Fall 2022 Class Schedule
101-6-20 – Passing and the Performance of Identity
This first-year seminar will be an intensive, multi-genre study of literary and cinematic works that focus on passing or the reinvention of identity from 1900 through the turn of the 21st century. Through film, literature, and other expository writings, this seminar will explore the various ways in which notions of race and other identities are socially constructed performances. What does it mean to act, talk, be black, white, or multiracial? How do these identities relate to one’s socio-economic status and/or gender or do they? Can socio-economic status be performed as well? Finally, when are these social constructions of identity fluid, interchangeable, temporary, or permanent?
Students will learn how to read closely and critically; how to develop a distinctive voice in their writing; how to become confident in asking questions and framing persuasive answers. We will acquire a technical and critical vocabulary for various literary forms and put it to use in our own written explorations of a given text. Ultimately, students will experiment with several ways in which identities are performative.
101-6-21– ‘A Dark Rock Surged Upon’: Navigating Race, Cass, and Gender in College
Writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston wrote the following about her time at Barnard College in the 1920s: "Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, overcome by a creamy sea. I am surged upon and overswept, but through it all, I remain myself." A first-year seminar gives students the tools to manage the "surge" of college, both socioemotionally and academically. All of you have left the familiarity of your families, neighborhoods, and high schools to enter a new context, one with new forms of diversity, hierarchy, division, and opportunity for connections. Even though she was in college and writing nearly 100 years ago, Hurston is still an awesome guide as you navigate issues of race, gender, class, and academic belonging at Northwestern. Some topics we will explore include: privilege, politics, love, friendship, curiosity, perseverance, grades, work, and community. Hurston's vast body of work will be the basis for your own analysis, reflections and writing.
101-6-22 – Black Life Trans Life
This course will introduce students to the parameters and textures of black life, trans life, and black trans life. Popular discourse has either depicted black trans people as glamorous superstars or always and already predisposed to death. This course, then, seeks to usefully complicate these narratives and focus on black and trans life. To that end, the course will task students with gaining an understanding of the nuances of black life via its entanglement with the afterlife of slavery and contemporary radicalism; with trans life via its troubling of the gender binary; and black trans life via the ways that blackness and transness interact and converge. This is, in short, a course on black life, full stop; trans life, full stop; and black trans life, full stop.
215 – Intro to Black Social and Political Life
This course is a survey of the contours of Black life from the perspective of the social sciences. What is the Black community, geographically speaking? Is that different from the social or political Black community? What is the history and current character of Black families? How much wealth is in the Black community, and how does that compare with the wealth of White or Latinx people? What are key concerns of Black politics, and how unified or fractured are Black political demands? What does Black identity look like among Black youth? What does Black youth culture portend for Black futures? This course answers these questions and others using insights from sociology, political science, psychology, anthropology, law, economics, history, and related fields. By studying social relations, political agency, and economic practices, we develop a more complex understanding of the forces, opportunities, and constraints operating within Black communities.
350 – Theorizing Blackness
What is blackness? Often it is assumed that we can all tell who and what is black simply at a glance, but this course deeply troubles this assumption. In this course, students will interrogate what, when, where, and how blackness—as phenotype, culture, and analytic—is known. Students will encounter black feminist approaches to blackness, nihilistic and pessimistic understandings of blackness, philosophically capacious meditations on blackness, and literary depictions of blackness. In short, this course will complicate the very meaning of blackness and generate, beautifully, more questions rather than answers.
