Comparative Studies in Race, Ethnicity, and Diaspora Electives

The following courses count towards the Comparative Studies in Race, Ethnicity, and Diaspora specialization. For more information, refer to the Major Requirements.

AMST 125(F) SEM Introduction to Asian American Studies

Who or what constitutes the term "Asian American"? Leading with this provocation, this course offers an introductory survey of the interdisciplinary field of Asian American Studies, tracing its formation and evolution from the 1960s onward. Focusing on an array of foundational texts, cultural production, and primary sources central to the discipline, we will ask who has been included/excluded from this category and analyze the shifting constructions of Asian Americans from the nineteenth century to the present in tandem with other markers of difference. Over the course, we will study how these constructions have been shaped not only relationally through other racial formations but also by overlapping systems of power, including settler colonialism, U.S. war and empire, capitalism, and globalization within and beyond the U.S. Additionally, we will examine how this term has been undone and remade via political activism, visual and performance art, media, and contingent spaces. [ more ]

AMST 132 SEM Contemporary Africana Social and Political Philosophy

Last offered Spring 2022

This introductory seminar investigates the relationship between three major schools of thought in contemporary Africana social and political philosophy: the African, Afro-North American, and Afro-Caribbean intellectual traditions. We will discuss a range of thinkers including Dionne Brand, Aimé Césaire, Angela Davis, Édouard Glissant, Kwame Gyekye, Paget Henry, bell hooks, Katherine McKittrick, Charles Mills, Nkiru Nzegwu, Oyèrónke Oyewùmí, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Cornel West, and Sylvia Wynter. A primary goal of the course is to provide students with the intellectual resources to decipher problems central to philosophical discourse and to allow students an opportunity to apply what they learn to critical issues in current geopolitics. [ more ]

AMST 142(S) TUT AlterNatives: Indigenous Futurism and Science Fiction

Indigenous people occupy a paradoxical position in time. As survivors of genocide, they are already post-apocalyptic, occupying what could be called "their ancestors' dystopia." But Indigenous people are also imagined to exist frozen in history, merely one step in the ceaseless march of civilization that brought us to the present. This tutorial explores how contemporary Native science and speculative fiction imagines and enacts futurity from this dynamic temporal position. Looking across numerous national and transnational Indigenous contexts, we will survey a diverse range of media, including short stories, novels, visual art, video games, films, and online platforms like Second Life. Pairing these with works in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS), we will explore concepts like the Native "slipstream," eco-erotics, post-post-apocalyptic stress, Native pessimism, biomedical speculative horror, and what it would be like to fly a canoe through outer space. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 146(F) SEM Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies

Consider just the last few years... during the 2016 presidential campaign then-candidate Donald Trump called Senator Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas," a disparaging reference to Warren's claim to Native American heritage. In 2017, Los Angeles became the largest US city to rename "Columbus Day" to "Indigenous Peoples Day." Indigenous-led resistance to oil pipelines continues in multiple locations, and in 2022 Washington DC's professional football team abandoned their old name, a racial slur for Native Americans, rebranding as the Washington Commanders. Struggles in Indian Country over politics, natural resources, and representation have become increasingly visible. This course will prepare students to better understand contemporary indigenous issues. Course content will actively work against the myth that Native American history ended in 1890 with the end of militant Native resistance to US expansion. Instead, we will ask: Who are indigenous peoples? How is their status and identity determined? How do Indian nations sit within and in relation to state and federal governments? What are the pressing issues of the present moment? What are the histories that make sense of those issues? How do we explain that curious American urge to claim "Indian blood" and to create novels and films about Indians? Course topics will include colonialism, tribal sovereignty, Native American art, literature, and culture, activism and "Red Power," struggles over natural resources, gender and sexuality, representations of indigenous people in popular culture, and more. This course offers a broad introductory survey of these and other issues as it explores the development and current state of the interdisciplinary field known as Native and Indigenous Studies. [ more ]

AMST 167 SEM Let Freedom Ring? African Americans and Emancipation

Last offered Spring 2021

This course will examine African Americans' transition from slavery to freedom. In the years that encompassed the Civil War and immediately after, most African Americans changed from being legal property, able to be bought, sold, mortgaged, rented out, and leveraged into U.S. citizens, with the Constitutional right to male suffrage. This course examines this transition. How did it come about? To what extent were African Americans able to exercise their rights that the constitution guaranteed? How did Emancipation shape African American family relations, culture and demography? This is a research seminar. We will examine work of historians and discuss the contradictions and nuances of emancipation. Readings will include monographs, scholarly articles and heavy dose of primary sources, as many as possible written by African Americans themselves. Assignments include an original research paper on an aspect of Emancipation. We will devote considerable time throughout the semester to finding primary and secondary sources and on the writing process. [ more ]

AMST 202 SEM Introduction to Racial Capitalism

Last offered Spring 2022

The historical relationship between race and capitalism is one of the most enduring debates in U.S. historiography, shaping modes of inquiry and analysis across history, law, economics, sociology, anthropology, and other fields. This course seeks to introduce students to the concept of "racial capitalism"--which rejects treatments of race (and racism) as external to the so-called real workings of capitalism--as a way to understand this relationship and as an activist hermeneutic through which to identify and respond to the conditions that American Studies must reckon with. Students will gain familiarity with the global history of racial capitalism and the power of the concept itself through secondary sources and a wide range of primary sources, and through engaged discussion and short essays. Throughout the course, we will pay special attention to the cultural politics, political geographies, and historical development of racial capitalism, thus attending to how the social relations of racial capitalism have been known, lived, and resisted across time and space. The course is organized around three key themes: the land question; race, capitalism, and nation; and the banalities of racial capitalism. Across these themes, the course will address such issues and topics as North American settler colonialism, circum-Caribbean plantation slave and "Coolie" labor, mass incarceration, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the War on Terror. The course will do so through and against a history of racial capitalism that privileges the U.S. nation-state in particular. By the end of this course, students should be able to: detail and analyze the historical development of and resistance to racial capitalism, doing so in relation to the global itineraries of racial slavery, settler colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy; trace the history of the concept of racial capitalism itself; and identify how the concept continues to shape the field of American Studies. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 203(S) SEM Militarism and American Culture

This course examines the impact of warfare on the history of the United States. Considering a range of conflicts, from the violence of European colonialism to the ongoing War on Terror, the course pays particular attention to the ways in which military violence has shaped (and been shaped by) American culture. In particular, students will engage with texts that interrogate the relationship between race and violence in US history. Students will analyze shifting representations of war through engagement with cultural texts such as film, television, literature, and comics. The scope will be broad, with attention paid to larger conflicts such as the World Wars and the Cold War, as well the lesser-known wars and occupations that have continually occupied the US military. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 208 TUT Time and Blackness

Last offered Spring 2023

The concept of time has been one of the most examined, yet least explicitly theorized, concepts in Africana Studies. While the field is saturated with historical studies and literary analyses that take up issues of cultural memory--which involves thinking about time--time itself has rarely the subject of sustained inquiry. This may be due to its abstractness as an idea, and the level of analysis its conceptualization demands, or because time in the Black experience cannot be understood outside of the meaning of race, which itself is not completely tangible. In this tutorial, "Time and Blackness," we will explore how Black writers across a number of genres--spiritual autobiography, fiction, memoir, literary criticism, and cultural theory--understand time, and create paradigms of time to organize their work. The following questions will structure our investigation: What are the constituent elements of time in Black writings? How does race shape the ways Black writers conceive the experience of time? And, finally, to what can we attribute the recent surge in explicit, theoretical examinations of "time and blackness"? [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 209 SEM Introduction to Black, Brown, and Queer Theory

Last offered Fall 2021

Have you ever tried to relate your experiences, rooted in your own complex identities, history, and social networks, to those of others you perceive as different and perhaps allied, but found you lacked some fundamental vocabulary? This is a common problem, even for critical theorists who take as their object of study political, affective, and epistemological structures of difference and power. Critical race, postcolonial, Indigenous, and queer theories have often centered the relationship between the normative and non-normative, between straight and queer, colonizer and colonized, and white and black. Connections between the differently non-normative can sometimes be pushed to the periphery. But what if we were to center that periphery? What views of complex power structures and new avenues of thought and solidarity would arise if we took as our starting point the social and theoretical interconnectedness and overlap of black, brown, and queer folks? This course will serve as an introduction to critical race, postcolonial, Indigenous, and queer theories as conceptually and phenomenologically interlocking and allied fields. By reading with theorists in all these traditions and at their intersections, we will explore how blackness, indigeneity, and brownness are constructed and function in the context of colonialism and settler colonialism, how differently racialized bodies are sexed and sexualized, and how queerness as method can speak across these issues. No background in critical theory is required for this course. We will focus on how to read and discuss theory, and how to think holistically about the structures that work to keep us divided. [ more ]

