This course examines the rich and complex history of Pan-African and international thoughts in the twentieth century through the works of African, Afro-American, and Afro-Caribbean intellectuals. The period between 1900 and 1975 offers a limited, but dynamic and ideal phase (from the 1900 Pan-African Conference to the "late" decolonization of Portugal's African territories) for studying those intellectuals, as the eventful decades revealed their diverse methods and articulations designed to combat colonial rule, labor exploitation, and white supremacy. The overall aim of the course is for students to gain structured, critical, but appreciative knowledge of and insights into the variety of Pan-African ideas and intellectuals. The readings focus on primary sources in addition to recent studies and contemporary commentaries relevant to the weekly topics.
Topics in the Black Experience Seminar: Organized Labor & the Black Worker
"This course will explore the complicated relationship between the Black working class and the organized labor movement in the USA. It will examine issues of race and racism, but will also address questions of organization, strategy and the larger environment that affected the course of labor relations in the USA."
Topics in the Black Experience Seminar: Honey is My Knife: African Spirituality in the Americas
This seminar will investigate the cultural contributions of Africans in the formation of the contemporary Americas. There will be a particular focus on the African religious traditions that have continued and developed in spite of hostile social and political pressures. Because of their important roles in the continuations of African aesthetics, the areas of visual art, music and dance will be emphasized in the exploration of the topic. This seminar will also discuss two important African ethnic groups: the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria, and the Bakongo of Central Africa. It will highlight the American religious traditions of these cultures, e.g., Candomblé Nago/Ketu, Santeria/Lucumi, Shango, Xangô, etc., for the Yoruba, and Palo Mayombe, Umbanda, Macumba, Kumina, African-American Christianity, etc., for the Bakongo and other Central Africans. In the course discussions, the Americas are to include Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the United States and numerous other appropriate locations. There will also be a focus on visual artists like Charles Abramson, Jose Bedia, Juan Boza, Lourdes Lopez, Manuel Mendive, etc., whose works are grounded in African based religions. In addition, we will explore how African religious philosophy has impacted on every-day life in the Americas, for example in the areas of international athletics, procedures of greeting and degreeting, culinary practices, etc.
Honey is My Knife: African Spirituality in the Americas will include presentations by three innovative guest scholars: Jacqui Malone, author of Steppin' on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance, will discuss the history of African American vernacular dance; Marta Moreno Vega, a scholar, filmmaker and priest of Santeria/Lucumi, will discuss her book and film When the Spirits Dance Mambo; and Dowoti Desir, a scholar, curator and Vodun priestess, will discuss Haitian visual arts and their relationship to the Vodun religion. The seminar will include an extensive use of audio-visual materials including slides, videos and audio recordings.
“A Phenomena(l) Woman” The Novels and Career of Toni Morrison, addressing how Morrison became the greatest African-American writer of the 20th century. A single mother, editor, professor, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner and best-selling author, Morrison has differentiated herself from other African-American (women) writers and worked her way into the American literary canon above many white American male authors. Her texts are seductive, haunting, complex in their presentation of American and African-American life and history. Constructed with mathematical precision and delivered in lush language her texts have set the standard for novelistic production. The characters she births and cultivates out of the simplest and most neglected of this nation’s landscape, the former slaves, little black girls, black women in every walks of life, from domestics, to sorceresses to prostitutes as well as the broken, ambitious, confused and creative black men as well as the natural spaces they occupy that become looming characters in their own right through her writing, have allowed an international readership to spy a world to which most are usually not privy, and possibly a history some prefer not to uncover.
In this Seminar we will attempt to create our own, directed “sample mix” of the roots, history and transformations of African American music. Our multi-dimensional scan will be centuries long, continents wide, and cultures deep. We will experience the music as sound and we will experience the music as meaning. The music will be examined as a means of defining a community. And the music will be examined as a shared cross-cultural activity among friends and enemies alike.
