Location: Bowdoin / Africana Studies / Courses

Africana Studies

Spring 2014

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AFRS 1019. Holy Songs in a Strange Land.
Judith Casselberry.

Examines Black American sacred music from its earliest forms, fashioned by enslaved Africans, through current iterations, produced by Black global actors of a different sort. What does bondage sound like? What does emancipation sound like? Can we hear corresponding sounds generated by artists today? In what ways have creators of sacred music embraced, rejected, and re-envisioned the "strange land" over time? Looks at musical and lyrical content and the context in which various music genres developed, such as Negro spirituals, gospel, and sacred blues. Contemporary artists such as Janelle Monáe, Beyoncé and Lupe Fiasco included as well.

AFRS 1103. Black-White Boogie: African Derived Dances in America.
Nyama McCarthy-Brown.

Combines dance history, embodied research, and performance. Students engage in readings, class discussions, and movement studies that allow them to learn movement techniques from past eras. Students explore connections between cultural values and norms and movement aesthetics, and discover how African American vernacular dance and jazz music influenced jazz forms and American dance throughout the twentieth century (ragtime, swing, hot jazz, and hip-hop). Culminates with a performance in the December Dance Concert. Students meet once a week in a seminar setting to investigate one dance era, such as swing. The next two class meetings take place in a dance studio in order to embody the dance form discussed that week, and include rehearsals.

AFRS 1581. History of Jazz I.
Tracy McMullen.

A socio-cultural, historical, and analytical introduction to jazz music from the turn of the 20th century to around 1950. Includes some concert attendance.

AFRS 2141. The History of African Americans from 1865 to the Present.
Patrick Rael.

Explores the history of African Americans from the end of the Civil War to the present. Issues include the promises and failures of Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, black leadership and protest institutions, African American cultural styles, industrialization and urbanization, the world wars, the Civil Rights Movement, and conservative retrenchment.

AFRS 2210. Beyond Capoeira: History and Politics of Afro-Brazilian Culture.
Laura Premack.

Seminar. Brazil has the largest population of African descent outside Africa. Nowadays, Brazilians pride themselves on their country’s unique racial and cultural heritage, but it hasn’t always been this way. For centuries, many Afro-Brazilian practices were illegal. Now, however, we are in the midst of what might be called an Afro-Brazilian renaissance. This is something to be celebrated, but it is also something to be questioned. Do these efforts to delineate, praise, and preserve Afro-Brazilian culture actually limit our understanding of it? Has labeling certain aspects of Brazilian cultural heritage as African created a situation in which other ways that Africa has influenced Brazil are overlooked? Just what do we mean by “African” and “Brazilian” anyhow? Takes a historical and anthropological approach to these and other related questions.

AFRS 2235. Global Pentecostalism: The Roots and Routes of Twentieth Century Christianity.
Judith Casselberry.

Seminar. Pentecostalism is a form of Christianity centered on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals speak in tongues, heal, prophesize, see visions, and exorcise demons. By many accounts, Pentecostalism is the fastest-growing religion in the world. While the Pentecostal population is difficult to count, current estimates place the world’s total number of adherents at close to 600 million, of whom 75% are women. With particular attention to its intersections with gender, ethnicity, and class, explores the religion’s appeal; its impact on devotees’ lives; and resultant local, regional, and global implications. Case studies include the Americas, the Caribbean, and Africa.

AFRS 2236. Afro-Modern II: Technique.
Nyama McCarthy-Brown.

A continuation of modern dance principles introduced in Dance 1211 with the addition of African-derived dance movement. The two dance aesthetics are combined to create a new form. Technique classes will include center floor exercises, movement combinations across the floor, and movement phrases. Students will also attend dance performances in the community.

AFRS 2237. Afro-Modern II: Repertory and Performance.
Nyama McCarthy-Brown.

Repertory students are required to take Dance 2241 concurrently. A continuation of modern dance principles introduced in Dance 1211 with the addition of African-derived dance movement. The two dance aesthetics are combined to create a new form. Through regular rehearsals students will be a part of an artistic creative process and perform in the Spring Dance concert at the end of the semester.

