Fall 2014 Courses

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AFRS 1010. Racism.
Examines issues of racism in the United States, with attention to the social psychology of racism, its history, its relationship to social structure, and its ethical and moral implications.
AFRS 1015. Women and the Blues.
An in-depth interdisciplinary examination of historical, social, and cultural contexts of women and blues music of the twentieth century. Focuses on the lives, careers, and social realities of female African American blues singers such as Bessie Smith and Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey and their contributions at the forefront of blues development. Also looks at the influence of blues oral tradition on song lyrics and vocal techniques, from the psychedelic blues of Janis Joplin to women performing jazz, from a socio-cultural perspective. No musical performance background is expected. Course involves both analytical writing and creative projects.
AFRS 1017. Black Humor.
Explores a long American cultural tradition of humor centering on people of African descent. Representations of African Americans, and African Americans themselves, have long been a component of American laughter -- either as objects of derision, or as potent social commentators. This course explores the history of black humor stretching from nineteenth-century blackface minstrelsy to Saturday Night Live. We will view recorded performances, read historical material, and engage a complex theoretical literature on this subject. Students should be ready to encounter edgy material that may be considered offensive. Subjects may include Amos and Andy, Moms Mably, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg, Wanda Sykes, and Dave Chapelle.
AFRS 1026. Fictions of Freedom.
Explores the ways in which the idea of American freedom has been defined both with and against slavery through readings of legal and literary texts. Students come to terms with the intersections between the political, literary, and historical concept of freedom and its relation to competing definitions of American citizenship.
AFRS 1101. Introduction to Africana Studies.
Focuses on major humanities and social science disciplinary and interdisciplinary African American and African diaspora themes in the context of the modern world. The African American experience discussed in its appropriate historical context, emphasizing its important place in the history of the United States and connections to African diasporic experiences, especially in the construction of the Atlantic world. Material covered chronologically and thematically, building on historically centered accounts of African American, African diaspora, and African experiences. Introduces prospective Africana Studies majors and minors to the intellectually engaging field of Africana Studies; provides an overview of the major theoretical and methodological perspectives in this evolving field; and provides historical context for critical analyses of African American experiences in the United States, and their engagement with the African diaspora.
AFRS 1241. The Civil War Era.
Examines the coming of the Civil War and the war itself in all its aspects. Considers the impact of changes in American society, the sectional crisis and breakdown of the party system, the practice of Civil War warfare, and social ramifications of the conflict. Includes readings of novels and viewing of films. Students are expected to enter with a basic knowledge of American history, and a commitment to participating in large class discussions.
AFRS 2051. Race, Citizenship, and Political Behavior.
Analyzes the ability of race and ethnicity to restrict access to citizenship rights and produce dynamic forms of political behavior that range from micro to macro-politics. The course considers the traditional forms of political behavior (e.g., voting) as well as those that function outside of the traditional institutions of governmental influence. Specific forms of political behavior discussed include “foot-dragging” (failure to act with the necessary promptness), sports, music, protests and voting.
AFRS 2201. Black Women, Politics, Music, and the Divine.
Seminar. Examines the convergence of politics and spirituality in the musical work of contemporary Black women singer-songwriters in the United States. Analyzes material that interrogates and articulates the intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality, generated across a range of religious and spiritual terrains with African diasporic/Black Atlantic spiritual moorings, including Christianity, Islam, and Yoruba. Focuses on material that reveals a womanist (Black feminist) perspective by considering the ways resistant identities shape and are shaped by artistic production. Employs an interdisciplinary approach by incorporating ethnomusicology, anthropology, literature, history, and performance and social theory. Explores the work of Shirley Caesar, the Clark Sisters, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Abby Lincoln, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Dianne Reeves, among others.
AFRS 2233. Peoples and Cultures of Africa.
Introduction to the traditional patterns of livelihood and social institutions of African peoples. Following a brief overview of African geography, habitat, and cultural history, lectures and readings cover a representative range of types of economy, polity, and social organization, from the smallest hunting and gathering societies to the most complex states and empires. Emphasis upon understanding the nature of traditional social forms. Changes in African societies in the colonial and post-colonial periods examined, but are not the principal focus.
AFRS 2281. History of Jazz II.
Provides a socio-cultural, historical, and analytical introduction to jazz music from around 1950 to the present. Students will learn to understand the history of jazz in terms of changes in musical techniques and social values and to recognize music as a site of celebration and struggle over relationships and ideals. Students will increase their ability to hear differences among performances and styles. They will gain greater knowledge of U.S. history as it affects and is affected by musical activities and learn to appreciate the stakes and motives behind the controversies and debates that have often surrounded various styles of African American music.
AFRS 2380. Christianity and Islam in West Africa.
Explores how Christianity, Islam, and indigenous African religious beliefs shaped the formation of West African states from the nineteenth century Islamic reformist movements and mission Christianity, to the formation of modern nation-states in the twentieth century. While the course provides a broad regional West African overview, we will focus careful attention on how religious themes shaped the communities of the Nigerian region--a critical West African region where Christianity and Islam converged to transform a modern state and society. Drawing on primary and secondary historical texts as well as Africanist works in sociology and comparative politics, this Nigerian experience will illuminate broader West African, African, and global perspectives that underscore the historical significance of religion in politics and society, especially in non-Western contexts.
AFRS 2407. Francophone Cultures.
An introduction to the cultures of various French-speaking regions outside of France. Examines the history, politics, customs, cinema, and the arts of the Francophone world, principally Africa and the Caribbean. Increases cultural understanding prior to study abroad in French-speaking regions.
AFRS 2502. Introduction to Black Performance Studies.
What does it mean to say that we “perform” our identities? What role can performance play in the fight for racial and social justice? As a people long denied access to literacy, what role has performance played in shaping the history of black Americans? Performance studies--an interdisciplinary field devoted to the study of a range of aesthetic practices--offers us insight into such questions. In this course, we will investigate various performances including contemporary plays, movies and television, dance, and social media. We will query the relationship between identities like race, gender, class, and performance as well as the connection between performance onstage and everyday life.
AFRS 2530. Politics and Societies in Africa.
Surveys societies and politics in sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to understand the sources of current conditions and the prospects for political stability and economic growth. Looks briefly at pre-colonial society and colonial influence on state-construction in Africa, and concentrates on three broad phases in Africa’s contemporary political development: (1) independence and consolidation of authoritarian rule; (2) economic decline and challenges to authoritarianism; (3) democratization and civil conflict. Presumes no prior knowledge of the region.
AFRS 2600. African American Poetry.
African American poetry as counter-memory—from Wheatley to the present—with a focus on oral traditions, activist literary discourses, trauma and healing, and productive communities. Special emphasis on the past century: dialect and masking; the Harlem Renaissance; Brown, Brooks and Hayden at mid-century; the Black Arts Movement; black feminism; and contemporary voices. Note: This course fulfills the literature of the Americas requirement for English majors.
AFRS 2840. Transnational Africa and Globalization.
Seminar. Drawing on key readings on the historical sociology of transnationalism since World War II, examines how postcolonial African migrations transformed African states and their new transnational populations in Western countries. Discusses what concepts such as the nation state, communal identity, global relations, and security mean in the African context to critically explore complex African transnational experiences and globalization. These dynamic African transnational encounters encourage discussions on homeland and diaspora, tradition and modernity, gender and generation.
AFRS 2862. The Haitian Revolution and its Legacy.
Seminar. Examines one of the most neglected revolutions in history, and arguably, one of its most significant. The first half of the course treats the Revolution’s causes and tracks its evolution between 1791-1804. The second part studies its aftermath and its impact on Haiti, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, Africa and the United States. Course requirements include four short papers on the readings and one substantive paper that assesses the scholarly literature on a topic of the students' choosing.
AFRS 3004. African American LIterature and the Law.
Examines the intersections between literature and law through works of African American literature. Students investigate the influence of landmark legal cases—Dred Scott, Plessy v. Fergusson, Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia—on the production and dissemination of particular works of American and African American literature. Works by Charles Chesnutt, Ralph Ellison, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frederick Douglass are among those that will be considered. Note: This course fulfills the literature of the Americas requirement for English majors.