Taught by: Eli Nelson

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AMST 210 SEM Culture and Incarceration

Last offered Fall 2011

This seminar examines incarceration, immigration detention centers, and the death penalty from historical and contemporary perspectives. Students will study and examine interdisciplinary texts as well primary sources (legislature and criminal codes and writings by the incarcerated). The emphasis will be on the study of social attitudes concerning ethnic groups, gender/sexuality and class as they pertain to a "penal culture" in the United States. [ more ]

AMST 211 LEC Race, Environment, and the Body

Last offered Spring 2023

This course is organized around three distinct, but overlapping, concerns. The first concern is how polluting facilities like landfills, industrial sites, and sewage treatment plants are disproportionately located in communities of color. The second concern is the underlying, racist rationales for how corporations, in collaboration with state agencies, plot manufacturers of pollution. The final concern is how the environmental crises outlined in the first two sections of the course are experienced in the body. In reviewing a range of Black cultural productions--like literature, scholarship, music, and film--we will not only consider how environmental disparities physically affect human bodies, but also how embodiments of eco-crises lend to imaginaries of the relationship between the self and the natural world. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 215 SEM Experimental Asian American Writing

Last offered Spring 2015

Asian American literature did not begin in the 1980s with Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. Nor has the writing primarily been confined to autobiographical accounts of generational conflict, divided identities, and glimpses of Chinatown families. Asian American literature in English began with poetry in the late nineteenth century, and has encompassed a variety of aesthetic styles across the last century--from Modernism to New York School poetry to protest poetry to digital poetics. This course will explore Asian American writings that have pushed formal (and political) boundaries in the past 100+ years, with a particular focus on avant-garde writers working today. We will look at such authors as Jose Garcia Villa, Chuang Hua, Wong May, Theresa H., Cha, John Yau, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Tan Lin, Prageeta Sharma, Bhanu Kapil, and Tao Lin. [ more ]

AMST 218(S) SEM Black and Brown Jacobins

What does it take to be free in the free world? In this class we explore the dark side of democracy. The title is inspired by C.L.R. James' famous book, Black Jacobins, about the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). This revolution was the most successful revolt of the enslaved in recorded history. But the irony is that their oppressors were the leaders of the French Revolution across the Atlantic. Those who proclaimed "liberty, egality, fraternity" for themselves violently denied them to others. There is a similar dismal irony to the American Revolution, as captured by the title of Frederick Douglass' famous 1852 speech, "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" Not even the Civil War could resolve this issue, as demonstrated by the failure of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow. To revisit this history, we will read W.E.B. Du Bois' great book, Black Reconstruction in America. Alongside a selection of readings by canonical postcolonial writers and current political theorists, James and Du Bois provoke us to ask what it would take for the democratic world to be truly free. [ more ]

AMST 220 SEM Introduction to African American Literature

Last offered Spring 2023

What does it mean, socially, culturally, historically, personally, and spiritually, to be African American? No single, simple answer suffices, but African American literature as a genre is defined by its ongoing engagement with this complex question. This course will examine a series of texts that in various ways epitomize the fraught literary grappling with the entailments of American blackness. Readings will include texts by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, and Ishmael Reed. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 222(F) SEM Hip Hop Culture

The course examines how young people of color created hip hop culture in the postindustrial ruins of New York City, a movement that would eventually grow into a global cultural industry. Hip hop music producers have long practiced "diggin' in the crates"--a phrase that denotes searching through record collections to find material to sample. In this course, we will examine the material and technological history of hip hop culture, with particular attention to hip hop's tendency to sample, remix, mash-up, and repurpose existing media artifacts to create new works or art. We will use a media archaeological approach to examine the precise material conditions that first gave rise to graffiti art, deejaying, rapping, and breakdancing, and to analyze hip hop songs, videos, and films. Media archaeology is a critical and artistic practice that seeks to interpret the layers of significance embedded in cultural artifacts. How does hip hop archaeology remix the past, the present, and the future? How do the historical, political, and cultural coding of hip hop artifacts change as they increasingly become part of institutional collections, from newly established hip hop archives at Cornell and Harvard to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture? [ more ]

AMST 223 SEM Eating Empire: Asian/Pacific Islander/American Foodways and Culture

Last offered Fall 2019

"War is probably the single most powerful instrument of dietary change in human experience." --Sidney Mintz. Cans of spam, bars of chocolate, and bubbling pots of military stew. A motley mix of sucrose, sodium, monosodium glutamate, and spices; often overprocessed, constantly repackaged, sometimes illicitly exchanged, and daily consumed. In this course, we will take an interdisciplinary approach to exploring the historical processes, social practices, and cultural politics of food in the age of U.S. empire, mapping out reverse pathways from our palates, plates, counters, and kitchens towards the lands and seas that connect the Americas, the Pacific Islands, and Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will examine food through a range of contexts and case studies, including but not limited to scholarship, (auto)ethnography, literature, film, television, advertising, social media, and blogs. We will ask: how is food entangled within histories and patterns of war, imperialism, settler colonialism, capitalism, diaspora, and migration? What does food tell us about our attachments, investments, and (dis)taste for narratives around democracy and multiculturalism, authenticity and appropriation, gentrification and privilege, "tradition" and change? Finally, how can food help us reimagine the social and political dimensions of the places we live in and nourish pathways to decolonial futures and possibilities? This will be primarily a discussion-based seminar although a minimal amount of cooking may also be required. [ more ]

AMST 224(S) LEC U.S. Latinx Religions

In this course, we will engage aspects of Latinx religious experiences, practices, and expressions in the United States of America. Given the plurality of Latinx communities and religious lives in the U.S.A., we can only consider select contexts that help us understand the challenges of studying and defining the "religious" and "hybridity" in Latinx contexts. We will survey certain selected religious traditions and practices--such as popular Catholic devotions to Guadalupe, crypto-Judaism, curanderismo, Latinx Pentecostalism, Latinx Muslims, and Santeria, as well as Latinx approaches to traditional US religious expressions of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. We will do so by focusing on particular moments of religious expression as elucidated in specific historiographies, ethnographies, art, literature, and film. [ more ]

AMST 227 SEM Utopias and Americas

Last offered Spring 2012

The very word for "utopia," a Latin word coined by Thomas More in 1516, owes much of its initial imagination to European voyages of "discovery" and conquest. In this course, we examine the ways that the "New World," and particularly the United States of America, has been a utopian project from the early days of colonization. How have particular historical experiences in the Americas been shaped by utopian machinations, and how has the New World transformed the dreaming of utopia? In this course, we consider the theory of utopia in conversation with select historical writings from and scholarship about early Spanish and English colonization, early nation-building in the U.S., Haiti, and Mexico, the Shakers, the Oneida Community, the Canudos Massacre in Brazil, Father Divine's International Peace Mission Movement, Chicanx Aztlán, Chalatenango in El Salvador, and Oyotunji Village in South Carolina. We also examine literary and artistic selections from Edward Bellamy, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ayn Rand, Sun Ra, and Black Panther (2018). Through these different utopian moments and selections, we trace themes of time, space, environment, gender, family, class, race, colonialism, and rebellion and examine the ways in which different utopias have responded to and reproduced structural injustices. Because utopias have been so common throughout the Americas, students are encouraged to bring in comparisons with utopias not listed on the syllabus. [ more ]

AMST 229 LEC Reel Jesus: Reading the Christian Bible and Film in the U.S.A.

