Spring 2015

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AFRS 1019. Holy Songs in a Strange Land.
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 1592. Issues in Hip-Hop I.
Traces the history of hip-hop culture (with a focus on rap music) from its beginnings in the Caribbean to its transformation into a global phenomenon by the early 1990s. Explores constructions of race, gender, class, and sexuality in hip-hop’s production, promotion, and consumption, as well as the ways in which changing media technology and corporate consolidation influenced the music. Artists/bands investigated will include Grandmaster Flash, Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, De La Soul, Queen Latifah, N.W.A., MC Lyte, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Dr. Dre.
AFRS 2052. Race, Ethnicity, and Politics.
Examines the impact of race and ethnicity on American politics. Key topics include the development of group identity and the mobilization of political activism. Also covers voting rights and representation, as well as impacts on education and criminal justice. Groups addressed include Native Americans, black Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and white Americans.
AFRS 2140. The History of African Americans, 1619-1865.
Examines the history of African Americans from the origins of slavery in America through the death of slavery during the Civil War. Explores a wide range of topics, including the establishment of slavery in colonial America, the emergence of plantation society, control and resistance on the plantation, the culture and family structure of enslaved African Americans, free black communities, and the coming of the Civil War and the death of slavery.
AFRS 2142. Reconstruction and Reunion.
An interdisciplinary introduction from the perspectives of art history, literary history, and history to the political, economic, and social questions arising from American Reconstruction (1866-1877) and Reunion (1878-1900) following the Civil War between the North and South. Readings will delve into a wide array of primary and secondary sources, including photographs, novels, poetry, and government documents as we seek to understand the fierce political debates rooted in Reconstruction that continue to occupy conceptions of America today.
AFRS 2202. Demons and Deliverance in the Atlantic World.
Seminar. Examines beliefs and practices having to do with evil spirits, demons, and the Devil in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the United States, and Western Europe. The primary focus is exorcism. What is it? How has it been practiced? By whom? Why? The approach to the subject is historical, transnational, and diasporic; examines changes and continuities across the Atlantic over the past five hundred years, beginning with cultural encounters between Africans, native Americans, and Europeans during the colonial period and continuing up through the reverse missionization and the new African diaspora of the present day. Readings include works of ethnography, anthropology, theology, history, personal narrative, and fiction.
AFRS 2220. “The Wire”: Race, Class, Gender, and the Urban Crisis.
Postwar U.S. cities were considered social, economic, political, and cultural zones of “crisis.” African Americans—their families; gender relations; their relationship to urban political economy, politics, and culture—were at the center of this discourse. Uses David Simon’s epic series The Wire as a critical source on postindustrial urban life, politics, conflict, and economics to cover the origins of the “urban crisis,” the rise of an “underclass” theory of urban class relations, the evolution of the urban “underground economy,” and the ways the “urban crisis” shaped depictions of African Americans in American popular culture.
AFRS 2261. Holy Songs in a Strange Land.
Examines Black 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, Bob Marley, and Michael Jackson included as well.
AFRS 2271. Spirit Come Down: Religion, Race, and Gender in America.
Examines the ways religion, race, and gender shape people’s lives from the nineteenth century into contemporary times in America, with particular focus on black communities. Explores issues of self-representation, memory, material culture, embodiment, and civic and political engagement through autobiographical, historical, literary, anthropological, cinematic, and musical texts.
AFRS 2364. Conquest, Colonialism, and Independence: Africa since 1880.
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 2410. Sugar, Tobacco, Rice, and Rum: Art and Identity in Atlantic World, 1620-1812.
Intercontinental trade, the exchange of ideas and technology, and the mass emigration of peoples reshaped life, art, and culture in the Americas, Europe and Africa in the long-eighteenth century. This course uses the production of commodities - sugar, tobacco, rice and rum - to trace the circulation of art and artifacts in the Atlantic World. It situates art and other forms of cultural production alongside the larger exchange of people and ideas, and focuses on the fluctuating nature of national, racial and sexual identities in the circum-Atlantic world. Explores how British, French and Spanish citizens in the colonies and Caribbean attempted, and often failed, to sustain national identity in the face of separation, revolution, or insurrection. Of special interest are people, such as pirates and activists, art, like paintings and prints, and artifacts, such ceramics and silver, which moved seamlessly across the Atlantic divide. Examines the cultural impact, adaptations and changes in Native, African and European cultures resulting from this interaction. Includes intensive hands on object study at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
AFRS 2583. Literature of the Civil War Era.
Examines literature published in the United States between 1861 and 1865, with particular emphasis on the wartime writings of Louisa May Alcott, William Wells Brown, Frederick Douglass, William Gilmore Simms, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman. Students also consider writings of less well-known writers of the period found in popular magazines such as Harper’s Monthly, The Atlantic Monthly, The Southern Illustrated News, and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Note: This course fulfills the literature of the Americas requirement for English majors.
AFRS 2604. African American Literature and Visual Culture.
Explores creative collaborations and cross currents in African American literary and visual arts over the past century. Considers the problems of minstrelsy, masking, and caricature—as well as instruments of militant image-making in both literary and visual forms. Topics of special interest include uplift and documentary photography; modernist resistance languages of the Harlem Renaissance; shadows, silhouettes, and invisibility; comic strips and graphic narratives; and contemporary images—prints, texts, and illustrations—that introduce alternative socio-political allegories. Taught in conjunction with a special exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
AFRS 2700. Martin, Malcolm and America.
Seminar. Examines the lives and thoughts of Martin L. King Jr. and Malcolm X. Traces the development in their thinking and examines the similarities and differences between them. Evaluates their contribution to the African American freedom struggle, American society, and the world. Emphasizes very close reading of primary and secondary material, use of audio and videocassettes, lecture presentations, and class discussions. In addition to being an academic study of these two men’s political and religious commitment, also concerns how they inform our own political and social lives.
AFRS 2735. Contemporary Haiti.
Examines contemporary Haitian culture and society in the context of a prolonged series of crises and international interventions. Focuses on the democratic transition of the late twentieth century and the recent humanitarian intervention in the wake of a series of natural disasters. Considers the historical roots of the Haitian crisis with a particular focus on Haiti’s marginalization within the world system. Explores the relationship between Haiti and the international community, especially the role of nongovernmental organizations, humanitarian organizations, and international institutions in the everyday lives of Haitians.
AFRS 3213. Aesthetics in Africa and Europe.
Aesthetics, the critical reflection on art, taste and culture, as much as beauty, the set of properties of an object that arouses pleasure, are central to all aspects of society-building and human life and relationships. The course examines the notions of aesthetics and beauty, from pre-Colonial to contemporary times, in cultures of the African and Western civilizations as expressed in various humanities and social sciences texts as well as, the arts, iconography and the media. Also examines the ways Africans and afro-descendants in the New World responded to the Western notions of aesthetics and beauty. Authors studied may include Anténor Firmin, Jean Price Mars, Senghor, Damas, Césaire, Cheick Anta Diop, Fanon, Glissant, Chamoiseau, Gyekye Kwame, Socrates, Plato, Jean-Baptiste du Bos,Diderot, Le père André, Baumgarten, Kant, Schopenhauer, