-24. Prof. Thiam2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
[R] In this course students will focus closely on major debates that have animated the field of Black Studies, addressing a wide range of issues from the slave trade to the present. Each week will focus on specific questions such as: What came first, racism or slavery? Is African art primitive? Did Europe underdevelop Africa? Is there Caribbean History or just history in the Caribbean? Should Black Studies exist? Is there a black American culture? Is Affirmative Action necessary? Was the Civil Rights Movement a product of government action or grass-roots pressure? Is the underclass problem a matter of structure or agency? The opposing viewpoints around such questions will provide the main focus of the reading assignments, which will average two or three articles per week. In the first four weeks, students will learn a methodology for analyzing, contextualizing, and making arguments that they will apply in developing their own positions in the specific controversies that will make up the rest of the course.
Limited to 20 students. Spring Semester. Professor C. Bailey2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as BLST 208 [A/D] and HIST 211 [AF]) As the crisis of the postcolonial nation-state deepens in the context of globalization and statism in African countries especially in the last three decades, African societies have experienced significant migration of skilled and unskilled workers. These migration flows are raising new questions about the nature of politics, economics, and culture in various African national and transnational contexts. To explore the political, social, and economic consequences of these waves of migration in African states and among countries receiving African migrants, this course will examine the following topics at the core of the transformation of African states in the global age: colonialism and the construction of modern African states; globalization and political legitimacy in postcolonial African states; globalization and African labor migration; globalization and African popular culture; globalization and Africa's new religious movements; globalization and Africa's refugee crisis; Africa and globalization of the media; Africa and the global discourse on gender and sexuality; Africa and the global discourse on AIDS/HIV; Africa and the globalization of football (soccer). Course readings will focus not only on the impact of globalization and state crisis on African societies, but also on how emerging national and transnational African populations are shaping the processes of globalization.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Vaughan.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as BLST 210 [A] HIST 210 [AF] and RELI 220) The course will examine the central role of Christianity and Islam in pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial African societies. Focusing on case studies from West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, and Southern Africa, course lectures will explore the following issues in African religious, social, and political history: Christianity, Islam, and African indigenous belief systems; Muslim reformist movements in West African societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; mission Christianity and African societies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; Christianity, Islam, and colonialism in Africa; Christianity, Islam, and politics in postcolonial African states.
Limited to 25. Spring semester. Professor Vaughan.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as BLST 215[D] and ENGL 241) This course explores various musical forms and traditions as well as poetry from the Caribbean, South America, and the United States. We will explore thematic and stylistic synergies between the different genres and pay particular attention to their social, political, and ideological orientations. Musical forms will include: The Blues, Calypso, Reggae, Rap, and Spirituals and we will read poetry by Kate Rushin, Sonia Sanchez, Mutabaruka and others. Limited to 20 students.
Fall semester. Professor C. Bailey2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as HIST 217 [US/TC/TR/TS] and BLST 217 [US].) Many Americans think of the northern United States as removed from and antagonistic toward slavery. The truth is much more complicated. Slavery existed in the region for generations, and northerners continued to support and profit from slavery in the South and the Caribbean even after the institution came to an end in the North. For example, northerners produced and sold to enslavers the food, clothing, shackles, and other items that kept plantations in operation. This course explores northern racism and northern complicity with slavery in the antebellum period and considers the present-day legacies of this history. It grapples with topics such as how the economies of North and South tied the regions together, how wealth built through slavery and the slave trade was used to establish northern institutions of higher education, and how structures put in place during slavery have lived on after abolition. It also looks at northern abolitionism, examining how some northerners Black and white fought slavery and why this aspect of the region’s history has featured so much more prominently in historical memory than northern complicity with slavery. Students will investigate the North’s complicated relationships to slavery by working with primary and secondary sources, visiting historical materials related to Amherst College’s connections to slavery in the college archives, and going on a field trip. Two meetings weekly.
Limited to 15 students. Professor Herbin-Triant. Sophomore Seminar. Spring semester.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 221 [US] and HIST 221 [US,TC, TR, TS]) This course examines the history of the southern United States from the colonial period through the present. Its central preoccupation is race. We will examine why white southerners denied political and other rights to African Americans and explore the varied responses of African Americans to exclusion and exploitation, including resistance to slavery, accommodationism (with Booker T. Washington as the most prominent advocate for this), migration out of the region, and civil rights activism. As we follow the themes of racial control and resistance over the course of the semester, we will consider to what extent southerners left behind antebellum patterns of labor relations and social hierarchy as they built a "New South" after the Civil War. Topics explored in this course—like state violence directed toward Black people, voter suppression, and labor exploitation—will shed light on problems the region has grappled with for generations. Other topics discussed in the course, including Black activism, will point to paths forward. Students will work with a variety of sources, which in addition to traditional historical sources will include literature by authors such as Toni Morrison and Jesmyn Ward and films such as In the Heat of the Night.
Fall semester. Professor Herbin-Triant.
Pending Faculty Approval2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 323, PHIL 215 and RELI 223) This course explores the structure, beliefs, and practices of West African indigenous religions with an eye to their deeper philosophical meanings. We will examine several West African religions from the perspective of experts and practitioners who present the underlying philosophy of these traditions, exploring their epistemology (how knowledge works) and metaphysics (the nature of being). We will focus on concepts of the person, the word, the world, and community as well as the important role of orality as the foundational paradigm of this philosophy.