Last offered Spring 2017

In this course we examine some of the ways that Christian biblical narratives have appeared in late twentieth-century and early twenty-first century Hollywood movies, looking in particular at films such as The Matrix (1999),The Passion of the Christ(2004),Jesus Christ Superstar(1973),The Shawshank Redemption(1994),The Omen (1976),Children of Men (2006), and The Book of Eli (2010). What are the overt and subtle ways that these films seek to interpret and employ biblical texts? Why do they draw upon the texts they do and read them as they read them? What can cinematic interpretations of biblical texts reveal to us about how these texts are used in broader U.S. culture, especially to crystallize and reflect certain political, economic, ethnic, racial, sexual, and social parameters of U.S. cultures? How does an awareness of this scriptural dimension in a work of "popular culture" affect our interpretation of both the film and the scriptural text's meanings? How do varying interpretations of biblical texts help us to understand cinematic meaning? By assuming that we can read both biblical texts and films in multiple and contradictory ways, this class can use film as the occasion for interpreting, analyzing, and debating the meanings, cultural functions, and affective responses generated by biblical narratives in film. Finally, this course asks us to analyze the implications of ways in which we read texts and films. For this interdisciplinary course we will read selected biblical and extra-canonical texts, including selections from canonical and non-canonical gospels, the letters of Paul, and the book of Revelation, but our focus will be on the way that movies (and the people who make them and watch them) make meaning out of these biblical texts. [ more ]

AMST 231 SEM Approaches to Media Studies: Analyzing Mediated Difference

Last offered Spring 2017

Media's influence in 21st century life is pervasive, and encompasses visual, sonic, and discursive formats.This course introduces students to a variety of qualitative approaches to the study of contemporary media. Simultaneously, we will explore questions of ethno-racial identity, gender, and sexuality. Structured around a series of hand-on exercises designed to provide experience in the areas of textual analysis, in-depth interviews, virtual ethnography and participant observation, this class will provide students with interdisciplinary training that enhances their understanding of everyday media and its interaction with multiple categories of identity. This course is a comparative Ethnic Media Studies class that encourages students to employ media as a lens for theorizing the intersections between ethno-racial identity, gender, and sexuality. We review materials focusing on a wide range of minoritarian communities. [ more ]

AMST 237(F) SEM Islam in the United States: Race, Religion, Politics

Malcolm X is one of the most iconic yet controversial figures in the black freedom struggle in the United States. He is also arguably the most prominent and influential Muslim in the history of the United States. His story and legacy powerfully illustrate the complex intersections of Muslim identity, political resistance, and national belonging. From the early period of "Black Muslim" movements represented by Malcolm X, to the current "War on Terror" era, American Muslims have faced a complex intersection of exclusions and marginalization, in relation to national belonging, race, and religion. Taking Malcolm X as our point of departure, this course examines how American Muslims have navigated these multiple layers of marginalization. We will therefore consider how the broader socio-political contexts that Muslims are a part of shape their visions of Islam, and how they contest these competing visions among themselves. In so doing, we will examine the complex relation between religion, race, and politics in the United States. Throughout the course, we will be engaging with historical and anthropological material, autobiographies, documentaries, films, historical primary-source documents, music, and social media materials. The course fosters critical thinking about diversity by challenging assumptions of who Muslims are, what being American means, and what Islam is. It also focuses on the complex interaction of different dimensions of diversity, from religion to ideology, race, nationality, ethnicity, culture, gender, and language. [ more ]

AMST 239 SEM Asian/Pacific Islander/American Documentary Cinemas

Last offered Spring 2019

In Asian America Through The Lens, film scholar Jun Xing contends, "documentaries have been, and remain, the predominant genre of Asian American cinema" (1998). In this course, we will launch an investigation into this statement and examine a selection of A/P/A documentaries ranging from independent and experimental film, public access television, and digital and social media, 1960s---present. We will ask: (1) how did A/P/A documentary develop as a tradition and practice in relation to mainstream media industries?, (2) how has documentary been mobilized to critique, demystify, and/or disrupt dominant scripts like Orientalism, the Yellow Peril, and the Model Minority Myth?, and (3) how do documentary makers formally negotiate the generic impulse for the "real" and "authentic" against the burden of A/P/A representation? While neither chronological nor all-encompassing in its capacity, we will do our best to situate the historical and material conditions that form and inform the works and contextualize their visual aesthetic practices and tactics of representation. We will also pay particular attention to untangling the intersectional and multidimensional categories of race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and ability that emerge from the sociohistorical processes of war, immigration, nationalism, colonialism and settler colonialism, state violence, and social movements. Finally, we will meet and engage with current artists, filmmakers, and organizers in order to gain insight into development, production, distribution, and reception. [ more ]

AMST 240 SEM Latina/o/x Language Politics: Hybrid Voices

Last offered Spring 2023

In this interdisciplinary course we will focus on issues of language and identity in the contemporary cultural production and lived experience of various Latina/o/x communities. As such, how are cultural values and material conditions expressed through Latina/o/x language and literature? How does Latina/o/x identity challenge traditional notions of the relationship between language, culture, and nation? In what ways might Latina/o/x literary and linguistic practices serve as tools for social change? Departing from an overview of common linguistic ideologies, we will examine code-switching or Spanglish, bilingual education, linguistic public policy, the English Only movement, and Latina/o/x linguistic attitudes and creative responses. In addition to a consideration of language and identity grounded in sociolinguistics, anthropolitical linguistics, Latinx studies, and cultural studies, we will survey a variety of literary genres including memoir, novel, and poetry. Both directly and/or indirectly, these texts address Latina/o/x language politics, as well as the broader themes of power, community, ethno-racial identity, gender, sexuality, class, and hybridity. [ more ]

AMST 243 SEM Asian/American and Black Literary and Cultural Thought

Last offered Spring 2020

One durable legacy of white settler colonialism has been to its divide-and-conquer management of minority populations--an amazingly effective strategy still widely practiced in a variety of forms today. While Asian Americans have been deemed "model minorities" in contrast to "unmodel" minorities--namely, African Americans--and racial minorities have been pitted against one another in the oppression Olympics and on the issue of affirmative action, there has, in fact, been a long history of political, literary, and cultural thought that have joined blacks and Asian/Asian Americans, from W.E.B. Du Bois to current ideas about digital possibilities (and constraints). In this course we will examine the theory, political writings, art, music and literature that sprang from and attended the early Marxist-Communist fight for universal brotherhood; movements against colonialism, capitalism, and the Vietnam War; Yellow Power and Black Power; and topics such as black and Asian diasporas, Afro-futurism, multiculturalism, "Afro-pessimism", racial melancholia, and digital futurities. [ more ]

AMST 245 SEM Race, Power, & Food History

Last offered Fall 2021

Have you ever wondered why Spam is so popular in Hawaii and why Thai food is available all across the United States? Are you curious why black-eyed peas and collards are considered "soul food"? In this course, we will answer these questions by digging in to the histories of global environmental transformation through colonialism, slavery, and international migration. We will consider the production and consumption of food as a locus of power over the last 300 years. Beginning with the rise of the Atlantic slave trade and continuing through the 20th century, we trace the global movement of plants, foods, flavors, workers, businesses, and agricultural knowledge. Major units include rice production by enslaved people in the Americas; Asian American food histories during the Cold War; and fat studies critiques of obesity discourse. We will discuss food justice, food sovereignty, and contemporary movements for food sustainability in the context of these histories and our contemporary world. Readings are interdisciplinary, but our emphasis will be on historical analyses of race, labor, environment, health, and gender. [ more ]

Taught by: April Merleaux

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AMST 247(S) LEC Cities, Suburbs, and Rural Places

Long associated with cities in the scholarly and popular imagination, immigrants have increasingly settled in U.S. suburbs. Through the lens of new destinations for im/migrants, this course introduces spatial methods, perspectives, and concepts to understand cities, suburbs, and rural places and the relationships between these various spaces. We ask how geographically specific forces and actors shape these trends, as well as the spatially uneven outcomes of complex processes like globalization. This interdisciplinary course highlights racial, legal, economic, political, environmental, social, and cultural dimensions of how transnational migrants become part of and create homes in new places. Through a range of textual materials (academic, technical, popular, visual), we explore why people migrate, the origin of the "illegal alien" figure, economic restructuring and local immigration policies, environmental justice, place-making and community development. Rooted in critical race geographies, case studies are often comparative across different racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. West, South, Midwest, and Northeast. We analyze how documentation status and perceptions of illegality affect the lived experiences of Latines. This course will be mostly discussion-based, with grading based on participation, short writing exercises, three assignments, a midterm examination, and a final exam. [ more ]

AMST 253(F) SEM Embodied Knowledges: Latinx, Asian American, and Black American Writing on Invisible Disability

