Students will learn about the human body in its social, cultural and political contexts. The framing is sociological rather than biomedical, attentive to cultural meanings, institutional practices, politics and social problems. The course explicitly discusses bodies in relation to race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age, health, geography and citizenship status, carefully examining how social differences come to appear natural. Analyzing clinics, prisons, border zones, virtual realities and more, students develop a conceptual toolkit to analyze how society "gets under the skin", producing differential exposure to premature death.
'Revolution knows no compromise,' Malcolm X said in a 1963 speech. 'You haven't got a revolution that doesn't involve bloodshed.' This course investigates the concepts of revolution and counterrevolution by centering the race question. We will explore the strategies that liberation movements used to achieve revolution and conversely, how imperial states aimed to subvert these movements through counterrevolutionary warfare. Our class will highlight Black, Indigenous, and Third World liberation struggles, and we will look at cases in Haiti, the U.S., Russia, Algeria, Cuba, and Iran.
The course traces how anti-Black racism shaped the development of western medicine in the Americas. It will examine how ideas of anti-Blackness shaped the work of health practitioners and the experiences of patients. It will engage the emergence of racial science and scientific racism, and how they contributed to the production of medical knowledge. It will also address the enduring legacies of anti-Black racism in medical practice, and its impact on health inequality.
This course will explore the major issues that have shaped the Caribbean since 1791, including: colonialism and revolution, slavery and abolition, migration and diaspora, economic inequality, and racial hierarchy. We will examine the Caribbean through a comparative approach--thinking across national and linguistic boundaries--with a focus on Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. While our readings and discussions will foreground the islands of the Greater Antilles, we will also consider relevant examples from the circum-Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora as points of comparison.
This course will analyze the narrative accounts of African American women since the nineteenth century. Working from the hypothesis that religious metaphor and symbolism have figured prominently in Black women's writing (& writing about Black women) across literary genres, we will explore the various ways Black women have used their narratives not only to disclose the intimacies of their religious faith, but also to understand and to critique their social context. We will discuss the themes, institutions, and structures that have traditionally shaped Black women's experiences, as well as the theologies Black women have developed in response.
This seminar investigates the historical experiences of women in the Caribbean from the era of European conquest to the late twentieth century. We will examine how shifting conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, class, and the body have shaped understandings of womanhood and women's rights. We will engage a variety of sources - including archival documents, films, newspaper accounts, feminist blogs, music, and literary works - in addition to historical scholarship and theoretical texts. The course will include readings on the Spanish-, English-, and French-speaking Caribbean as well as the Caribbean diaspora.
Are robots racist? Is software sexist? Are neural networks neutral? From everyday apps to complex algorithms, technology has the potential to hide, speed up, and even deepen discrimination. Using the Black Mirror TV series as a starting point, we will explore a range of emerging technologies that encode inequity in digital platforms and automated decisions systems, and develop a conceptual toolkit to decode tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. Students will apply design justice principles in a collaborative project and learn to communicate course insights to tech practitioners, policy makers, and the broader public.
Born in the late 1800s, the New Negro movement demanded political equality, desegregation, and an end to lynching, while also launching new forms of international Black cultural expression. The visionary modernity of its artists not only reimagined the history of the Black diaspora by developing new artistic languages through travel, music, religion and poetry, but also shaped modernism as a whole in the 20th century. Incorporating field trips and sessions in the Princeton University Art Museum, this course explores Afro-modern forms of artistic expression from the late 19th-century into the mid-20th century.
This introductory course traces the emergence of an African American literary tradition, from the late-18th century to the early 20th. In readings, assignments, and discussion we will consider the unique cultural contexts, aesthetic debates, and socio-political forces underpinning African American literary cultural and practice. Over the course of the semester, we will investigate the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and Paul L. Dunbar, the political oratory of Sojourner Truth and David Walker, slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Wilson, writing by W.E.B. DuBois, and novels by Frances Harper.