Omitted 2023-24.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as MUSI 227 and BLST 344 [US]) One of two courses that trace the development of jazz from its emergence in early 20th-century New Orleans to its profound impact on American culture. This course explores the emergence of bebop in the 1940s, the shift of jazz's relationship with American popular culture after World War II, and the dramatic pluralization of jazz practice after the 1950s. We will also look at the emergence of fusion and the jazz avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s, and theorize the reformulation of "tradition" during the 1980s. Central to our examination will be the phenomenon of "neoclassicism" common in jazz discourse today, measuring that against the radical diversity of jazz practice around the world. Many figures central to the development of the varied post-bebop directions in jazz will be discussed: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Ornette Coleman, the New York Downtown scene, and many others. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2023-24. Professor Robinson.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as POSC 229 and BLST 229 [US]) This course surveys the historical and philosophical questions and answers made by African-Americans in response to white supremacy in the nineteenth and twentieth century U.S. Students in the course will explore the form and substance of political appeals on a wide range of themes including leadership, justice, freedom, equality, economic organization, power, and feminism. We will explore questions including: why was Frederick Douglass so adamant about reconstructing the principles of the founding? What were the philosophical arguments made in the nineteenth-century about freed Black persons leaving the United States? Why did unsettling patriarchy and white supremacy form the basis of Anna Julia Cooper’s political vision? What did it mean for African-Americans to form “a nation within a nation"? What were some socialist arguments for racial justice? What is the relationship between identity and political vision? How should we understand class formation in African-American political thought? What were some arguments for and against non-violent self-defense? This course is not just about the various responses by African-Americans to the logic and practice of white supremacy; it is also about the affirmative visions for human life and collective flourishing. Key figures in the course include Frederick Douglass, Martin Delaney, Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Claudia Jones, Malcolm X, Ella Baker, and Martin Luther King Jr.
Spring semester. Assistant Professor Loggins2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
The African American Theater spans over 200 years, from the earliest performances of the African Grove Theater to the Classical Theater of Harlem’s Afro-futuristic Twelfth Night in Marcus Garvey Park. This course will investigate and interrogate the history of American theater by examining Black creatives and their works as not merely contributors but pioneers of American theater. These studies will be addressed in tandem with the dominant culture's historical narrative of Black theater arts and the Black experience by posing these questions: Why isn't Black American theater history considered American theater history? How is Shakespeare relevant to the Black experience? How was theater used to counter and protest the Black stereotypes and the many injustices that plagued the Black body? How receptive is white American theater to the accountability of the #WeSeeYouWAT movement? Why is there an absence of a Black audience in the theater today? Key moments will include the revolutionary founding of the African Grove Theater in 1821, the act of resistance of The Black Patti Troubadours in the face of minstrelsy, and the first all-Black Broadway cast of Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake’s hit, Shuffle Along. The course will also explore significant plays, reviews, books, articles, genres, theater companies, productions, and artists, including William Wells Brown, August Wilson, James Baldwin, Charles Fuller, Nathan Jackson, Douglass Turner Ward, Dominique Morrisseau, Keith Josef Adkins, Pearl Cleage, Carlyle Brown, Tarell Alvin McCraney, George C. Wolfe, Anna Deavere Smith, Chadwick Boseman, Nathan Alan Davis, William Shakespeare, Errol Hill, and Marvin McAllister.
Limited to 22 students. Spring semester. Professor Sears.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as BLST 236 [US] and SWAG 235) From the modern era to the contemporary moment, the intersection of race, gender, and class has been especially salient for people of African descent—for men as well as for women. How might the category of sexuality act as an additional optic through which to view and reframe contemporary and historical debates concerning the construction of black identity? In what ways have traditional understandings of masculinity and femininity contributed to an understanding of African American life and culture as invariably heterosexual? How have black lesbian, gay, and transgendered persons effected political change through their theoretical articulations of identity, difference, and power? In this interdisciplinary course, we will address these questions through an examination of the complex roles gender and sexuality play in the lives of people of African descent. Remaining attentive to the ways black people have claimed social and sexual agency in spite of systemic modes of inequality, we will engage with critical race theory, black feminist thought, queer-of-color critique, literature, art, film, “new media” and erotica, as well as scholarship from anthropology, sociology, and history.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Polk.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as HIST 248 [US/TR/TS; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the History major], and BLST 241[US]) This course surveys African-American history from Emancipation through the Trump presidency, exploring topics such as Reconstruction, the age of Jim Crow, the Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements. Major questions to be addressed include the following: What visions for freedom did African Americans hold in the aftermath of slavery? How have black Americans fought to secure social, economic, and political rights? How has government both supported and subverted black people’s efforts to lay claim to citizenship? How have gender and capitalism shaped the lives and labors of black Americans? What have been the afterlives of slavery and segregation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, particularly in the areas of voting rights, housing, mass incarceration, policing, and health outcomes? Students will use both primary and secondary sources to investigate how—in the face of numerous challenges—African Americans created vibrant new cultures, accumulated property, built strong communities, and challenged the United States to live up to its founding ideals. Readings include foundational texts in modern African-American history, including writings by Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Michelle Obama, among others. Two meetings per week. Limited to 25 students.