This interdisciplinary course assumes an expansive approach towards disability, defining it not exclusively as a legible identity that one can lay claim to, but rather as an identity grounded in one's relationship to power (Kim and Schalk, 2020). This course centers on the critical role of lived experience as a key site of everyday theorization for the multiply marginalized, and specifically on the ways in which invisibly disabled Latinx, Asian American, and Black American individuals write the self. As scholars in disability studies argue, self-representations of disabled individuals carry the potential for us as a society to move beyond the binary narratives of "tragedy or inspiration" so often associated with disability. Rather, the self-produced narratives of US disabled writers of color offer a much more nuanced portrayal of everyday life with disability/ies for the multiply marginalized. Much like invisible disability itself, these self-representations ultimately refute traditional depictions of disability, and underscore the ways in which the bodymind serves as a rich, albeit often overlooked, site of knowledge. Embodied Knowledges draws on the insights of disability studies, crip studies, anthropology, literary studies, medicine, psychology, education, cultural studies, ethnic studies, American studies, gender and sexuality studies, sociology, and trauma studies. We will examine the works of Latinx, Asian American, and Black American writers and scholars others in relationship to one another, and as points of departure for examining issues such as the relationship between immigration and disability; intergenerational trauma; the impacts of paradigms such as the Model Minority Myth and notions of cultural deficit; passing; the politics of disability disclosure, the paradoxes of invisible disability; invisible disability in academic spaces; the role of culture and categories of difference such as race, gender, class and immigration status in societal approaches to and understandings of invisible disability; and future visions in the realm of disability justice and care work. [ more ]

AMST 255(S) LEC Black Migrations: Histories of African Diasporas to the U.S.

Migration remains an integral aspect of Black experiences. This comprehensive course centers the histories of Black migration to and within the United States. Migration includes the involuntary, forceful movement of populations, but it also comprises voluntary movement of populations that seek new economic opportunities. Therefore, this course covers three historical periods of migration: 17th- 19th century (Transatlantic slave trade), early 20th century (Great Migration and the arrival of Caribbean migrants to major urban centers in the United States), and the late 20th and early 21st century (Migration continental Africans to the US). This course will ask the following questions as it relates to Black migration: What were the social, political, and economic factors that contributed to the migration of Black populations to and within the US especially in the 20th and 21st century? How do current-day Black migration patterns differ from earlier periods? In what ways can migration be utilized as a form of resistance to oppression both domestically and internationally? [ more ]

AMST 256 SEM Social Justice Traditions: 1960s to #Black Lives Matter

Last offered Fall 2018

We live in a time of renewed social justice activism, as people from all walks of life confront economic inequality, police violence, discrimination against transgender individuals, and other forms of oppression. This course is designed to clarify where recent initiatives like Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street came from, and to evaluate how they might shape American life in the near future. Movements have histories, as today's activists draw on the "freedom dreams," tactics, and styles of rhetoric crafted by their predecessors, while making use of new technologies, such as Twitter, and evolving understandings of "justice." Taking a historical approach, we will begin by studying the civil rights, Black Power, anti-war, counter-culture, and feminist initiatives of the 1960s. We will then explore how progressive and radical activists adjusted their theories and strategies as the country became more conservative in the 1970s and 1980s. Making use of movement documents, documentary films, and scholarly accounts, we will study the development of LGBTQ, ecological, and economic justice initiatives up to the present day. Throughout, we will seek to understand how movements in the United States are shaped by global events and how activists balance their political work with other desires and commitments. [ more ]

AMST 257(F) LEC Race, Environment, and the Body

This course examines the relationship between structural racism and racial/ethnic health disparities. Through class discussions of readings and media images, we will explore three topics: 1) how racism intersects with classism, sexism, and xenophobia to govern the implementation of local, state and federal health care policies; 2) how the uneven enforcement of health care policies ultimately produces differences in mortality, morbidity, and quality of life among various populations; and 3) anti-racist public health scholarship that offers strategies for creating racial health equity. [ more ]

AMST 304 SEM Asian American Writing and the Visual Arts

Last offered Spring 2016

This course examines the intersection of Asian American writing and the visual arts in a range of works: graphic novels, art criticism, collaborative projects between poets and visual artists, works that combine textual and visual elements, ekphrastic poetry, poetry "inspired by" paintings, video work, digital poetry, among others. Writers and artists to be discussed include Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Theresa Cha, Patty Chang, Mel Chin, Bhanu Kapil, Janice Lee, Tan Lin, Yoko Ono, Adrian Tomine, and John Yau. [ more ]

AMST 307 SEM Experimental African American Poetry

Last offered Fall 2019

Contemporary African American poets in various cities and towns across the nation--from New York City to Los Angeles, from Berkeley to Durham, N.C.--are currently producing a vibrant and thriving body of formally experimental work, yet this poetry is largely unknown to readers both within and outside the academy. This formally innovative poetry defamiliarizes what we normally expect of "black writing" and pushes us to question our assumptions and presumptions about black identity, "identity politics," the avant-garde (for example, is it implicitly raced?), formalism, socially "relevant" writing, the (false) dichotomy of form versus content, the black "community," digital poetics, and other issues of race and aesthetics. We will examine the writings of living poets, who range widely in age, and those of their avant-garde predecessors in the twentieth century. We will also be making links between this poetry and African American music and visual art. [ more ]

AMST 309 LEC Womanist/Black Feminist Thought

Last offered Fall 2018

This course explores the genealogy and development of black feminist and womanist thought. We will investigate the expansion of womanist thought from a theologically dominated discourse to a broader category of critical reflection associated more commonly with black feminism, analyze the relationship between womanism and black feminism, and review the historical interventions of black feminism. As critical reflections upon western norms of patriarchy, heterosexism, and racism, womanism and black feminism begin with the assumption that the experiences of women of color--particularly black women--are significant standpoints in modern western society. Through the examination of interdisciplinary and methodological diversity within these fields, students will be introduced to key figures including Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Katie Cannon, and will engage materials that draw from multiple fields, including, but not limited to, literature, history, anthropology, and religious studies. [ more ]

AMST 312(S) LEC Contemporary Immigration Landscapes: Producing Difference and Value in Migration

What is the relationship between racial formations, transnational migrations, and power? How do geometries of power shape our relationship to place? This course examines geographies of transnational migration, bringing together insights from critical race theory, queer theory, Indigenous studies, and postcolonial theories to enrich our understanding of human geography. We will look at the use of ethnic and racial formations as a bridge between cultural and political geography in the contemporary US immigration landscape. Through an interdisciplinary exploration of 'migration,' we will examine the depth and range of migrants' experiences and how these communities' lives are structured through various axes of difference, such as race, gender, sexuality, class, and documentation status. We will consider how gender and sexuality structure racial formations and determine notions of value. We will give attention to the variegated landscape of immigration enforcement and its relationship to issues of labor, political economy, and environmental justice, among others. Through materials that embrace both historical and contemporary perspectives, this course will help students develop a critical understanding of how space matters when considering transnational processes of migration as well as migrant communities' cultural place-making practices throughout the US. This course asks students to compare and contrast the intellectual genealogies covered and apply these theories of transnational racial formations to case studies that focus on political interventions for social justice (such as UndocuQueers in the immigrant justice movement). [ more ]

AMST 313(S) SEM Gender, Race, and the Power of Personal Aesthetics

This interdisciplinary course focuses on the politics of personal style among women of color in the digital era. With a comparative, transnational emphasis on the ways in which ideologies of gender, (dis)ability, sexuality, ethno-racial identity, neoliberal capitalism and class inform normative beauty standards and ideas about the body, we examine a variety of materials including commercial websites, podcasts, histories, personal narratives, ethnographies, and sociological case studies. Departing from the assumption that personal aesthetics are intimately tied to issues of power and privilege, we engage the following questions, among others: What are some of the everyday functions of personal style among women of color in the US and globally? How do Latina/x, Black, Arab American, and Asian American personal aesthetics reflect the specific circumstances of their creation, and the unique histories of these racialized communities? What role do transnational media and popular culture play in the development and circulation of gendered and raced aesthetic forms? How might the belief in personal style as activist strategy complicate traditional understandings of feminist political activity? And what do the combined insights of ethnic studies, feminist studies, cultural studies, media studies, queer studies and disability studies contribute to our understanding of gendered Asian American, Arab American, Black, and Latina/x bodies? [ more ]

AMST 314 LEC Groovin' the Written Word: The Role of Music in African American Literature