AFRS 2364. Conquest, Colonialism, and Independence: Africa since 1880.
David Gordon.

Focuses on conquest, colonialism, and its legacies in sub-Saharan Africa; the violent process of colonial pacification, examined from European and African perspectives; the different ways of consolidating colonial rule and African resistance to colonial rule, from Maji Maji to Mau Mau; and African nationalism and independence, as experienced by Africa’s nationalist leaders, from Kwame Nkrumah to Jomo Kenyatta, and their critics. Concludes with the limits of independence, mass disenchantment, the rise of the predatory post-colonial state, genocide in the Great Lakes, and the wars of Central Africa.

AFRS 2411. Introduction to the Study and Criticism of Francophone Literature.
Hanetha Vete-Congolo.

Introduces students to the literary tradition of the contemporary Francophone world. Focuses on major authors and literary movements in historical and cultural context. Conducted in French.

AFRS 2504. Nineteenth-Century American Fiction.
Tess Chakkalakal.

Historical survey of nineteenth-century American fiction, including works by Washington Irving, Catherine Sedgwick, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frank Webb, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Wells Brown, Mark Twain, Frank Norris, Henry James, John DeForest, Edith Wharton, William Dean Howells, and Charles Chesnutt. Note: This course fulfills the literature of the Americas requirement for English majors.

AFRS 2584. The Afterlives of Uncle Tom.
Tess Chakkalakal and Peter Coviello.

Considers the intertwined fates of slavery and sentiment in the lead-up to, and the years following, the Civil War. At its center is Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Tracks the ramifying effects of this antebellum mega-bestseller, in such disparate realms as literary and print culture, political counter-publics, and law. Explores in particular how responses to the novel in Southern, British, and African-American literary discourses ring complex changes on the major tropes of Stowe’s novel, and on the received wisdom about Uncle Tom that persists into today. Note: This course fulfills the literature of the Americas requirement for English majors.

AFRS 2630. Staging Blackness.
Guy Mark Foster.

Examines the history and contributions of African Americans to United States theater from the early blackface minstrel tradition, to the revolutionary theater of the Black Arts writers, to more recent postmodernist stage spectacles. Among other concerns, such works often dramatize the efforts of African Americans to negotiate ongoing tensions between individual needs and group demands that result from historically changing forms of racial marginalization. A particular goal is to highlight what Kimberly Benston has termed the “expressive agency” with which black writers and performers have imbued their theatrical presentations. Potential authors include Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, Ron Milner, Adrienne Kennedy, Ntozake Shange, George C. Wolfe, Anna Deavere Smith, Afro Pomo Homos, and August Wilson.

AFRS 2841. History of African and African Diasporic Political Thought.
Olufemi Vaughan.

Seminar. Critically discusses some seminal works in African diaspora and African political thought in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Organized around global and national currents that will allow students to explore intersections in pan-African, African American, and African political thought in the context of Atlantic and global histories. Seminar topics divided into three major historic moments. The first explores major themes on Atlantic slavery and Western thought, notably slavery and racial representation, slavery and capitalism, and slavery and democracy. The second focuses on the struggle of African Americans, Africans, and West Indians for freedom in post-Abolition and colonial contexts. Topics discussed within twentieth-century national, regional, and global currents include reconstruction and industrialization, pan-Africanism, new negro, negritude, colonialism, nationalism. Finally, explores pan-African and African encounters in the context of dominant postcolonial themes, namely decolonization, Cold War, state formation, imperialism, African diaspora feminist thought, and globalism. Discusses these foundational texts and the political thoughts of major African, African American, and Caribbean intellectuals and activists in their appropriate historical context.

AFRS 2901. Archaeology of the Black Atlantic.
Scott MacEachern.

Uses archaeology to explore the experience of Africans and their descendants in the Atlantic World from the fifteenth century onward. Examines archaeological sites in Africa, the New World, and the Atlantic islands that are implicated in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and in other forms of interaction between African and non-African communities. Particular topics to be explored will include comparisons between archaeological and historical documentation, archaeological evidence for domination and resistance, and the material traces of cultural contacts and hybridity.

AFRS 3011. African American Film.
Elizabeth Muther.

Explores a spectrum of films produced since 1950 that engage African American cultural experience. Topics may include black-white buddy movies, the L.A. Rebellion, blaxploitation, the hood genre, cult classics, comedy and cross-dressing, and romance dramas. Of special interest will be the documentary impulse in contemporary African American film; gender, sexuality, and cultural images; the politics of interpretation—writers, filmmakers, critics, and audiences; and the urban context and the economics of alienation. Extensive readings in film and cultural theory and criticism.

AFRS 3140. Research in Nineteenth-Century United States History.
Patrick Rael.

A research course for majors and interested non-majors that culminates in a single 25–30 page research paper. With the professor’s consent, students may choose any topic in Civil War or African American history, broadly defined. This is a special opportunity to delve into Bowdoin’s rich collections of primary historical source documents.

AFRS 3211. Bringing the Female Maroon to Memory: Female Marronage and Douboutism in French Caribbean Literature.
Hanetha Vete-Congolo.

History has retained the names of great male Caribbean heroes and freedom fighters during slavery such as the Haitians, Mackandal or Toussaint Louverture, the Jamaican, Cudjoe or the Cuban Coba. Enslaved Africans who rebelled against oppression and fled from the plantation system are called maroons and their act, marronage. Except for Queen Nanny of the Jamaican Blue Mountains, only male names have been consecrated as maroons. Yet, enslaved women did fight against slavery and practice marronage. Caribbean writers have made a point of bringing to memory forgotten acts of marronage by women during slavery or shortly thereafter. This course proposes to examine the fictional treatment French-speaking Caribbean authors grant to African or Afro-descent women who historically rebelled against slavery and colonization. The literary works will be studied against the backdrop of “douboutism”, a conceptual framework derived from the common perception about women in the French Caribbean as expressed in the Creole say “fanm doubout” which means “strong woman”. Authors studied may include Suzanne Dracius (Martinique), Fabienne Kanor (Martinique), André Schwart-Bart (Guadeloupe), Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe), Evelyn Trouillot (Haiti). Conducted in French.

AFRS 3301. Senior Seminar in Africana Studies.
Olufemi Vaughan.

Students conduct intensive research on a major topic in Africana studies that they have explored during the course of their academic experience in the Africana Studies Program. Students required to apply rigorous humanities and social science theories and concepts to African American, African, or African diaspora themes in the formation of their final research projects. Students required to give regular presentations of their research projects to Africana studies faculty and students.

AFRS 3306. The Common Good? A History of International Aid.
David Gordon.

The history of international aid to the “third world” through the twentieth century. Seminar considers the imperial mission and white man’s burden, aid during modern colonialism, the post-colonial aid community, the Bretton Woods Institutions, the rise of small-scale NGO aid interventions, aid in modern warfare, and the varied contemporary impacts of aid. Readings focus on Africa, along with examples from Latin America and South Asia. Participants should have some background in the history of at least one of these regions. Each student will write an original research paper on the history of an aid project.

AFRS 3362. Spiritual Encounters: African Religion in the Americas.
Laura Premack.

Investigates how African, European, and indigenous beliefs about the spirit world have combined in the development of African diasporic religion in the Americas. Historicizes and theorizes the development of several varieties, focusing particularly on Candomblé, Umbanda, and Spiritism in Brazil. Also considers Santería in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and New York; Vodun in Haïti; Hoodoo in the Mississippi Delta; and Obeah in Jamaica and Guyana. Explores concepts of syncretism, hybridity, cultural encounter, identity, performance, and diaspora.

AFRS 3600. Race and Visual Representation in American Art.
Dana Byrd.

Explores the visual construction of race in American art and culture from the colonial period to the late twentieth century. Focuses on two racial "categories"--blackness and whiteness--and how they have shaped American culture. Using college and local museum collections, examines paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, film, and the spaces in which they have been displayed and viewed. Approach to this material is grounded in art history, but also draws from other disciplines. Artists under study include those who are well-known such as Homer and Walker as well as those who are unknown or have been forgotten.