Not offered in 2023-24. Professor Bradley.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as ARHA 257, ARCH 257, and BLST 253) Creole dwellings were first erected by enslaved builders working under Diego Colón (the son of Christopher Columbus) on the island of Hispaniola. By the end of the first wave of European expansion in the early nineteenth century, the creole style existed across imperial domains in the Caribbean, North and South America, Africa, the Indian Ocean, and even Asia. We will examine the global diffusion of this architectural typology from its emergence in the Spanish Caribbean to its florescence in British and French India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In doing so, we will address buildings and towns in former Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonies worldwide. Some of the urban centers that we will engage include: Kingston, Jamaica; Pondicherry, India; Cape Town, South Africa; Cartagena, Colombia; Saint-Louis, Senegal; and Macau, China. In investigating both creole structures and the cities that harbored such forms, we will think through the social and economic factors that caused buildings and urban areas to display marked continuities despite geographical and imperial distinctions.
Limited to 34 students. Fall semester. Professor Carey.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
This course is an exploration of the ways in which African literature can be read as a philosophical engagement concerned with a critique of modern epistemology (David Diop's poems, Amadou Hampate Ba, Kaidara, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ambiguous Adventure) and a theory of being (Tsitsi Dangarembga: Nervous Conditions, Ngugi WaThiongo: Petals of Blood) leading to a political engagement with the question of the good life in a good society (NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names, Blitz Bazawule, The scent of Burnt Flowers and Nnedi Okarafor’s Who Fears Death). The ultimate goal of the course is to explore how works of African literature ask: How did particular ways of thinking of the world lead to the invention of Africa and how can African ontologies offer a way out of the pervasiveness of coloniality? What really does it mean to be African, a version of a more general question that has dominated the history of philosophy: what does it mean to be human? And finally, how do African epistemologies and ontologies allow for radical political outlooks enabling the realization of a propitious society for the good life of its citizens.
Students will, at the end of the course, develop a clear understanding of the relation between literature and philosophy in the African context and have a good sense of the history of African literature and philosophy, with a good command of key figures, ideas, and debate that have dominated African literature and philosophy for the past 70 years.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Thiam.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ENGL 256 and BLST 256 [D]) In this course, we will develop a thoughtful understanding of the idea of Africa and the African diaspora and a complex appreciation of the meanings of black presence in the world. We will ask five questions that will allow us to explore the ways literary and philosophical texts from Africa and the African Diaspora challenge the Global Matrix of Power, question anti-Black racism in philosophy, literature, and cultural studies, and shape conceptions of being and identity in Africa and the African diaspora, namely: What is Africa? What is the African-Diaspora? How do these concepts engage with each other? How does race help make sense of both? How does the comparative analysis of the lived experiences of people of African descent allow us to understand the limits of Western modernity, question coloniality, and comprehend people of African descent’s presence in the world? These questions will be examined from the perspectives of three pivotal movements in African literature: Negritude (Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism and Leopold Seda Senghor, selected essays), the postcolonial and decolonial traditions (Ngugi Wathiong’o, Decolonizing the Mind and Cheikh Hamidou Kane, The Ambiguous Adventure), and Afropolitanism and the Afro-chic (Chimanda Adichie, Americanah, Taiye Selasie, Ghana Must Go, and Blitz Bazawule, The scent of Burnt Flowers). These readings will be supplemented by visual material and Afrobeat music. Students will develop a clear understanding of processes that lead to the “invention” of Africa, learn how to synthesize historical processes, key figures, and ideas that have led to contemporary conceptions of Africa and the Diaspora, and refine their critical thinking and writing skills.
Limited to 25 students. Omit 2023-24. Professor Thiam.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as BLST 268 [CLA], HIST 268 [LA/TE/TR/TSP], and LLAS 268) Students will gain in-depth knowledge of the experiences of Africans and their descendants, slave and free, from the time the first captives were brought to Hispaniola in 1503 until the time of abolition in Cuba in 1886 in this course. Regions to be covered include the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America, and the Andean and Southern Cone regions. Topics will include the ways in which specific regions of Western Africa contributed captives to specific regions of Spanish America, the nature of Spanish colonial institutions and their impact on the lives of Africans and their descendants, resistance and rebellion, routes to freedom, and slave and free Black families. This readings-based course features both secondary and primary sources. Select primary documents will acquaint students with the sources historians use to reconstruct these aspects of the histories of largely non-literate African-descended peoples.
Fall semester. Professor Lohse.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as ARHA 270 and BLST 293) The course of study will examine those African cultures and their arts that have survived and shaped the aesthetic, philosophic and religious patterns of African descendants in Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and urban centers in North America. We shall explore the modes of transmission of African artistry to the West and examine the significance of the preservation and transformation of artistic forms from the period of slavery to our own day. Through the use of films, slides and objects, we shall explore the depth and diversity of this vital artistic heritage of Afro-Americans.
Omit 2023-24. Professor Abiodun.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
[US/D/CLA] In this course, we explore the history and philosophy of Black resistance to domination and oppression in the new world. We begin with the Haitian Revolution and then proceed to the grand and petty revolts of the nineteenth century. We investigate the everyday abolitionism that informs what Cedric Robinson called “the truer genius” of Black struggle. We examine thinkers who we might understand to comprise the Black Radical Tradition (Nannie of the Maroons, W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, Richard Wright, Toussaint L’ouverture) and also the range of philosophical and political themes the tradition as a whole elucidates (violence vs. non-violence, leadership, self-mastery, property, historical consciousness, rebellion, culture). Our overall objective is to think critically about the Black Radical Tradition as an under-examined project involving its own codes, histories, beliefs, values, virtues, and well as vices.