Last offered Fall 2016

In an interview with Paul Gilroy, Toni Morrison once said, "Music provides a key to the whole medley of Afro-American artistic practices." Morrison is not the only one who believes that music speaks to numerous aspects of the African American experience. From Sterling Brown and Zora Neale Hurston to John Edgar Wideman and Suzan Lori-Parks, many African American authors have drawn on music to take political stands, shape creative aesthetics, and articulate black identity. In this course, students will explore the work of these authors and more, investigating music's ability to represent and critique African American culture in their literature. Texts will cover a range of literary forms including poetry, plays, short stories and novels alongside theoretical and critical essays. Students will discuss such key issues as assimilation into mainstream culture, authenticity claims on black music, and music used as a tool for protest. Additionally, class assignments will include musical examples in spirituals/gospel, blues, jazz, and rock/rhythm and blues. While this class requires students to practice in-depth literary and performance analysis skills, students are not required to have technical musical knowledge. [ more ]

AMST 315 SEM Blackness 2.0: Race, Film and New Technologies

Last offered Spring 2019

Are distinctions of race truly eliminated with digital technologies? Through an engagement with scholarship in media studies, cultural studies, gender studies, and Africana studies (to name a few), this course will investigate the nuanced ways blackness is (re)constructed and (re)presented in digital technologies. Although we will largely focus on representations of blackness in modern film, we will examine the impact of 'new' technologies upon the broader categories of race, gender, and sexuality. Additional topics may include: avatar-based entertainment; race in the 'real' vs 'virtual' world; emoji wars; blogosphere politics; internet and hashtag activism; social networking and a post-race future; and fandom in the twitter era. [ more ]

AMST 316 LEC Sacred Cinema: Black Religion and the Movies

Last offered Spring 2015

Although they represent different genres, what popular films Madea's Family Reunion (2006), First Sunday (2008), The Princess and the Frog (2009) have in common is that they each offer complex and at times contradictory images of black religious expression in North America. These films, which present varied perspectives of African American experience, implicitly and explicitly engage themes inherent to the study of religion, such as the role of faith in decision-making processes and the use of religious tradition as a means of reinforcing or contesting socio-cultural norms. This course is as much about the use of film to study black religious expression as it is about the use of paradigms of religious thought to study the intersections of gender, race, and religion in film. We will study films of different genres to facilitate discussion about the various dimensions of black religious expression. Conversely, we will use images, metaphors, and teachings found in Religious Studies to discuss what appears on screen. Through interdisciplinary, critical approaches in Film Studies and Popular Culture Studies, this course will examine how black religious expression pervades modern cinema, and will offer constructive strategies for engaging in dialogue with this phenomenon. [ more ]

AMST 317(F) SEM Black Migrations: African American Performance at Home and Abroad

In this course, students will investigate, critique and define the concepts migration and diaspora with primary attention to the experiences of African Americans in the United States and Europe. Drawing on a broad definition of performance, students will explore everything from writing and painting to sports and dance to inquire how performance reflects, critiques and negotiates migratory experiences in the African diaspora. For example, how did musician Sidney Bechet's migration from New Orleans to Chicago to London influence the early jazz era? How did Katherine Dunham's dance performances in Germany help her shape a new black dance aesthetic? Why did writer James Baldwin go all the way to Switzerland to write his first novel on black, religious culture in Harlem? What drew actor/singer Paul Robeson to Russia, and why did the U.S. revoke his passport in response to his speeches abroad? These questions will lead students to investigate multiple migrations in the African diasporic experience and aid our exploration of the reasons for migration throughout history and geography. In addition to critical discussions and written analysis, students will explore these topics through their own individual and group performances in class. No prior performance experience is necessary. [ more ]

AMST 318(S) SEM Myths and the Making of Latine California

California is home not only to the largest ethnic Mexican population in the USA but also to the largest Central American population, while also being home to long-standing Latine communities hailing from Chile to Cuba. Since the era of Spanish colonization, especially starting in 1769, California has been woven into fantastic imaginations among many peoples in the Americas. Whether imagined as Paradise or Hell, as environmental disaster or agricultural wonderland, as a land of all nations or a land of multiracial enmity, many myths have been inscribed onto and pursued within the space we call California. In a state whose name comes from an early modern Spanish novel, how did certain narratives of California come to be, who has imagined California in certain ways, and why? What impact have these myths had on different Latine populations in the history of California, and how have different Latines shaped, contested, and remade these myths as well as the California landscape that they share with other peoples? In this course, we consider "myth" as a category of socially powerful narratives and not just a simple term that refers to an "untrue story." We examine myths by focusing on a few specific moments of interaction between the Latine peoples who have come to make California home and the specific places in which they have interacted with each other. Of special interest are select creation stories (found in Jewish, Christian, and Indigenous traditions), imaginations of the Spanish missions, the Gold Rush, agricultural California, wilderness California, California as part of Greater México, California as "sprawling, multicultural dystopia," and California as "west of the west," including its imagination as a technological and spiritual "frontier." [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 319 SEM Ethnographic Approaches to Africana Studies

Last offered Spring 2012

Ethnography is the systematic study and recording of human cultures. It involves the collection and analysis of information from multiple sources including (but not limited to) first-person accounts, life histories, interviews, observations, and autobiographical materials. Within Africana Studies, ethnographic approaches have been utilized to reflect complex narratives of black experience throughout the Diaspora. This seminar is a critical introduction to the theory, method, and practice of ethnography in Africana studies. We will explore a variety of cultures and settings, and discuss the practical, methodological, and ethical issues related to ethnography. Three broad questions will dominate our discussions: 1) What are the theoretical, practical, and stylistic tools needed to fashion compelling ethnographies that get to the heart of what it means to document Africana experience? 2) What are the ethical and political implications of representing Africana perspectives in fieldwork studies? 3) What are the strengths and limitations of ethnography as a research method in Africana studies? Each student will utilize the materials covered in the course to research and write their own ethnography. [ more ]

AMST 320 SEM Dangerous Bodies: Black Womanhood, Sexuality & Popular Culture

Last offered Spring 2023

Whether presented as maternal saints, divas, video vixens, or bitches, black female celebrities navigate a tumultuous terrain in popular culture. This course considers the ways that black female celebrities such as Oprah, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, and Michelle Obama negotiate womanhood and sexuality, and the popular landscapes through which we witness that negotiation. It also engages contemporary black feminist scholarship, which most frequently presents the presentation of black female bodies in popular media forms as exploitive. We will review historical stereotypes of black women in popular media forms, discuss the history of the "politics of respectability" within black culture, engage black feminist responses to these types, and examine theoretical approaches to assess social constructions of womanhood and sexuality. We will also consider provocative questions relevant to discussions of contemporary black sexual politics: Should we view these women as feminists? Are they merely representatives of cultural commodification and control of black women's bodies? Do these women best exemplify the reiteration of problematic characterizations? Are they positive models for demonstrating female empowerment, agency, or "fierceness?" This course explores the histories of representation of black female figures in popular culture, and in so doing, troubles contemporary considerations of black womanhood and sexuality. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 321 SEM Unsettled Futures: Time, Crisis, and Science Fiction from the Margins

Last offered Fall 2021

Societies around the globe are now confronting a triple crisis that threatens not only political orders but also the very existence of certain forms of life: (1) financial collapse(s) that have increased the awareness and severity of mass inequality, (2) climate change and mass extinctions, and (3) the rise of white supremacy and ethno-nationalisms that threaten BIPOC lives and representative democracies. These material and political challenges have depleted many of the cultural resources that enable imagining non-apocalyptic futures. Yet, these crises are not novel. Many groups in the periphery--geographic, economic, and cultural--were and are already living through the uneven distribution of the apocalypse. Science fiction (SF) has emerged as a privileged symbolic field for the expression of hopes and anxieties that drive both culture and tech industries. Whether seen as a form of productive pessimism or liberatory theory, SF from the margins is deployed as a political tool for enacting change in the present. In this course, we will survey the history of SF as a variable and theoretical orientation constituted through the unfolding of uneven global encounters. We will analyze SF in the Cold War, Anthropocene, decolonization movements, and postcolonial and Indigenous landscapes, reading major works in SF and science and technology studies (STS) that address the politics of crisis, apocalypse, and global futures. In addition to novels and short stories, this course will incorporate film, graphic novels, music videos, video games, and other science fiction subgenres. [ more ]

Taught by: Eli Nelson

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AMST 322 SEM Race, Culture, Incarceration

Last offered Spring 2020

This course explores racially-fashioned policing and incarceration from the Reconstruction era convict prison lease system to contemporary mass incarceration and "stop and frisk" policies of urban areas in the United States. Also explored will be political imprisonment in the United States. [ more ]

AMST 323 SEM Comic Lives: Graphic Novels & Dangerous Histories of the African Diaspora

