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Course Descriptions

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101-6 – First-Year Seminar

Topic varies by instructor

210 – Survey of African American Literature

Literature of blacks in the United States from slavery to freedom. Works of major writers and significant but unsung bards of the past.

211 – Literatures of the Black World

Introductory survey of fiction, poetry, drama, folktales, and other literary forms of Africa and the African diaspora. Texts may span the precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial periods and cover central themes, such as memory, trauma, spirituality, struggle, identity, freedom, and humor.

212-1 – Introduction to African American History 1: Key Concepts From 1700-1861

African origins, the slave trade, origins of slavery and racism in the United States, life under slavery in the North and the South. AF_AM_ST 212-1 and HISTORY 212-1 are taught together; may not receive credit for both courses.

212-2 – Introduction to African American History 2: Emancipation to Civil Rights Movement

Emancipation to the civil rights era. Reconstruction, rise of legal segregation, strategies of resistance, migration, and urbanization. AF_AM_ST 212-2 and HISTORY 212-2 are taught together; may not receive credit for both courses.

213 – History of the Black World

Introductory survey of the history of Africans and their descendants across the globe. African civilizations prior to European colonialism, encounters between Africa and Europe, movements of "Africans" to the Americas and elsewhere, and development of black communities in and outside Africa.

214 – Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies

Problems and experiences of racialized minorities: blacks, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latina/os. Comparison of their relationships with each other and with the majority society.

215 – Introduction to Black Social & Political Life

Analysis of class, gender, sexuality, immigrant status, and ethnic origin in black society and politics. Focus on demographic trends, lived experiences, and ideological debates.

218 – Asian/Black Historical Relations in the U.S.

Comparative historical analysis of relations of these groups in the United States, including racialized and sexualized discourses structuring interracial relations and social, political, and economic location. Slavery, immigration, model minority myth, cross-racial politics. AF_AM_ST 218-0 and ASIAN_AM 218-0 are taught together; may not receive credit for both courses.

220 – Civil Rights and Black Liberation

The Northern and Southern civil rights movements and the rise of black nationalism and feminism, 1945-72.

225 – African American Culture

Survey of African American culture from slavery to the present. Relation of African American culture to African and Euro-American cultures, the Black Atlantic as a unit of analysis, representations of blackness in the public imagination.

236 – Intro to African American Studies

Introduction to the discipline of black studies using key historical and theoretical texts.

245 – The Black Diaspora and Transnationality

Examination of events, movements, theories, and texts that have shaped development of the African diaspora. Topics include slavery, abolitionism, pan-Africanism, the culture-politics nexus, hip-hop, AIDS, and linkages among gender, sexuality, and diasporic sensibilities.

250 – Race, Class and Gender

Introduction to scholarship and key theories that treat race, class, and gender as intersecting social constructs. Race, class, and gender in work, family and reproduction, education, poverty, sexuality, and consumer culture. How race, class, and gender inform identity, ideology, and politics to incite social change.

251 – The Mixed Race Experience

Exploration of demographic trends in interracial and interethnic marriages to highlight the complexity of the American experience. Special attention to mixed-race experiences portrayed in film and novels. AF_AM_ST 251-0 and ASIAN_AM 251-0 are taught together; students may not receive credit for both courses.

259 – Introduction to African American Drama

Thematic and historical survey of African American drama. Sociopolitical context, the aesthetic reflected in the work, impact on African American and general theater audiences.

261 – Queer Literatures in the African Diaspora

Advanced introduction to critical theories of race, gender, and sexuality in the African diaspora from the 19th century to today.

310 – Contemporary Asian/Black Relations

Divides between these groups, as well as areas of positive cross-cultural collaboration. Historical analysis of reparations, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and affirmative action. Cross-racial exchange in youth expressions, popular culture, hip-hop. AF_AM_ST 310-0and ASIAN_AM 310-0 are taught together; may not receive credit for both courses.

315 – Religion in the Black Atlantic

Afro-Atlantic religions since the 1400s; traditions of Orisa devotion and monotheisms; religion and revolution in African slave religion; racialization and empire; theories of religion, materialities, and diaspora.

319 – Race, Ethnicity and the American Constitution

Investigation of how race and ethnicity have influenced the evolution of the US Constitution and legal debate and practice. Topics include affirmative action, school integration, and the death penalty. Prerequisite: AF_AM_ST 220 or either POLI_SCI 220 or POLI_SCI 230.