Omitted 2023-24. Limited to 25 students. Professor Loggins.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as BLST 275 [CLA], SWAG 274, HIST 275 [LA/TS/TR/ P ] and LLAS 275) Latin American slavery was one of the most brutal institutions the world has ever known, and it affected women and girls, boys and men in profoundly different ways. This readings-based course features both secondary and primary sources. Students will gain in-depth understanding of how gender and sexuality affected the experiences of enslaved Africans and their descendants in Latin America from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Topics will include gender roles in Western Africa and how these diverged from the expectations of Spanish and Portuguese slave masters; the sexual and reproductive as well as labor exploitation of enslaved African women and girls; how enslaved men constructed masculinity within the emasculating institution of slavery; gender relations and family structures within slave communities; childhoods under slavery; and the sometimes distinct visions of freedom imagined by enslaved women and men. Select primary documents will acquaint students with the sources historians use to reconstruct these aspects of the histories of largely non-literate African-descended peoples. Regions to be covered include Brazil, the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, and the Andean region. Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of weekly reading notes, and two short papers.
Omitted 2023-24. Professor Lohse.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as AMST 361, BLST 361, and ENGL 276) Through a close reading of texts by African American authors, we will critically examine literary form and technique alongside the representation of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Coupled with our explication of poems, short stories, novels, and literary criticism, we will explore the stakes of adaptation in visual culture. Students will analyze the film and television adaptations of twentieth-century fiction. Authors will include Toni Morrison, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Walker, and Gloria Naylor. Expectations include three writing projects, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.
Limited to 18 students. Priority given to those students who attend the first day of the class. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professor Henderson.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 277 [CLA], LLAS 277 and HIST 277 [LA/TS/TR]) The Haitian Revolution began in 1791 with a slave revolt on a single plantation and, after more than a decade of total war, destroyed slavery forever and resulted in the independence of the world's first Black republic. By the end of 1804, the white planter class had been killed or exiled and Black men ruled the island. Before it happened, white slave masters could never imagine that tens of thousands of enslaved Africans would one day break their chains and succeed in defeating French, British, and Spanish armies. For millions of enslaved people, the Haitian Revolution proved that the dream of freedom could become reality and inspired slave conspiracies and rebellions from Virginia to Brazil. At the same time, Haiti struck fear in white slave masters throughout the Americas, who did their best to strangle the new Black Republic in its cradle. This readings-based course features both secondary and primary sources. Students will gain in-depth understanding of the origins and development of the Haitian Revolution and its impact in Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of weekly reading notes, and two short papers.
Omitted 2023-24. Professor Lohse.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as BLST 278 [CLA], LLAS 278 and HIST 278 [LA/TS/TR/ P ]) More people of African descent live in Brazil than in any country in the world, except Nigeria. Of the more than 12 million Africans deported as captives to the Americas, Brazil received 24 percent. In contrast, North America received less than 4 percent. This readings-based course features both secondary and primary sources. Students will gain in-depth knowledge of the experiences of Africans and their descendants, slave and free, from the time the first captives were brought to Brazil at the beginning of the sixteenth century until final abolition in 1888. Topics will include the ways in which specific regions of Western Africa contributed captives to specific regions of Brazil, the nature of Portuguese colonial institutions and their impact on the lives of Africans and their descendants, resistance and rebellion, routes to freedom, slave and free Black families, and the origins and development of vibrant Afro-Brazilian religions and cultures . Select primary documents will acquaint students with the sources historians use to reconstruct these aspects of the histories of largely non-literate African-descended peoples. Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of weekly reading notes, and two short papers.
Omitted 2023-24. Professor Lohse.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as SWAG 279, BLST 302, and ENGL 279) What do we mean by “women’s fiction”? How do we understand women’s genres in different national contexts? This course examines topics in feminist thought such as marriage, sexuality, desire and the home in novels written by women writers from South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. We will draw on postcolonial literary theory, essays on transnational feminism, and historical studies to situate our analyses of these novels. Texts include Indian writer Meena Kandasamy's When I Hit You, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie's Purple Hibiscus, and Caribbean author Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.
Spring semester. Professor Shandilya.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as BLST 280 [CLA], HIST 280 [LA/TR/TS] and LLAS 280) Slave resistance was caused by slavery itself. In a multitude of ways, from the moment they reached the shores of the Americas, Africans fought against their enslavement. The first slave ship to arrive in the Americas, which came to what is now the Dominican Republic, also brought the Americas' first recorded runaway slave, an African man who freed himself by immediately disappearing into the forest. Within two decades of the European "discovery" of the New World, Africans in Hispaniola had risen up against their masters and threatened the very future of the Spanish conquest. These were just the first of hundreds of slave rebellions that shook Latin America and the Caribbean between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the case of Haiti, the enslaved defeated French, Spanish, and British armies and succeeded in destroying the institution of slavery altogether. As spectacular as rebellions could be, they formed only one of many ways in which enslaved Africans struggled against their oppressors. From Jamaica to Mexico, to Colombia to Brazil, self-liberated slaves fled to indigenous communities or founded their own Maroon settlements, a few of which fought the colonizers for decades and attracted as many as 20,000 African women and men. Many more enslaved people remained in legal bondage and found other ways to resist, including escape, murder, and suicide, but also by less dramatic means such as fighting to defend their own families and cultures. This readings-based course features both secondary and primary sources. Select primary documents will acquaint students with the sources historians use to reconstruct these aspects of the histories of largely non-literate African-descended peoples. In close readings of the historiography of slave resistance, students will discuss and debate the meanings of concepts such as resistance, accommodation, opposition, collaboration, and agency. Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of weekly reading notes, and two short papers.