Last offered Spring 2021

This course explores how the graphic novel has been an effective, provocative and at times controversial medium for representing racialized histories. Drawing on graphic novels such as the late Congressman John Lewis' March and Ebony Flowers' Hot Comb, this course illustrates and critiques multiple ways the graphic novel commingles word and image to create more sensorial access into ethnic traumas, challenges and interventions in critical moments of resistance throughout history. Students will practice analyzing graphic novels with the help of critical essays, reviews and film; the chosen texts will center on Africana cultures, prompting students to consider how the graphic novel may act as a useful alternate history for marginalized peoples. During the course, students will build comic creation and analysis skills through short exercises, eventually building up to the final project of a graphic short story that illustrates historical and/or autobiographical narratives. No art experience is required, only an openness to expanding one's visual awareness and composition skills. This course is often taught in collaboration with the Williams College Museum of Art's Object Lab program, which allows the class to have its own space and art objects that are directly related to the course topic. This class may feature Object Lab participation, film screenings, and collaborations with guest speakers. [ more ]

AMST 324 SEM Indigenous Women's History

Last offered Spring 2019

What would it mean to locate indigenous women and their stories at the heart of American history? This advanced junior seminar course answers this question by centering the lives of indigenous women from the pre-colonial period through the present. We will discuss both the historical importance of these women's lives, as well as the methodological and ethical concerns that arise through the historiographic recovery of their stories. We analyze both canonical figures--such as La Malinche, Pocahontas, and Sakakawea--as well as lesser known historical actors, political leaders, writers, and artists. [ more ]

AMST 325 SEM Asian/African American Cultural and Political Theory

Last offered Fall 2021

Contrasted as "model minorities" or "incorrigible minorities" Asian Americans and African Americans have been pitted against one another in social standing and political objectives. However, throughout the twentieth century, African/Asian solidarity and alliances existed in political movements and literary and cultural productions. From Ho Chi Minh's anti-lynching writing, the founding conference of the WIDF (Women's International Democratic Federation) in China in 1945, through the Bandung Conference, coalitions against U.S. wars in Southeast Asia, and alignments with Chinese anti-imperialist endeavors, black and Asian peoples have joined in international political formations. Contributions to theory include the writings and activism of Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Robert Williams, Yuri Kochiyama, Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs, Ishmael Reed, and Amiri Baraka; films of Bruce Lee; music of Fred Ho; revolutionary praxis of Mao Tse Tung's Little Red Book and his writings on art and society; the Marxism of the Black Panther Party; the Afro-futurism of Sun Ra and Samuel Delany; and contemporary "Afro-pessimism." Such cultural works depict futurities and possibilities for Black and Asian diasporas. This seminar examines theory, politics, literature, film, and music produced from and linked to twentieth-century movements against capitalism, racism, colonialism, and imperial wars to think through how Black and Yellow Power have shaped solidarity to challenge white supremacy and racial capitalism. Requirements: One midterm paper (5-6 pp.) = 30%; final paper/project (10-12 pp.) with a creative option = 50%; short response paper and GLOW posts = 10%; participation (attendance and class discussion) = 10% Course cap: 19 Priority given to AMST majors, Africana concentrators [ more ]

AMST 326(F) SEM Unfinishing America

The Great American Novel is a moribund cliché. Few would argue that any one work of fiction could capture the essence of American life. In this class, we will flip the Great American Novel on its head by reading Ralph Ellison's unfinished second novel. After publishing the acclaimed Invisible Man in 1952, Ellison seemed poised to deliver the next Great American Novel. But he never did. When he died in 1994, 42 years later, he left behind thousands of pages of material, but no finished second novel. Why wasn't he able to finish it? Some of it was bad luck. Some of it was a struggle with genre and form. However, perhaps the real reason Ellison's novel proved impossible is what it was trying to say. This is a book about the historical trauma of racism. Therefore, the thesis of this class is that the Great American Novel cannot be written as long as American history remains whitewashed. Ellison's manuscript shows this in surprising ways, from its depiction of racial passing and the taboo of interracial sex to its extended exploration of Black and Indigenous cultures in the former Oklahoma Territory. In addition to Ellison, we will read the work of the Chicano author Tomás Rivera, whose fragmentary fictions provoke similar questions. This class culminates in a final project that asks students to "unfinish" an American cultural object. [ more ]

AMST 327 SEM Racial and Religious Mixture

Last offered Spring 2020

The very term "mixture" implies that two or more distinct substances have been brought together. Distinctions of race and religion are social fictions; yet, the lived ramifications of these social fictions involve tense struggles over the boundaries of racial and religious communities. These boundaries are not just ideas but also practices. In the history of the Americas, mixed racial and religious identities and experiences have more often been the result of violent clashes than romantic encounters. Still, the romanticization of the New World as a geography that makes such mixtures possible reaches back to the earliest days of Spanish conquest in the Americas. This course critically reconsiders varying ways that racial and religious mixtures have been imagined, defined, challenged, negotiated, and survived under imaginative and legal rubrics of mestizaje, creolization, transculturation, passing, syncretism, religious hybridity, and mixed race studies. [ more ]

AMST 330 (Anti-)Imperialism, Race, and the Archive

Last offered NA

What is U.S. imperialism? How are the social relations of racial capitalism important to U.S. imperialism? How have anti-imperial, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist struggles taken shape within, against, and beyond the U.S. nation-state, and how have these struggles shaped the U.S. nation-state itself? Finally, what kind of anti-imperial activist hermeneutics does American Studies offer and how can they be strengthened to reckon with the specific conditions of the U.S. imperial present? Anchored in these questions, this course seeks to introduce students to the history of U.S. imperialism. It does so beyond the traditional understanding of empire as a one-way agglomerating imposition of power in distant areas, and instead accounts for the co-constitution of reigning state-capitalist orders and global processes of spatial and social differentiation. Following such an approach to the history of U.S. imperialism, this course is organized around four time periods: 1770s to 1890s; 1890s to 1930s; 1930s to 1980s; and 1980s to the present. Across each period, we will attend to processes of U.S. imperial expansion, capital accumulation, and racial domination, and resistance to these processes. We will do so using secondary sources and a wide range of primary sources, including published fiction, legal documents, newspaper articles, speeches, films, and photos. By the end of this course, students should be able to detail a genealogy of the U.S. imperial present that accounts for: the significance of imperial and inter-imperial relations in the formation of U.S. national culture, institutions, and public areas such as law and public policy; how U.S. territorial colonialization has underpinned the development of U.S. imperial infrastructure, the imperial state form, and imperial culture; and how U.S. territorial and extraterritorial sovereignty exist in perpetual reaction to the primary claims of Indigenous peoples and other threats to reigning state-capitalist orders. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 339 SEM Latina/o/x Musical Cultures: Sounding Out Gender, Race, and Sexuality

Last offered Spring 2019

In this class we will investigate a wide variety of Latina/o/x popular musical forms, with particular attention to issues of gender, sexuality, and ethno-racial identity. Employing interdisciplinary materials and approaches, this course focuses on the sonic and visual analysis of contemporary Latina/o/x popular music and the identities of its producers, performers, and audiences. We will focus on the following questions, among others: How are hybrid Latina/o/x identities expressed through popular music and dance? In what ways do gender, sexuality, and ethno-racial identity inform the performance and interpretation of particular Latina/o musical forms? What unique role does sound play in our understanding of popular music and identity? [ more ]

AMST 345(F) SEM Capitalism and Racism in the American Context and Beyond: A Global Approach

