Fall 2020 Courses

Core Courses


AAS 300 (SA)

Junior Seminar: Research And Writing In African American Studies

As a required course for AAS concentrators, this junior seminar introduces students to theories and methods of research design in African American Studies. Drawing on a wide-ranging methodological toolkit from the humanities and social sciences, students will learn to reflect on the ethical and political dimensions of original research to produce knowledge that is intellectually and socially engaged. This is a writing-intensive seminar with weekly essay assignments. [AAS Juniors Only]

Tera W. Hunter, Naomi Murakawa

AAS 326 / ENG 286 (LA)

Topics in African American Culture & Life: Early African American Literature


This introductory course focuses on African American literature and literary production from the mid-18th century to the early 20th. In readings, assignments, and discussions, we will explore the unique cultural contexts, aesthetic debates, and socio-political forces surrounding the production of an early African American literary tradition. 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, and non-fiction writing by W.E.B. DuBois, and fiction by Frances Harper. [This course fulfills the pre-20th Core Survey Requirement for concentrators. This course fulfills the core survey requirements for certificate students.]

Autumn M. Womack

AAS 367 / HIS 387 (CD or HA)

African American History Since Emancipation


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, this course situates African American history within broader national and international contexts.

Joshua B. Guild


Undergraduate Courses


AAS 201 / PHI 291 (CD or EC)

African American Studies and the Philosophy of Race


This course introduces students to the field of African American Studies through an examination of the complex experiences, both past and present, of Americans of African descent. From a multidisciplinary perspective, it reveals the complicated ways we come to know and live race in the United States. Students engage classic texts in the field, all of which are framed by a concern with epistemologies of resistance and of ignorance that offers insight into African American thought and practice.

Eddie S. Glaude Jr.Imani Perry

AAS 303 / HUM 306 / GSS 406 (HA)

Topics in Global Race and Ethnicity:  Scientific Racism Then and Now


This course explores the intellectual history of scientific racism, paying close attention to how its theories influence power and institutions today. Reading primary sources from the history of science, each class will trace the reverberations of scientific racism in media, education, politics, law, and global health. Our conversations will consistently analyze the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, age, and disability in the legacies of scientific racism. We will also examine the impact of scientific racism in public discourse about the Black Lives Matter Movement and collectively brainstorm for activism towards restorative justice.

Dannelle Gutarra Cordero

AAS 306 / AMS 305 (CD or HA)

Topics in Race and Public Policy: Race and Inequality in American Democracy


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.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

AAS 339 / EGR 339 (CD or SA)

Black Mirror: Race, Technology, and Justice


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 decision 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, policymakers, and the broader public.

Ruha Benjamin

AAS 358 / REL 379 / GSS 359 (CD or HA)

Sexuality and Religion in America


Sexuality has long been a contested and contentious issue within American religions, yet only recently have scholars begun to address it forthrightly. This course will explore the emerging literature on sexuality and religion as a way to understand how approaches to sex and sexuality within "sacred spaces" have shaped private behavior and public opinion. We will give particular attention to African American religious traditions and American evangelicalism and Catholicism more broadly for the way they have been especially influential in framing (and inhibiting) sexual discourse and practices in the United States.

Wallace D. Best 

AAS 392 / ENG 392 (LA)

Topics in African American Literature: Reading Toni Morrison


This course we will undertake the deceptively simple question: how do we read Toni Morrison? In taking up this task, we will devote our attention to various scenes and sites of reading across Morrison’s oeuvre, asking how Morrison is encouraging us to read history, slavery, violence, geography, time, space, gender, and friendship. We will also engage with Morrison’s own status as a reader by considering her work as an editor and literary critic. Through regular engagement with the Toni Morrison Papers housed at Firestone we will consider what it means to be able to read Morrison in such close proximity to these archival materials.

Autumn M. Womack

AAS 411 / AFS 411 / ART 371 (CD or LA)

Art, Apartheid, and South Africa


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.

Chika O. Okeke-Agulu


Cross Listed Courses


ART 260 / AAS 260 / AFS 260 (CD or LA)

Introduction to African Art


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.

Chika O. Okeke-Agulu

CLA 310 / POL 310 / CHV 314 / AAS 311 (SA)

Citizenships Ancient and Modern


Recent developments in the United States and throughout the world have exposed fault lines in how communities design and regulate forms of citizenship. But current debates over the assignment, withholding, or deprivation of citizen status have a long and violent history. In this course we will attempt to map a history of citizenship from the ancient Mediterranean world to the 21st century. Questions to be tackled include: who/what is a citizen? (How) are exclusion and marginalization wired into the historical legacies and present-day practices of citizenship?

Dan-El Padilla Peralta

COM 239 / AAS 239 / AFS 239 / HUM 239 (CD or LA)

Introduction to African Literature and Film


African literature and films have been a vital (but often unacknowledged) stream in and stimulant to the global traffic in invention. Nigerian literature is one of the great literatures of the 20th century. Ethiopian literature is one of the oldest literatures in the world. South Africans have won more Noble Prizes for Literature in the past forty years than authors from almost any other country. Senegalese films include some of the finest films ever made. In this course, we will study the richness and diversity of foundational African texts (some in translation), while foregrounding questions of aesthetics, style, humor, epistemology.