Fall semester. Professor Lohse.
Pending Faculty Approval2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 281[CLA], HIST 285 [AF/LA/TR/TS] and LLAS 281) The Atlantic slave trade was, until the twentieth century, the largest migration in human history and one of the most consequential events in the history of the world. Its legacies continue to shape the histories of the Americas, Europe, and Africa itself. Between 1500 and 1860, more than 12.3 million African men, women, and children were loaded onto ships to be taken to the Americas. Nearly 2 million died on the Middle Passage. Of the 10.7 million who survived, the vast majority disembarked in Latin America and the Caribbean (by contrast, fewer than 4% arrived in what is now the United States). By the time English colonists purchased the first twenty African captives at Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, more than 428,000 Africans had already arrived in Latin America. This readings-based course examines the impacts of the Atlantic slave trade on Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean from the time of the first Portuguese incursions into West Africa in the 1440s until the last slave ships arrived in Cuba from Africa in the 1860s. Students will learn about such topics as how African men, women, and children came to be captured and enslaved in their home countries; the organization of the slave trade as a business and the enormous profits made by European and African slave merchants; the logistics of the Middle Passage; characteristics of the captives transported from Africa to the Americas; the long-term effects of the trade on African societies and economies; and most important, the Africans' own experiences of the Middle Passage. Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of weekly reading notes, and two short papers.
Spring semester. Prof. Lohse.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 282 [CLA], HIST 282 [LA/TR/TS] and LLAS 282) Throughout Latin America, millions of enslaved Africans and their descendants gained their freedom in the course of the nineteenth century. Emancipation began during the wars of independence that shook the continent between 1810 and 1824. As white creoles clamored for "freedom" from Spain, slaves demanded their freedom from white creoles, taking up arms and fighting on both sides to advance their cause. In a few countries, such as the republics of Central America, freedom came immediately with independence, but in most, slavery persisted for decades. Through policies of gradual abolition, the white ruling classes of the newly independent republics sought to phase out slavery over time and minimize social disruptions. Where slavery was most entrenched, slave masters fought hardest to preserve it. In Cuba and Brazil, masters clung tenaciously to the institution into the 1880s. In Colombia, Southern Conservatives fought a Civil War against a Liberal government to prevent abolition. But they failed. From Mexico to Brazil, slaves' actions helped to make slavery impossible to maintain and accelerated its demise. With legal abolition, the ex-slaves and their former masters continued to struggle over the meanings of freedom as millions of Black women and men claimed their rights as citizens. Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of weekly reading notes, and two short papers.
Spring semester. Prof. Lohse.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 283 [AF/TE/TR/TS/P] and BLST 322) The transition from white-minority rule in South Africa in 1994 ushered in a new era of independence and democracy in a troubled country whose name had become synonymous with “apartheid.” Yet that transition has not lived up to the high expectations of South Africans as many of the ruling structures built by the colonial and then apartheid regimes have endured, and economic and social inequality has increased in the nearly thirty years since Nelson Mandela was first elected President. Questions about whether South Africans can move beyond the legacy of the past haunt the current population.
New interpretations of South African history have emerged as new generations of historians write the past. This course will explore established and emerging themes in the history of this fascinating country. We will cover a broad period from just before the beginning of white settlement in the mid-1600s to the present. The focus will be on understanding how South African populations have confronted and engaged with colonial rule, profound cultural changes, and the development of an oppressively unequal economic and political system. What are the roots of the current situation, and how do they shape and constrain future possibilities? How do people in contemporary South Africa confront the ideas that have shaped their understanding of their own country as they reconstruct their history? Meets twice weekly.
Spring semester. Professor Redding.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as BLST 294 [D], SWAG 294 and EUST 294) This research-based seminar considers the enduring presence of people of African descent in Europe from the nineteenth century to the contemporary moment, a fact that both confounds and extends canonical theories of African diaspora and black internationalism. Focusing particularly on the histories of black people in Britain, Germany, and France, this course will take an interdisciplinary approach in its study of the African diaspora in Europe. We will examine literature, history, film, art and ephemera, as well as newly available pre-1927 audio recordings from Bear Family Records (http://www.black-europe.com/) in effort to better comprehend the materiality of the black European experience. These inquiries will enable us to comment upon the influence black people continue to have upon Europe today. Reading the central texts in the emerging field of Black European Studies—including African American expatriate memoirs, Afro-German feminist poetry, and black British cultural theory—student work will culminate in an annotated bibliography and a multimedia research project.