American Studies emerged with the idea that transdisciplinarity is crucial for comprehending the concept of America. Building on this framework, this course foregrounds transepistemology as an equally important method for understanding the dynamics of America, both locally and globally, at the level of the world-system. In addition to tracing the consubstantial genealogy of racism and capitalism, we will examine their local manifestations, mainly in Asia, Europe, Africa and America, as well as their current geopolitical, social and economic outcomes, especially the reproduction of systemic inequalities and domination. Through an interdisciplinary approach and engagement with a variety of resources from economics, anthropology, sociology, critical race theory, comparative ethnic studies and decolonial thinking, this course will address the following: i) review the different forms of economic organization of human societies throughout history (with special focus on the work of Karl Polanyi); ii) trace the epistemological origins of capitalism and investigate what makes capitalism and its crises unique; iii) trace the genealogy of the concepts of race, racism and discrimination; iv) interrogate the intersection of racism and capitalism in different traditions of thought and epistemologies in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. For example, we will read key texts from "French theory", (Deleuze, Foucault, etc.), US Black tradition, (W. E. B. Du Bois and Cedric Robison, etc.), Chinese social sciences (Li Shenming, Cheng Enfu, etc.) and African economy and anthropology (Mahdi Elmandjra, Cheikh Anta Diop, etc.) and Latin American decolonial philosophy (Quijano, Dussel, Mignolo, etc.) By doing this, we will situate the rupture that capitalism and racism introduced at the level of global history, which is the first step to conceptualizing racism and capitalism. After showing that the development of capitalism and racism are historically linked, we will proceed to examine the manifestations of their interaction at local and global levels. Locally, we will focus on the effects of racism on the labor market: discrimination in hiring, wage discrimination, segregation, duality and stratification of the labor market, etc. We will also analyze how sexism and racism play out in the labor market in racialized communities. We will also reflect on the links between racism and politics and their effects on economic policies. From a more global perspective, we will analyze the roots of the global economic crisis and the resulting geopolitical issues at the international level and the racist dynamics they generate. Overall, as we will move through readings, we will situate the United States in a cross-regional perspective that would enable us to develop critical insights concerning links and convergences between capitalism and racism. [ more ]

AMST 346 SEM Latinas/os and the Media: From Production to Consumption

Last offered Fall 2020

This interdisciplinary course focuses on the areas of Latina/o media production, policy, content, and consumption in an attempt to answer the following questions, among others: How do Latinas/os construct identity (and have their identities constructed for them) through the media? How can we best understand the complex relationship between consumer, producer, and media text? How are Latina/o stereotypes constructed and circulated in mass media? Where do issues of Latina/o consumer agency come into play? In what ways does popular media impact our understanding of ethno-racial identities, gender, sexuality, class, language, and nation? [ more ]

AMST 348 SEM Drawing Democracy: Graphic Narratives as Democratic Ideals

Last offered Spring 2022

This course examines the graphic narrative in terms of how each author/illustrator employs narrative elements (plotting, structure, characterization, text, and visuals) to express social realities within the context of democratic ideals. Regular assignments and in-class exercises throughout the course offer students the opportunity to create their own graphic narratives. [ more ]

AMST 353 SEM Is Science Native to Turtle Island? The History of Native Science in North America

Last offered Spring 2022

Settler sciences and technologies deployed by Europeans colonizing Turtle Island (what settlers called North America) were introduced as weapons of Indigenous termination. From medical violation, to anthropological theft, and industrial pollution, settler technoscience objectified and appropriated Indigenous people and lands, and attempted to displace Indigenous knowledge in the pursuit of settler supremacy. Indigenous bodies were cast as victims, objects and sometimes the tools of this project. And yet, as tools and objects, Indigenous peoples took up settler technoscience in a multitude of ways that failed (both purposefully and not) to adhere to the colonizing mission, incorporating Indigenous knowledges and orientations, subverting settler science as a source of authority, and positioning science as a site of Indigenous sovereignty. The practice of taking up science as a tool of decolonization has become explicit in recent decades as expressly Native sciences now shape tribal funding, college education, and negotiations with international governing bodies. This course will trace the history of Native science across different nations and disciplines from the antebellum period when settler sciences were taking shape in civilian institutions to the present when Native science is professionalizing and being codified. We will read primary sources and scientific treatises by Indigenous leaders, activists, and scientists alongside secondary sources in Indigenous science and technology studies (STS), history, and postcolonial and queer theory. [ more ]

Taught by: Eli Nelson

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AMST 357 SEM Re/Generations II: Contemporary Experiments in Memory, Trauma, and Self

Last offered Spring 2021

This is a two-part junior seminar in which we take an expansive approach to memoir as a form, genre, and practice, with specific attention given to texts reckoning with the traumas, transgressions, and transformations of what we understand as "America" and its many discontents. In this second part, we convene on a selection from our historical present and explore how categories of identity and experience, memory and history are being constructed and deconstructed, reimagined and remade anew. We will ask: how do these authors narrate the overlapping cycles of loss, pain, grief, survival, resilience, and resistance in the face of historical violence? What possibilities for (individual and collective) healing can exist in and beyond the world as we know it? What does it even mean to have or to not have, to find, to lose, to have stolen, to dissolve, and/or to recover a self in a besieged American present-future tense? Texts to be considered may include: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (Alexander Chee); When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele); Heart Berries (Terese Marie Mailhot); Know My Name (Chanel Miller); On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (Ocean Vuong). [ more ]

Taught by: Anthony Kim

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AMST 371(S) SEM Rebels, Guerillas, and Insurgents: Resistance and Repression in US History

This course examines histories of resistance and repression throughout US history. We will consider the role of militancy in social or revolutionary movements, how states deploy power to respond to those movements, and debates around "violence" and political action. Wide ranging in both chronology and topic, course materials will explore slavery, piracy, indigenous resistance to US continental expansion, the expansion of US empire to places like Hawaii and the Philippines, social movements focused on race, class, gender, sexuality, and citizenship, as well as struggles over environmental justice and indigenous sovereignty. The course will also interrogate the rise of far-right paramilitary violence in the United States and the backlash to the social movements of the 1960s and 70s. Students will develop their skills in reading, writing, and communication, and classes will emphasize engagement with primary sources, cultural texts, and different forms of media. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 372(F) SEM Technologies of Race

This course is an introduction to theories, methods, sources, and approaches for interdisciplinary research and creativity in and through the interdisciplinary field of American Studies. We will focus on the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and disability with modern media technologies, from early photography in the mid-19th century to contemporary trends in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Through a process of shared inquiry, course participants will investigate the ways that historical legacies of oppression and futuristic speculation combine to shape human lives in the present under racial capitalism. Whether analyses of the automation of militarized border control in Texas, or of the ways that obsolete, racist concepts are embedded in machine vision and surveillance systems, the readings in the course will chart out the key moments in the co-evolution of race and technology in the Americas. Students will gain a working competence in all four tracks of the American Studies major (Space and Place; Comparative Studies in Race, Ethnicity, and Diaspora; Arts in Context; and Critical and Cultural Theory). Finally, we will also explore alternative paths toward a future where technology might help to effect the abolition of oppressive structures and systems, rather than continue to perpetuate them. [ more ]

AMST 373(F) SEM US Empire in the Philippines: Capitalism, Colonialism, and Revolution

When the United States of America took official colonial control of the Philippines in 1898, Filipinos had already been fighting an anti-colonial struggle against Spain for several years. With the start of the Philippine-American War in 1899, that fight continued. Keeping the always-present possibilities of Filipino revolt in mind, this course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of U.S. empire-building in the Philippines from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. We will frame our understanding in terms of racial capitalism and the coloniality of power, with particular attention to the materiality of empire -- infrastructure, architecture, financing, markets, and population management -- and U.S. empire's production of racial, gender, indigenous, religious, and sexual categories and difference. Our readings may be drawn from critical ethnic studies, gender & sexuality studies, American studies, postcolonial theory, Black studies, disability studies, and more. Topics include the military "management" of Muslim, Christian, and animist groups, the Katipunan society, interracial intimacies, and early 20th century Filipino migration to the United States. Students are expected to take an active role in discussion, but no prior knowledge of the Philippines is expected. [ more ]

AMST 374(S) SEM Black Critical Theory, Black Avant-Garde

What is the relationship between violence and what constitutes the Black avant-garde and Black critical theory? Is it possible to conceptualize the latter two without an investigation of Black rebellion and its relationship between Black artistic and intellectual production? Can one argue that Black critique is none other than Black experimentation in form, or that Black abstraction is the requisite effector for all modes of Black praxis and thought? This course will explore these questions through a study of Black continental and diasporic avant-garde texts in multiple mediums. Alongside, we will also consider the emergence of contemporary Black critical theory, chronicling its development as both experimental and critical. Through the works of historical subjects of experimentation also considered to be objects critiquing in experimental form, the course will approach Black avant-gardism and Black critical theory as a productive opportunity to think about Blackness as critique, as experimentation, and as theoria. This pairing of Black avant-gardes and Black critical theory takes "avant" at its root--indicating what precedes or takes precedent--and "garde" as what is preeminent, or what protects. As such, we will start with the question of whether blackness, as an ideological fiction produced through violent historical ideologies and practices, could ever, or ever not, be anything but avant-garde? [ more ]