320 – Social Meaning of Race

Race as a social concept and recurrent cause of differentiation in multiracial societies. Impact of race on social, cultural, economic, and political institutions. Discussion of prejudice, racism, and discrimination.

327 – Politics of Black Popular Culture

Examination of the debates within black communities about the proper role and function of black art and artists in relation to black politics.

330 – Black Women in the 20th Century

Experiences and leadership of African American women in major events in recent history, including anti-lynching, women's suffrage, civil rights movements, and World War II.

331 – The African American Novel

Readings in classic black American fiction. The author as creator and participant. Works of Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, and others.

334 – Gender and Black Masculinity

Perceptions and constructions of black masculinity within African American and "American" cultures in the United States; readings in gender and sexuality studies, feminist theory, African American studies, and cultural studies.

335 – Race and Literature in 19th Century America

Examination of the evolution and persistence of the notion of "race" in 19th century America, with attention to the origins of the idea of race in the West. Focus on the multiracial character of 19th century America.

339 – Unsettling Whiteness

Making the historical, political, and cultural formation of whiteness in Western modernity visible and narratable for commentary and analysis. Particular reference to contemporary culture.

342 – Comparative Slavery

Traces slavery across historical epochs and geographic contexts, with an emphasis on Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

345 – Afro-Latin America

Exploration of Afro-Latin communities, cultures, and identities throughout Latin America and the Hispanic diaspora after 1800. Emergence of race and nation in modern Latin America, migration, gender, Afro-Latin spiritual systems and religion, family, and politics.

348 – Africans in Colonial Latin America

History of Africans and African-descended people throughout Latin America from 1492 to 1800, emphasizing the varied experiences of slavery and freedom struggles, the emergence of race and colonial categories of difference, and the gendered lives of racialized colonial subjects.

350 – Theorizing Blackness

Advanced introduction to critical theories of race and racialization. Investigation of blackness as a category of critical analysis for analyzing Afro-diasporic formations. Consideration of how blackness is shaped by gender, class, sexuality, and nationality.

355 – Diaspora Studies

Interdisciplinary examination of the significance of diasporas, their histories, and common dynamics, illustrated with examples drawn from a wide range of cases.

357 – Performing Memory in the Black World

Exploration of the ways in which peoples of the Black Atlantic remember slavery and fashion identities through novels, film, folktales, and drama.

360 – Major Authors

In-depth examination of a selected author's body of work. Choice of author varies. May be repeated for credit with change of author.

363 – Racism in Western Modernity

Impact of racism in the formation of Western modernity. Critical conceptual and historical analyses of the social formation of "race" and the historical implications of racism in the contemporary West.

365 – Black Chicago

Surveys the social, cultural, and political history of African Americans in Chicago, including the Great Migration, the black political machine, black Chicago music, racial segregation, internal class stratification, and the role of black churches.

375 – Postcolonial African American Studies

Development of critical approaches to African American studies from the perspectives of postcolonial analysis. In particular, examination of the meaning of the colonial in the formation of African American experiences and the significance of modernity, race, and black politics in the historical contexts of the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

378 – Harlem Renaissance

African American political and social movements and cultural production in theater, music, visual arts, and literature from 1915 to 1930. Prerequisite: AF_AM_ST 210 or another African American literature course.

379 – Black Women Writers

Intensive, multi-genre examination of the contribution of black women to African American, women's, and American literature, with consideration of the factors and figures that have influenced the reception of black women's writings across time.

380 – Topics in African American Studies

Advanced work on social, cultural, or historical topics. May be repeated for credit with different topic. Prerequisite: Advanced student or senior standing.

381 – Topics in Transnational Black Studies

Examination of texts such as novels, poetry, film, drama, slave narratives, political manifestos, and historical texts in order to compare how people from across the African diaspora have approached issues of identity, culture, and community.Prerequisite: advanced student or senior standing.

390 – Research in African American Studies

Methods of researching the African American experience. Identification of research problems; location, selection, and critique of relevant literature; data gathering and analysis; report writing. Topics vary.

394-LK – Professional Linkage Seminar

Topics vary by instructor. 

396 – Internship in African American Studies

Analysis of social and cultural institutions through field study and participant observation. Entails a research project sponsored by a Northwestern faculty member.Prerequisite: advanced student or senior standing.

399 – Independent Study

Open to advanced students with consent of instructor. Prerequisite: advanced student or senior standing. 