Omitted 2023-2024. Limited to 20 students. Professor Polk. Sophomore Seminar.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
[R] This seminar prepares students to conduct independent research. Although it concentrates on the field of Black Studies, it serves as a good introductory research course for all students in the humanities and social sciences regardless of major. The first part of the course will intensively introduce students to the library through a series of readings, exercises, and discussions aimed at sharpening the ability to locate information precisely and efficiently. The second part of the course will introduce research methods in three important areas of Black Studies: the arts, history, and the social sciences. Faculty members of the Black Studies Department, departmental affiliates, and visitors will join the class to present their own ongoing research, placing particular emphasis on the disciplinary methods and traditions of inquiry that guide their efforts. Also in the second part, through individual meetings with professors, students will begin developing their own research projects. The third part of the course will concentrate more fully on development of these projects through a classroom workshop. Here students will learn how to shape a topic into a research question, build a bibliography, annotate a bibliography, shape a thesis, develop an outline, and write a research proposal, or prospectus.
This course is required of Black Studies majors. It is open to non-majors with the consent of the instructor. Although BLST 111 and 200 are not required for admission, preference will go to those who have taken one or both of these courses.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professors Jolly, Thiam & Herbin-Triant.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as ENGL-430 and BLST-303) This course focuses on contemporary African American playwrights. Special attention will be given to changes in the landscape of black American theater over the course of the last two decades. What does contemporary African American drama have to say about issues such as gender, sexuality, class, and/or social justice activism? How has black theater and drama been renewed and/or transformed in the wake of the contemporary movement for black lives? We will search for answers to these questions through close readings of plays by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Dominque Morriseau, Antoinette Nwandu, Jordan Cooper, Anna Deveare Smith, Jeremy O’Harris, Brandon Jenkins, and Katori Hall among others. Our readings will be supplemented with viewings of live-theater performances (included a field-trip to New York City) and virtual conversations with variety of contemporary black playwrights/theater artists. Students should leave this course with not only with a firm grasp on major debates in black theater and performance studies---but also a strong foundation in dramaturgy and dramatic criticism.
Prior coursework in theater studies and/or Black Studies is recommended but not necessary. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Roberts.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ARHA 306, ARCH 306, BLST 306, EUST 305) This upper-level seminar will teach students how to conduct research on race and racism in the field of architectural studies. Throughout the semester, we will visit Amherst College Special Collections as well as several local archives to explore the letters, photographs, drawings, and ground plans that relate to the architecture of race, racism, and social change in the region. Then, we will visit the buildings and spaces that these records address. In the process, we will ask several questions: What can the local historical record tell us about the history of architecture and race at Amherst College and in Western Massachusetts at large? What is missing from local archives? Why do these omissions matter and how should we respond to them? Recognizing the sensitivity of these questions, we will think through what it means to conduct research on topics of political, moral, cultural, and interpersonal significance. Readings and course discussions will examine how other architectural historians have tackled controversies of race and racism in their work. Guest lectures will also introduce students to the intellectual and personal journeys of the diverse range of scholars who are working on these issues today. Overall, the goal of this class is for students to gain an understanding of how to conduct architectural research with the aid of historical documents, building remnants, and altered cultural landscapes. At the end of the semester, students will complete a final research paper. This class is subsequently ideal for students in Black Studies, Architectural Studies, Environmental Studies, and History who are planning to complete a senior thesis.
No prerequisites. Juniors and seniors, however, will be given preference. The class will help students strengthen their critical thinking abilities as well as their writing and research skills. This course is limited to 20 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Dwight Carey.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as COLQ 310 and BLST 310) Giving takes many forms and is known by many names - philanthropy, altruism, humanitarianism, benevolence, welfare, mutual aid, development etc. As a result of this diversity, giving is a rich site of social production and contestation that sheds light on dimensions of much larger social, cultural, and economic issues:. How and why do inequality and poverty persist? How and why are subjects such as the deserving and undeserving poor produced? Why do certain issues or crises elicit charitable outpouring while others do not? What is the relationship between philanthropy and democracy? The course examines four responses to these issues. The first considers religious concepts and practices of giving and charity, including the prosperity gospel. The second looks at international aid such as the response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake and select development initiatives in African countries. The third focuses on the ideology and practices of big philanthropy including Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth and the Gates and Ford foundations. The fourth unit explores the American welfare state, the treatment of its recipients, the attack on “entitlements,” and the privatization of services. Students will be exposed to a variety of perspectives from which to grapple with these issues, including primary sources, scholarly work across several disciplines, fiction, non-fiction, and film.
Fall semester. Limited to 18 students. Professor Cobham-Sander and Michael Stein.
Pending Faculty Approval2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 315 [A] and ARHA 353) Through a contrastive analysis of the religious and artistic modes of expression in three West African societies—the Asanti of the Guinea Coast, and the Yoruba and Igbo peoples of Nigeria—the course will explore the nature and logic of symbols in an African cultural context. We shall address the problem of cultural symbols in terms of African conceptions of performance and the creative play of the imagination in ritual acts, masked festivals, music, dance, oral histories, and the visual arts as they provide the means through which cultural heritage and identity are transmitted and preserved, while, at the same time, being the means for innovative responses to changing social circumstances.
Spring semester. Professor Abiodun.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as HIST 488 [AF/TE/TR/TS] and BLST 321 [A]) There were numerous rebellions in Africa during the colonial period and violent resistance to state authority has continued to characterize political life in many post-colonial African countries. We will look at the economic, social, religious, and political roots of these disturbances. Rebel groups and state forces roiled societies and reconstituted social identities, while legends and rumors swirled around rebellions and their leaders. We will focus on insurgencies and their origins, including spiritual and religious beliefs, disputes over land and labor, and fights against colonial and post-colonial authoritarian states. We will also discuss the problems historians face in researching revolts whose strengths often stemmed from their protean characters. The seminar will study specific revolts, including the Herero Revolt and subsequent genocides in German-controlled South-West Africa in 1904-1907; the first (1896-1897) and second (1960-1979) Chimurengas (revolts) in Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; the Chilembwe Revolt in Malawi in 1915; the Black Consciousness Movement and the student revolt in Soweto, South Africa in 1976; the roles of child soldiers and youth in post-colonial conflicts, and the Holy Spirit Movement and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. Students will complete a 20 to 25 page research paper on individually chosen topics relating to revolts in Africa. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Not offered in 2023-24. Professor Redding.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as HIST 326 [AF/TC/TE/TR] and BLST 326) Diamonds have a long history in global trade; for centuries, they were scarce enough to be among the most precious commodities. But in 1867, the discovery of diamonds in a remote part of the Cape Colony in southern Africa turned them into a commodity that helped to finance the construction of the British empire on the continent and fueled mineral exploitation and empire building by other colonial powers. The diamond industry emerged by the early twentieth century by developing a mass retail market in the gem as a symbol of marital love and respectability, a marketing feat that masked the harsh realities of their production. More recent diamond discoveries in Africa (and elsewhere) have been implicated in enough revolts, secessionist movements, and arms deals to earn the label “conflict diamonds” for the gems coming out of those regions. We will trace the history of diamonds on the continent from their discoveries through the development of mining and labor systems, the creation of the global consumer market, and the use of diamonds as a source of revenue for aspiring empire-builders and revolutionaries. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professor Redding.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 330 [CLA] and ENGL 312) This course offers a comprehensive study of selected Caribbean literature from the perspective of postcolonial and globalization studies. Writers include Dionne Brand, Achy Obejas, Edwidge Danticat, and Kai Miller. Themes include colonization, migration, diasporas, gender and sexuality, immigration, and the experiences of the urban residents. Limited to 20 students.
Omitted 2023-24. Prof. C. Bailey2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as SOCI 334 and BLST 336 [US]) Being “white” is typically treated as a default identity in the United States, yet whiteness remains relatively unexamined as a source of accumulated institutional advantages and cultural entitlements. This course will interrogate prevailing constructions of whiteness, examining its origins as a racial category, its function as group identity and source of individual meaning-making, and its role in reproducing racial hierarchy. Drawing on historical, theoretical, literary, and sociological accounts, our aim will be to contextualize whiteness as a discourse of power. The course will focus primarily, but not exclusively, on the United States, from the pre-Civil Rights era through the contemporary passage from colorblind to nationalist constructions of whiteness.
Requisite: SOCI 112 or equivalent. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Lembo.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as BLST 339[US], SWAG 338, ENGL 361) This course examines a significant portion of Toni Morrison’s body of work. Taking a primarily thematic approach, we will read several novels, essays, and other writings by Morrison. Our readings will also include critical reception of, and the wide-ranging scholarly reflections on Morrison’s work and her contribution to American and Black Diasporic literatures. Assignments will include: oral presentations, essays, and a research project.
Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Carol Bailey.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
This course is designed for Black Studies majors (and prospective Black Studies majors) working on Black Studies theses and other intensive research projects in African American studies and African and African diaspora studies. The course is intended to provide a scholarly community for students as they embark on the writing of their theses and research projects. The course will (a) assist students to identify primary and secondary research materials; (b) carefully explore effective research and writing strategies; (c) workshop students’ work-in-progress; (d) coordinate students' research projects with faculty advisors and the Black Studies librarian. Students are required to submit a substantive research paper at the end of the semester.
Requisite: One course in BLST. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Vaughan.
Pending Faculty Approval2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 347 [US] and SWAG 347) From the aftermath of the Civil War to today's "global war on terror," the U.S. military has functioned as a vital arbiter of the overlapping taxonomies of race, gender, and sexuality in America and around the world. This course examines the global trek of American militarism through times of war and peace in the twentieth century. In a variety of texts and contexts, we will investigate how the U.S. military's production of new ideas about race and racialization, masculinity and femininity, and sexuality and citizenship impacted the lives of soldiers and civilians, men and women, at "home" and abroad. Our interdisciplinary focus will allow us to study the multiple intersections of difference within the military, enabling us to address a number of topics, including: How have African American soldiers functioned as both subjects and agents of American militarism? What role has the U.S. military played in the creation of contemporary gay and lesbian subjectivity? Is military sexual assault a contemporary phenomenon or can it be traced to longer practices of sexual exploitation occurring on or around U.S. bases globally?
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Polk.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
This course will examine the complex and longstanding historical, political, and cultural relationship between France and West Africa. Throughout the semester, we will trace the historical foundations of the West African region, the socio-political effects of its colonial encounter with France, and the diverse responses to the region’s postcolonial realities. We will start our discussion by following the evolution of modern states in West Africa from two defining historical periods: the development of medieval empires in the Sahel and the impact of French colonial domination in the region during the first part of the twentieth century. We will subsequently explore, in light of this history, the philosophical significance of the ever-shifting West African identities through their contemporary political and social expressions. Some of the themes, inspired by this ongoing and often ambivalent relationship between West Africa and France, are decentering histories, the economics of underdevelopment, religious pluralism, decoloniality, and creative/digital activism. These themes will be examined through oral and written histories, essays, articles, literature, speeches, music, art, and film in the course. This course will be taught in English.
Fall semester. Professor Brodnicka
Pending Faculty Approval2022-23: Not offered
While most of us are familiar with African novelists in the Anglophone world, such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, we are less acquainted with their Francophone counterparts, who have just as much to offer through the portrayal of their unique realities. In a world that is challenging and often hostile to womxn, especially those of African descent, Francophone African womxn writers offer their own stories, perspectives, and solutions. From the locus of their homelands or their adopted countries, between Europe and Africa, these authors touch on topics as diverse as immigration, identity, trauma, love, racism, and healing. The emergent themes from these discussions highlight the distinctive Francophone African voices as well as their universal applications to contemporary realities. We will engage both local and global contexts through different literary genres, such as novels, academic articles, plays, poetry, music, and film. Readings may include Veronique Tadjo, Aimer selon Veronique Tadjo, Fatou Diome, Les veilleurs de Sanghomar, Rokhaya Diallo, A Nous la France, Diary Sow, Je pars, and Nathalie M’Dela Mounier, Black Casting. Taught in French.
Omitted 2023-24. Professor Brodnicka2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ENGL 360 and BLST 360) This course explores the life and writings of American author James Baldwin. Born in poverty-stricken Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance (where he spent his childhood as a Pentecostal boy-preacher), Baldwin went on to become one of the twentieth century’s most influential essayists, novelists, orators, and political commentators---particularly around issues related to American race relations. Unapologetically black, queer, and radical—Baldwin’s writings have become a source of resurgent public interest, particularly in the wake of today’s turbulent U.S. political climate. In this course we will study key moments in Baldwin’s oeuvre and situate the author’s work in a variety of relevant historical “contexts” (such as in the contexts of the American civil rights movement; the black power movement; the gay liberation movement, and the contemporary movement for black lives). We will pay particular attention to reoccurring themes that sit at the center of Baldwin’s political philosophy including: the power of love as an animating force for social transformation; the resilient nature of black resistance; the role and responsibility of artists- as-troublemakers; the limitations of white “ally-ship,” the dangers (and creative possibilities) of organized religion; and the ongoing “problem” of global white supremacy. In addition, we will place Baldwin’s writings in conversation with the voices of some of his contemporaries and literary progeny. One primary concern will be how to place Baldwin’s writings in conversation with current debates about race, gender, sexuality, and politics in contemporary America. Why does Baldwin’s work seem to resonate so forcefully with the social justice concerns of today— and to what ends?
Fall semester. Professor Roberts.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as SOCI-380 and BLST-380) This course examines the rise of colorblind discourse in the United States and the ways it has shaped views of race and racism from the civil rights era to the present day. Distinguishing between liberal and conservative versions of colorblindness, we will explore key ideas--of individualism, the market economy, merit, race and ethnicity, and affirmative action, among others—and situate them amidst more broad-based economic, political, and cultural transformations. We will assess the empirical evidence for the major assertions of colorblindness across key dimensions of racial inequality in American social life: the market economy, employment, housing, education, criminal justice, and health care, including effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Colorblind accounts and their critics place particular emphasis on the fate of Black communities and lives, and this will figure importantly in our assessment of their work. The course concludes with a discussion of contemporary social movements regarding race, both colorblind and race-conscious varieties, considering the aims and outcomes of their activism, including the impact on mainstream policymaking and communities of color.
Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of instructor. Fall semester. Professor Lembo.
Pending Faculty Approval2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as ECON 416, BLST 416 and SWAG 416) Economics is fundamentally about both efficiency and equity. It is about allocation, welfare, and well-being. How, then, can we use this disciplinary perspective to understand hierarchy, power, inequity, discrimination, and injustice? What does economics have to offer? Applied microeconomics is a fundamentally outward-looking and interdisciplinary field that endeavors to answer this question by being both firmly grounded in economics and also deeply connected to sociology, psychology, political science, and law. In this class, we will employ this augmented economic perspective to try to understand the hierarchies and operation of race and gender in society. We will read theoretical and empirical work that engages with questions of personal well-being, economic achievement, and social interaction. Students will have opportunities throughout the semester to do empirical and policy-relevant work. Each student will build a solid foundation for the completion of an independent term paper project that engages with a specific economic question about racial or gender inequity.
Requisite: ECON 300/301 (Microeconomics) or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Professor Reyes. Omitted 2023-24.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as ENGL 491, BLST 461 [CLA], and LLAS 461) What would it mean to write in the language in which we dream? A language that we can hear, but cannot (yet) see? Is it possible to conceive a language outside the socio-symbolic order? And can one language subvert the codes and values of another? Questions like these have animated the creolité/nation language debate among Caribbean intellectuals since the mid-1970s, producing some of the most significant francophone and anglophone writing of the twentieth century. This course reads across philosophy, cultural theory, politics, and literature in order to consider the claims such works make for the Creole imagination. We will engage the theoretical and creative work of Édouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat. We also will consider how these writers transform some of the fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, and critical historiography. At stake in our readings will be the various aesthetic and political aspects of postcolonial struggle–how to think outside the colonial architecture of language; how to contest and subvert what remains from history’s violence; and how to evaluate the claims to authenticity of creolized New World cultural forms.
Limited to 20 students. Open to juniors and seniors. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.2022-23: Not offered
Independent reading course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Fall semester. The Department.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022