Critical Approaches to African-American Studies
This colloquium, which is an optional requirement for all Master of Arts students in the African-American Studies graduate program, is designed to introduce some of the key issues, controversies and debates that characterize the field of black studies historically and today. This required seminar presents a detailed overview of the major theoretical paradigms, debates and issues that define the field of African-American Studies. Topics that are discussed include: Afrocentricity and its critics; the connections between race, gender, sexuality and class; black feminist thought; black socialist and Marxist thought; multiculturalism and ethnic studies; and the changing character of race in post industrial, post-colonial societies.
Topics in the Black Experience Seminar: Transgressing Female Gendered-Sexualities
This exploratory course examines Black female gendered-sexuality from a transnational perspective. Drawing primarily from a social science perspective we will examine the theoretical, conceptual, historical, and socio-cultural context in which race, gender, and sexuality are used as analytical concepts. Using new media technology we will also explore the fluidity of these concepts as social constructions that shape and influence our notions about women of Afro-descent as racialized gendered sexual beings.
Topics in the Black Experience Seminar: Voting Rights in the U.S.: Contesting the Right to Vote
This graduate seminar is a rigorous overview of the evolution of voting rights in the United States since the founding of the republic in the 1770s, and is intended to give students a considerable amount of information about the legal regulation of the ballot; the constitutional right to vote; development of the one-vote, one-person legal doctrine; and the regulation of who votes via the law. More specifically, it scrutinizes the way in which the law has shaped the structure of American political participation in determining who can and cannot vote. We will cover over 25 major Supreme Court cases on topics of voting rights, reapportionment/redistricting and ballot access. We will pay particular attention to competing political philosophies and empirical assumptions that underlie the Supreme Court’s reasoning while still focusing on the cases as litigation tools to be used to serve political ends.
Topics in the Black Experience Seminar: Historicity and Sovereignty
This seminar will engage the question of the status of sovereignty by way of the question of the relation of the history of slavery and its immediate aftermath in the United States to democracy. The monumental work of W.E.B. Du Bois on this question, Black Reconstruction, 1935, will be our primary text. While will approach this question and text according to what could be called a philosophical problematic, it is yet certain that the status of philosophy for thought will also be at stake in this engagement. We will pursue our inquiry on two inseparable and interwoven tracks: (a) the question of how to think the status of ideals in or as historicity, and (b) the relation of a project of philosophical reason, absolute, universal or sovereign reason, to actual figures of historicity. In the midst of our reading of the work of Du Bois, according to the problems announced therein, we will undertake passages of varying intensity and focus into the work of several other thinkers, writers, filmmakers, and other kinds of artists: C.L.R. James, R. Ellison, Alejo Carpentier, M. Foucault, J. Derrida, I. Kant and G.W.F. Hegel, Thomas Jefferson, F. Nietzsche, R. Akutagawa and A. Kurosawa, G. Bataille and W. Benjamin, Aimée Césaire, Frantz Fanon, R. Guha and B.S. Cohn, H. Cruse and C. Robinson, H. Spillers, J. Jarmusch and F. Whitaker, G. Agamben, among others. The precise course which the seminar will follow will be based on the prior work and current interest of the actual members. Such members should read or re-read Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk prior to the first meeting, specifically chapters 1, 2, 4, 13 and 14.
Topics in the Black Experience Seminar: Lyrics on Lockdown -Hip Hop and Spoken Word vs. the Prison Industrial Complex
From the Last Poets to Public Enemy, from Gil Scott-Heron and Sonia Sanchez to Saul Williams and Suheir Hammad, the poets of the Black Arts movement have inspired the Hip Hop generation to build a better world with the word like never before. This course was inspired by Blackout Arts Collectives' annual prison tour of the same name, and has evolved to combine elements of several others offered during the past three years at Brooklyn College/CUNY (“Critical Literacies”), New York University (“The Spoken Word”), and Columbia University ("Youth Voices on Lockdown").
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