AMST 375(S) SEM Asian American Sexualities

Often framed as objects of sexual use and perversity, how might Asian/Asian American subjects contend with these projections and enact their own sexualities? Anchored in this question, this theory-intensive course introduces students to core texts in Asian American Studies, feminist and queer criticism, and performance studies alongside a host of cultural productions (e.g., film, visual art, performance, poetry). It will focus on an array of topics, including western demands to "come out," the history and activism of "comfort women," HIV/AIDS, orientalism/ornamentalism, the criminalization of Sikh, South Asian, and Muslim Americans post-9/11, queer kinship, sex work, representations in pornography, drag performance (among others) to explore questions of racialized and sexualized pain alongside pleasure, play, and critique from feminist, queer, trans, and queered positions. [ more ]

AMST 403 SEM New Asian American, African American, Native American, and Latina/o Writing

Last offered Spring 2020

The most exciting and forward-thinking writing in the English language today is being done by formally experimental writers of color. Their texts push the boundaries of aesthetic form while simultaneously engaging questions of culture, politics, and history. This course argues not only for the centrality of minority experimental work to English literature but a fundamental rethinking of English literary studies so as to confront the field's imbedded assumptions about race, a legacy of British colonialism, and to make the idea of the aesthetic more open to ideas generated in critical race studies, diaspora studies, American studies, and those fields that grapple more directly with history and politics. In the critical realms of English, work by minority writers is often relegated to its own segregated spaces, categorized by ethnic identity, or tokenized as "add-ons" to more "central" or "fundamental" categories of literature (such as Modernism, poetics, the avant-garde). Recent work by Asian American, African American, Native American and Latino/a writers challenges our assumptions and preconceptions about ethnic literature, American literature, English literature, formal experimentation, genre categorization, and so on. This writing forces us to examine our received notions about literature, literary methodologies, and race. Close reading need not be opposed to critical analyses of ideologies. Formal experimentation need not be opposed to racial identity nor should it be divorced from history and politics, even, or especially, a radical politics. [ more ]

AMST 405 SEM Critical Indigenous Theory

Last offered Fall 2020

Intellectual decolonization is not a bounded project. On one hand, it demands a vocabulary of difference and refusal that rejects colonial theories and epistemologies. On the other, it demands that we interrogate our own intellectual and cultural traditions and trauma. Critical Indigenous theory is a tool in those projects, as it offers a corrective and an opening up of both dominant critical theory traditions that violently erase Indigenous bodies and political realities and of Indigenous theory that can essentialize difference and replicate oppressive dynamics in our communities. Critical Indigenous theory seeks to understand the structures and relations of power in settler colonialism, nested sovereignty, and culturally specific Indigenous philosophical traditions, like Indigenous studies more broadly, but also questions the key concepts that define Indigenous studies: tradition, sovereignty, authenticity, identity, race, gender, and sexuality. In this course, we will read major works in critical Indigenous theory that address indigeneity as it relates to race, postcolonial theory, feminist and two-spirit critique, alternative political engagement with the settler colonial state, and questions of "colonial unknowing." We will work on cultivating the reading practices needed to parse dense theoretical texts, and over the course of the semester you will develop a research project on a topic of your choosing that will allow you to take critical Indigenous theories and employ them as analytic tools and lenses. [ more ]

Taught by: Eli Nelson

Catalog details

AMST 409(F) SEM Prehistories of the War on Terror

On September 11th, 2001, members of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and rural Pennsylvania. For many Americans this tragedy seemed to come out of nowhere. In an attempt to historicize these shocking events, and the global wars that resulted from them, this course will examine the prehistories of the War on Terror. We will study the United States' emergence as a global power after World War II, US foreign policy and its relationship to the Middle East, and the political and cultural currents that informed American responses to the events of 9/11. We will also explore the history of the War on Terror itself. Topics will include the Cold War, the environmental history of oil, the history of terrorism, the relationship between race and war, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. [ more ]

AMST 411 SEM Transnationalism and Difference: Comparative Perspectives

Last offered Fall 2021

In the age of digital communications and mobile applications such as WhatsApp and Skype, transnational living has rapidly emerged as the norm as opposed to the exception. However, what does it really mean to "be transnational"? How are the lived experiences of transnational individuals and communities shaped by categories of difference such as gender, ethno-racial identity, sexuality, and class? What impacts do the growing number of transnational citizens and residents in the U.S. have on our understanding of "American" identity in the local, national, and global contexts? In this interdisciplinary seminar we will analyze recent theories regarding the origins and impacts of transnationalism. Particular attention will be paid throughout the semester to the intersections of gender, ethno-racial identity, sexuality, and class in connection with everyday transnational dynamics. The broad range of case studies examined includes Central American, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, the Middle East, and Peru. [ more ]

AMST 412(S) SEM Cold War Archaeology

In this advanced American Studies course, we will examine Cold War history and culture with attention to the intersection of racialization and nuclear paranoia. The concurrent unfolding of the struggle for Civil Rights and the national strategy of Civil Defense played out against the backdrop of a global ideological battle, as the United States and the Soviet Union fought each other for planetary domination. From the scientific fantasy of bombproofing and "safety in space," to the fears of both racial and radioactive contamination that drove the creation of the American suburbs, the affective and material dimensions of nuclear weaponry have, from the beginning, been entangled with race. Drawing on the critical and analytical toolkits of American Studies and media archaeology, students will dig beneath the surface of received narratives about the arms race, the space race, and race itself. Students will uncover generative connections between mineral extraction, the oppression of Indigenous populations, the destructive legacies of "urban renewal," and the figure of the "typical American family" huddled in their backyard bunker. Finally, this course will examine the ways in which the Cold War exceeds its historical boundaries, entangles with the ideology and military violence of the Global War on Terror, and persistently shapes the present through its architectural, affective, and cultural afterlives. [ more ]

AMST 440 SEM Racial Capitalism

Last offered Spring 2017

This class will interrogate the ways in which capitalist economies have "always and everywhere" relied upon forms of racist domination and exclusion. Although the United States will be in the foreground, the subject requires an international perspective by its very nature. We will consider the ways in which the violent expropriation of land from the indigenous peoples of the Americas, paired with chattel slavery and other coercive forms of labor, made possible the rise of a capitalist world economy centered in Europe during the early modern period. We will then explore ways racial divisions have undermined the potential for unified movements of poor and working people to challenge the prerogatives of wealthy citizens, and served to excuse imperial violence waged in the name of securing resources and "opening markets". Ideas about gender and sexuality always undergird racial imaginaries, so we will study, for instance, the ways rhetoric about "welfare queens" has impacted public assistance programs, and claims about the embodiment of Asian women play into the international division of labor. We will also be attentive to the means - from interracial unionism to national liberation struggles - by which subjects of racial capitalism have resisted its dehumanizing effects. This is a reading intensive course that will challenge students to synthesize historical knowledge with concepts drawn from scholars working in the traditions of Marxist, decolonial, and materialist feminist thought, including: Angela Davis, Cedric Robinson, Anibal Quijano, Chandra Mohanty, David Roediger, Stuart Hall, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Silvia Federici [ more ]

AMST 465 SEM Race and Abstraction

Last offered Spring 2015

Minority artists--writers and visual artists mainly and, to a lesser degree, musicians--face a difficult "double bind" when creating works of art: the expectation is that they, like their racially marked bodies, will exhibit their difference by means of concrete signifiers (details, tropes, narratives, themes) of racial difference. Thus, the work is judged primarily in terms of its embodied sociological content (material, empirical) and not by "abstract" standards of aesthetic subtlety, philosophical sophistication, and so on. At the same time, in the popular and academic imaginary, minority subjects and artists poets occupy a single abstract signifying category--homogeneous, undifferentiated, "other," marginalized, non-universal--while racially "unmarked" (white) artists occupy the position of being universal and individual at once. The irony, of course, is that, say, an African American poet's being read as an abstract signifier does not mean that the black subject or writer is seen as capable of engaging in abstract ideas. This course will ask questions about the problem of race and abstraction by looking at the work of various African American and Asian American writers, visual artists and musicians--including Will Alexander, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, David Hammons, Yayoi Kusama, Tan Lin, Nathaniel Mackey, and Cecil Taylor--as well as critics. We will pay particular attention to formally experimental works. This course will ask questions about the problem of race and abstraction by looking at the work of various African American and Asian American writers, visual artists and musicians--including Will Alexander, John Keene, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, John Yau, Cecil Taylor, David Hammons, and Yoko Ono--as well as critics. We will pay particular attention to formally experimental works. [ more ]