401 – Research Seminar in Black Studies

Introduction to central debates in Black Studies on a graduate level. Emphasizes critical thinking, research design and method, forms of argumentation, and theory building. Readings highlight a range of methods -- historiographic, literary, ethnographic, social scientific etc. Assignments focused on developing student independent research projects.

402 – Theorizing Black Genders and Sexualities

Examines the multiple and changing meanings and political effects of gender and sexuality on Black identity in different socio-cultural contexts. Puts in dialogue global Black feminist theory and Black queer theory through the discussion of topics such as: slavery, colonialism, diaspora, citizenship, activism, labor, kinship, desire, art, reproduction, violence, and others.

403 – Theorizing Blackness and Diaspora

Introduces students to cultural, social, historical, artistic, and theoretical approaches to developing a global analytics of Blackness. Surveys Blackness as a category of critical analysis for both historical and contemporary social formations in the African Diaspora. Considers how gender, class, sexuality, and nationality shape the territory of Blackness.

410 – Black Feminist and Black Queer Theories

Team taught course stages a series of dialogues between US black feminist theory and black queer theory through the discussion of such topics as the legacy of slavery; activism; work, family and self-esteem; body politics, i.e. sexuality, reproduction, HIV/AIDS, popular culture representation; appropriations and alliances.

420 – Expressive Arts and Cultural Studies

Utilizes slave narratives, fiction, poetry, music, drama, critical theory, and the visual arts to survey how African-descended writers, artists, and theorists have grappled with such issues as: the relationship to Africa; self-articulation and struggle; performance as a site of knowledge production and contestation; and the global circulation of Black cultural production.

440 – Black Historiography

Interrogates the development of Black History and its writing. Introduces graduate students to key themes, debates, sources, methods, periods and events that have shaped the emergence of Black Historiography. Examines historical methodology, including the histories of archives, their sources, and the challenges faced by historians seeking to uncover the Black past.

441 – History of Black Women in the Diaspora

Examines the voices, struggles, theorizing, leadership, and writings of Black women, individually and collectively, locally and in Diaspora. Interrogates and challenges definitions of Black women by probing categories of difference, including ethnicity, religion, class, sexuality, gender identity, spirituality, and migrant/immigrant status.

442 – Africans in Colonial Latin America

Historiography of Africans and their descendents in Latin America, from early colonial times to abolition. Focuses on a series of historical problems affecting Africans, including the realities of slavery, free black life, gender and sexuality, culture, and questions of identity formation.

444 – Civil Rights/Black Liberation

Surveys the scholarship on what many historians have termed "the long Civil Rights Movement." Begins with the labor activism of the 1930s and the global wars of the 1940s, and treats the U.S. Black Freedom Movement as part of the broader anti-colonial upheaval of the 20th century.

445 – Historicizing Race in Latin America

Surveys the principle themes, sources, methods and arguments animating scholarship on race, sexuality, and modernity in Latin America.

460 – Race, Politics, Society, Culture: Black Social and Political Thought

Uses texts from sociology, anthropology, political science, and other social sciences to consider how the concepts of "race" and "Blackness" have functioned across time and space. Explores how race and Blackness reflect, inflect and inscribe inequality as well as group consciousness, struggle, and everyday life.

467 – Ethnographies of Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity

Interdisciplinary examination of texts for their theoretical, contextual, and methodological approaches to immigration, race, and ethnicity. Themes include the politics of location, representation, and fieldwork.

469 – Poststructuralism and Black Political Thought

Developing theoretical perspectives on the conceptualization of Black politics in the work of different Black thinkers, using the poststructuralist distinction between 'politics and the political'.

475 – Genealogy of Racism as a Concept: Deconstruction & Governmentality

Interrogates the histories and logics of racism as a concept since its formulation and formation during the early 20th century. Critiques the discursive traditions in which racism has been traditionally narrated as a historically self-evident object of moral condemnation or political critique.

480 – Grad Topics in Af Am Studies

Explores special topics pertinent to Black Studies. Content changes with instructor.

490 – Independent Study

Individualized reading, research, discussion, and/or writing with faculty member.

491 – Reading and Pedagogy

Individualized training and practice as a teaching assistant (TA). Students registered for 491 and 2 other courses are considered full time.

590 – Research Seminar

Independent research in first two years of Ph.D. program, including summers. Students registered for 590 and 2 other courses are considered full time.
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