380-0-20 – Topics: Black Political Thought
Between 2015 and 2020 the political movement Black Lives Matter emerged in the US and different parts of the world, concerned with the mobilizations against police violence towards Black populations and oppositions to structural white supremacy. In 2020 the scale and longevity of Black Lives Matter was such that the New York Times referred to it as the largest social movement in US history. Certainly, there had been nothing like it since the anti-colonial movements and civil rights movements of the late 1950s and mid-1960s or the Black power movement of the 1970s, all of which had reverberations and replications among different Black populations across the world (e.g. Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean). This course seeks to introduce students to the historical and political underpinnings of issues and questions raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, examining their meaning in relation to Black politics and as part of what Cedric Robinson famously referred to as the Black Radical Tradition. Students will be encouraged to think about the importance of the relation between history and theory in engaging with the formations of Slavery, Colonialism and Racism; as well as developing understandings of Black political thought in relation to movements that include, Black Marxism, Black Liberalism, Black Power, Black Feminism, Black Lives Matter, Afropessimism, Black Anarchism and Afrofuturism.
381-0-21 – Topics in Transnational Black Studies: Intro to Caribbean Studies: Religion, Culture, and Resistance
The Caribbean constitutes a unique space to understand the history of resistance and social change in the Black Atlantic world. Going beyond the tropes of reggae, Rastafari, and tourism--this course provides an introduction to the diversity of religious traditions in the region, with particular focus on Afro-Caribbean religious practices and spiritual technologies. Students will explore the cosmological features and embodied expressions that characterize these traditions. Through presentations, discussions, and writing assignments students will reflect on concepts such as belonging, migration, colonialism, race, class, and gender to understand the political and cultural implications of religion in the region.
440-0-20 – Topics: Black Historiography
Black Historiography explores questions of historical methods, major debates, key texts, and a range of sources that have animated the study of Black History. Along the way, we will interrogate what is meant by both terms—Black History and Black Historiography. To do so, we will explore areas of Black historical thought and the role of Black history in the making of the historical profession. As a core course for PhD students in African American Studies, a central preoccupation of the courses asks, whither Black History in the field of Black Studies?
480-0-20 – Topics: Harlem Renaissance
The end of World War I ushered in an era where many artists and intelligentsia were attempting to emancipate and destroy the ideologies of Victorianism and view their society with the stark and brutal truth. While the United States was attempting to liberate itself from the dominance of European culture during the 1920s, African Americans were also attempting to culturally define themselves. The failure of the Reconstruction coupled with the guise of limitless Northern opportunity and equality, sparked the movement known as the Great Migration--where hundreds of thousands of Southern African Americans relocated to the major cities of the North. In fact, much of New York’s cultural dominance in the 1920s was directly linked to Harlem being the chief mecca to the multitudes of emigrating Southern African Americans. Harlem did not become the “Harlem” that we currently recognize it to be until the 1920s when it became the African American metropolis.
This seminar will be an intensive, multi-genre study of the literature, music and visual art produced during the Harlem Renaissance—from 1917 to 1934. We will also explore the philosophical and cultural critiques offered by the African American intelligentsia of the period. This course will introduce all of the major male figures of the Harlem Renaissance; DuBois, Locke, Johnson, Garvey, Hughes, Cullen, McKay, Toomer, Schuyler, Fisher and others. However, this seminar will also focus on the rich tradition of artistic production left by the women of the Harlem Renaissance; Hurston, Larsen, Fauset, and other lesser known, obscure female writers, poets and artists.
480-0-21 – Topics: Affect and Blackness
This course will explore through reading, viewing, listening and discussion the relation between the study of affect and the study of Blackness. Affect refers to the realm of emotional and bodily intensities that emerge as feelings and orientations in personal, social, political and cultural relationships. The importance of understanding affect lies in drawing our attention to modes in which individuals and groups are motivated and mobilized in registers of social being that do not rely on cognitive processing and rational argument but are rather anchored in non-discursive passionate attachments, embodied practices . In relation to the idea of Affect the course will discuss the meaning of Black Feeling in both abjection/social death and eventfulness/social life, in the affective formation of identity, practice, sensibility, comportment and community. In developing this approach, the specific focus of Black Affect will be the political and cultural orientations of feeling, sensation, communication, and intelligibility in different expressions and forms of Black Music and/or Black Film.Back to top