Wendy L. Belcher

COM 376 / AAS 371 / GSS 381 (CD or LA)

Crafting Freedom: Women and Liberation in the Americas (1960s to the Present)


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.

Susana Draper

CWR 316 / LAO 316 / ASA 316 / AAS 336 (LA)

Special Topics in Poetry: Race, Identity and Innovation


This workshop explores the link between racial identity and poetic innovation in work by contemporary poets of color. Experimental or avant-garde poetry in the American literary tradition has often defined itself as "impersonal," "against expression" or "post-identity." Unfortunately, this mindset has tended to exclude or downplay poems that engage issues of racial identity. This course explores works where poets of color have treated racial identity as a means to destabilize literary ideals of beauty, mastery and the autonomy of the text while at the same time engaging in poetic practices that subvert conceptions of identity or authenticity.

Monica Y. Youn

DAN 211 / AAS 211 (LA)

The American Experience and Dance Practices of the African Diaspora


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.

Dyane Harvey Salam

ENG 354 / AAS 354 (LA)

Black Dramatists in the English-Speaking World


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 Century. We will explore dramatic works of writers from Africa, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Nathan A. Davis

ENG 411 / AMS 411 / AAS 413 (LA)

Major Author(s): Mourning America: Emerson and Douglass


This course focuses on the relations and differences between these two "representative men" of the 19th century. Demonstrating that Douglass' strategies of writing have relays with Emerson's points will enable us to bring out the radically political and historical character of Emerson's writings but also the profoundly literary elements of Douglass' political writings. Using the writings of these two key figures of the 19th century as a kind of measure, the course will seek to understand the governing cultural and political rhetorics through which America thought about such issues as race, slavery, manifest destiny, westward expansion, and identity.

Eduardo L. Cadava

ENG 573 / AAS 572

Problems in Literary Study: The Present Moment

How do critics, writers, and readers approach the work of the present moment? Engaging literary and cultural objects produced over the last calendar year, this seminar interrogates the field of 21st century literature and culture in English, and the contemporary role of critique in academic and popular culture. We examine primary texts that undertake their own projects of social, political, and formal critique alongside experiments in theoretical writing from academics and non-academics alike. As creators and critics in the present moment, what audiences are we writing for? What forms can that writing take?

Sarah A. Chihaya, Kinohi Nishikawa

GSS 218 / AAS 218 (HA)

The Racialization of Beauty


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.

Dannelle Gutarra Cordero

GSS 219 / AAS 219 (SA)

Race, Gender, Sexuality, and the Contemporary States of Unfreedom


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, structural violence, and climate change 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 the annual U.S. TIP Report.

Dannelle Gutarra Cordero

GSS 502 / AAS 502 / POL 514 (SA)

Gender and Sexuality in American Politics and Policy

This course examines the ways in which gender and sexuality shape and are shaped by U.S. politics and public policy, emphasizing intersections with other categories, identities, and forms of marginalization including race, ethnicity, class, ideology, and partisan identification. We examine the history, approaches, and controversies in research about gender and sexuality in U.S. politics from a range of theoretical and methodological approaches. We also explore feminist, queer, and intersectional theories and methodologies, related work from other disciplines, and research that does not fit neatly into traditional disciplinary categories.

Dara Z. Strolovitch

HIS 443 / AAS 443 (CD or HA)

Black Worldmaking: The African Diaspora Since 1945


This course explores the social, political, and cultural history of the African diaspora in the period spanning national independence and decolonization; civil rights, Black Power, and Black consciousness; postcolonialism, migration, and transnational cultural exchange. It considers the ways Africans and African-descended peoples in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Europe helped bring about the fall of the old colonial order and responded to the various developments that arose in its wake.  topics will include racial formation, nationalism, pan-Africanism, anticolonialism,  anti-apartheid, and popular culture.

Joshua B. Guild

HIS 577 / AAS 577

Readings in African American History

This course is designed to introduce graduate students to the literature of African American History, from the colonial era up to more recent times. Major themes and debates are highlighted. The course should help students to define interests within the field to pursue further study and research and also to aid preparation for examinations.

Tera W. Hunter

REL 308 / MED 316 / HUM 313 / AAS 340 (HA)

Christians and Incarceration


Christianity and incarceration have a long and storied history. One way of telling the history of Christianity is through its changing relationship to the carceral practices and geographies. The course explores the changing relationship between Christians and carceral practices and geographies throughout its history, beginning at the origins of what became Christianity in 1st century Palestine and ending with the 2017 Alabama State Legislature's passing of a bill allowing churches to police their communities

Matthew Larsen

REL 505 / AAS 505 (SA)

Studies in the Religions of the Americas : Reading and Writing American Religious History

In this course we will read and critically engage the texts that scholars have considered foundational for the study of American and African American religious history in the last half century. These texts have set the thematic and discursive terms for much of what we have come to see as important for the study of religion in the United States, including notions of "exodus," "lived religion," and "sacred worlds."

Judith Weisenfeld

SPI 331 / SOC 312 / AAS 317 (SA)

Race and Public Policy


Analyzes the historical construction of race as a concept in American society, how and why this concept was institutionalized publicly and privately in various arenas of U.S. public life at different historical junctures, and the progress that has been made in dismantling racialized institutions since the civil rights era.

Douglas S. Massey