This lecture offers an introduction to the major themes, critical questions, and pivotal moments in post-emancipation African American history. It traces the social, political, cultural, intellectual, and legal contours of the Black experience in the United States from Reconstruction to the rise of Jim Crow, through the World Wars, Depression, and the Great Migrations, to the long civil rights era and the contemporary period of racial politics. Using a wide variety of texts, images, and creative works, the course situates African American history within broader national and international contexts.
This course explores how ideas and discourses about race shape how public policy is debated, adopted, and implemented. Black social movements and geopolitical considerations prompted multiple public policy responses to racial discrimination throughout the twentieth century. Despite these policy responses, discrimination persists, raising theoretical concerns about the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, political representation, the role of the state (meaning government or law) in promoting social justice, and the role of social movements and civil society in democratizing policymaking and addressing group oppression.
Apartheid, the political doctrine of separation of races in South Africa (1948-1990), dominated the (South) African political discourse in the second half of the 20th century. While it lasted, art and visual cultures were marshaled in the defense and contestation of its ideologies. Since the end of Apartheid, artists, filmmakers, dramatists, and scholars continue to reexamine the legacies of Apartheid and the social, philosophical, and political conditions of non-racialized South Africa. Course readings examine issues of race, nationalism and politics, art and visual culture, and social memory in South Africa.
This interdisciplinary seminar introduces graduate students to African American intellectual traditions. Reading across disciplines and genres, we engage theories and histories of racial formation, racial capitalism, slavery and empire, social movements, and cultural representation. Particular attention is paid to Black radicalism, to the ways various thinkers have imagined the relationship between theory and praxis, and to Black intellectual activity as a dynamic site of both critique and knowledge production.
This course is designed to explore how centering Black and Native/Indigenous feminist epistemologies (ways of knowing), theories, methods, themes, cultural production, and decolonial and abolitionist struggle reorient the field of American Studies. If we orient American Studies around and through Black and Native/Indigenous gendered, sexualized, feminist and queer modes of survival and ingenuity; what themes, debates, and questions rise to the surface and become salient?
The seminar explores philosophical intersections of race and architecture, revealing Blackness as a negative aesthetic formation in historical and theoretical discourses. The transfiguration of Blackness from "inferior" historical racial sign to compelling architectonic language parallels John Dewey's formulations on rhetoric and "becoming." The result is a new spatial rhetoric founded on Blackness. Blackness is discussed as an aesthetic principle rather than a strictly socio-political condition. The distinction allows us to understand how race and architecture coexist.
An introduction to African art and architecture from prehistory to the 20th century. Beginning with Paleolithic rock art of northern and southern Africa, we will cover ancient Nubia and Meroe; Neolithic cultures such as Nok, Djenne and Ife; African kingdoms, including Benin, Asante, Bamun, Kongo, Kuba, Great Zimbabwe, and the Zulu; Christian Ethiopia and the Islamic Swahili coast; and other societies, such as the Sherbro, Igbo, and the Maasai. By combining Africa's cultural history and developments in artistic forms we establish a long historical view of the stunning diversity of the continent's indigenous arts and architecture.
This course examines the relationship of art and medicine in the construction and production of race in the British Empire from the early modern period until the beginning of the twentieth century. We will analyze how image-making has been used in the development of medical knowledge and how scientific concepts of vision and natural history have been incorporated into art making. We will then examine how these intersections were deployed to visualize and, sometimes, challenge continually changing meanings about human and geographical difference across Britain and its colonies.
This course will explore the theory and practice of rhetoric in ancient Greece and Rome and the ways in which classical rhetoric has been adapted in modern American verbal art. From Gorgias and Demosthenes to Lincoln and Douglass, to Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer, we will consider what makes individual speeches noteworthy in their local, historical contexts, as well as placing them in a larger rhetorical tradition. Throughout, we will analyze the role of ideologies of gender, class, race, nationality, religion, and sexuality in the construction of the rhetorical subject.
This course explores questions and practices of liberation in writings by women philosophers and poets whose work helped to create cultural and political movements in the U.S. and Latin America. Starting in the 60s, we will study a poetics and politics of liberation, paying special attention to the role played by language and imagination when ideas translate onto social movements related to social justice, structural violence, education, care, and the commons. Readings include Gloria Anzaldúa, Angela Davis, Silvia Federici, Diamela Eltit, Audre Lorde, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Gayatri Spivak, Zapatistas, among others.
A studio course introducing students to American dance aesthetics and practices, with a focus on how its evolution has been influenced by African American choreographers and dancers. An ongoing study of movement practices from traditional African dances and those of the African Diaspora, touching on American jazz dance, modern dance, and American ballet. Studio work will be complemented by readings, video viewings, guest speakers, and dance studies.
This introductory survey course gives equal weight to scholarly study and embodied practice, using both approaches to explore a range of hip-hop dance techniques, as well as the cultural and historical contexts from which these dances emerged. Special attention will be given to breaking - the most prominent hip-hop form - as a foundation for exploring other forms of movement. By critically exploring these physical and historical connections, individuals will adapt and apply their own philosophies to dance in order to develop a personalized style.
This course explores the politics, aesthetics, and histories of Black American dance from the early 1970s to today. Paying special attention to the politics of circulation and new technologies, we will explore questions around innovation, virality, citation, ownership, and appropriation. Radio, television, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok will be studied as connected yet discreet technologies of creative dispersal in direct relationship to their capacity for/constraints around creative, economic, and political output.
Enrolled students will engage with this course as workshop cast members of a new interdisciplinary piece by Princeton Arts Fellow Michael J. Love and explore methods of rhythm tap dance performance, live electronic music composition, and practice-based research on Black American music (genres such as jazz, funk, soul, hip hop, techno, and house). In-studio class meetings, structured as rehearsals, will be augmented with weekly listening, viewing, and reading assignments. There may also be opportunities for guest artists and respondents. The course will culminate in a work-in-progress showing during the final weeks of the semester.
The language of a play intermingles thought and dramatic action to epitomize an unreconciled social conflict, intended to manifest within and between human bodies in real time. What have English-language dramatists of African descent identified as the central conflicts of their plays? How have their relationships to race, power, and colonial structures influenced their works? In what ways have they shaped, subverted, and advanced theatrical forms? This course will survey plays written by Black playwrights in the 20th and 21st C. We will explore dramatic works of writers from Africa, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
"Out of Africa always something new," said Pliny the Elder. That might have been the first definition of Africanfuturism. But it also implies something that Africanfuturism fights against: the West's denial of Africa's rich history. Africanfuturism is speculative science fiction and art that reanimates African history and a future that is both prior to, and beyond, the ethnographic gaze, colonial "race science," European technocracy, and Western utopianism. The course tracks the emergence of Africanfuturism in literature from Amos Tutuola to Nnedi Okorafor, and in graphic novels, film, sculpture, collage, and political manifestos.
Frantz Fanon is among the most important intellectuals of the twentieth century whose writings are critical in rethinking our world. In this course we read Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth, plus essays in A Dying Colonialism and Toward the African Revolution. We read authors Fanon studied like Césaire, Capécia, Mannoni, Wright, Sartre, and Hegel, as well as recent scholars who interpret Fanon for our times like Ato Sekyi-Otu, Homi K. Bhabha, Achille Mbembe, Reiland Rabaka, Hamid Dabashi, Glen Coulthard, Anthony Alessandrini, and Gamal Abdel-Shehid and Zahir Kolia.
The course examines Marx's critique of capitalist slavery and its refiguration in Caribbean critique. We discuss the writings of Toussaint Louverture, Henry Christophe, C.L.R. James, Eric Williams, Aimé Césaire, and Suzanne Césaire - key figures of the `Black Jacobin' tradition - as they develop original critiques of slavery, colonialism, and Antillean capitalism, these being understood as what Marx called the `social forms' (gesellschaftliche Formen) of labour and wealth.
In revisiting key junctures of German intellectual history in the light of critical race theory, this seminar has five goals: 1) to examine concepts of race in classical German thought (Kant, Herder, Hegel) and question their premises; 2) to study pseudo-scientific discourses on race in German colonialism and totalitarianism; 3) to engage with recent debates on the singularity of the Shoah vs. comparative genocide studies; 4) to read literary texts with an eye to symptomatic racializations; and 5) to explore how texts in contemporary Black studies engage with and critically transform German thought.
This course explores the intellectual history of media, sex, and the racialized body. We will analyze the representation of the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in film, advertisements, the fashion industry, reality TV, animation, and music videos. This course will also closely examine the predominance of White heteronormativity in film, the representation of gender in K-pop and K-dramas, and the sexualization of Blackness and Latinidad in Blaxploitation films and telenovelas.
This course explores the intellectual history of the racialization of beauty. We will begin by analyzing how the history of Atlantic slavery and scientific racism set precedents for the contemporary dominant conceptualization of beauty in the body, art, and nature. Students will then concentrate on the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in beauty pageants, advertising, and the plastic surgery industry. This course will also closely examine racialized fat phobia, the racial politics of hair, transnational colorism, and racialized exploitation in beauty service work.
This course explores the recent history of ideas about contemporary unfreedom, focusing on the influence of discourses about race, gender, and sexuality. We will study how scientific racism and racial capitalism fuel contemporary slavery. Students will analyze how the silencing of the pervasiveness of contemporary slavery is tied to the narrative of "abolition" and the globalization of economic dynamics based on the exploitation of predominantly people of color. This course will also examine the racialization of child exploitation, survivor criminalization, and representation of unfreedom in anti-trafficking campaigns.
This seminar in history and documentary film explores personal narrative and how individual experience contributes to profound social change. We study 1960s youth through oral history, biography, memoir, ethnography and journalism. Trenton NJ is the case study. Themes include: civil rights & Black power; immigration & migration; student uprisings & policing; gender & sexuality; high school & college; churches & city institutions; sports & youth culture; labor, class & neighborhood; politics & government. Working with documentary narrative, the course asks how a new generation of storytellers will shape public conversations and policy.
From "Chinese opium" to Oxycontin, and from cocaine and "crack" to BiDil, drug controversies reflect enduring debates about the role of medicine, the law, the policing of ethnic identity, and racial difference. This course explores the history of controversial substances (prescription medicines, over-the-counter products, black market substances, psychoactive drugs), and how, from cigarettes to alcohol and opium, they become vehicles for heated debates over immigration, identity, cultural and biological difference, criminal character, the line between legality and illegality, and the boundaries of the normal and the pathological.
This course grapples with changing understandings of race in Latin America from the early 19th century to the present, and explores the persistent tension between nation-building projects and the region's remarkable human diversity. Latin America's history, like that of the US, has been profoundly shaped by the violent legacies of conquest and slavery. Yet the categories through which Latin Americans imagine racial difference have tended to shift over time and with them, the forms taken by racism and discrimination. We will set these evolving concepts in their historical context, the better to understand their concrete and enduring effects.
This course will examine the musical, historical, and cultural aspects of jazz throughout its entire history, looking at the 20th century as the breeding ground for jazz in America and beyond. During this more than one hundred year period, jazz morphed and fractured into many different styles and voices, all of which will be considered. In addition to the readings, the course will place an emphasis on listening to jazz recordings, and developing an analytical language to understand these recordings. A central goal is to understand where jazz was, is, and will be in the future, examining the musicians and the music that has kept jazz alive.
This course introduces students to important texts from the immense body of scholarship on slavery, anti-slavery movements, and post-emancipation culture in the Iberian Atlantic world, focusing primarily on the "slave societies"of 19th-century Cuba and Brazil and their connections to the greater Caribbean. Grounded in historiography, the course includes literature, court documents, visual culture, studies of post-emancipation movements, theories from the black radical tradition, and films about Latin American slavery. Sub-topics include insurrections, autobiography, religion, the role of translators, conucos/provision grounds, fashion.
In this Princeton Challenge course, students will participate in building a relationship between a historically significant Black theater company, Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, and the university community. Co-taught by Sydne Mahone, Director of play development at Crossroads 1985-1997, students will research the theater through its people and its art, while making the role of women in Black art-making more visible. Students will consider their own role in movements for change, and the role of storytelling as a call to action. Our work will culminate in creative responses and roadmaps for continuing community relationship.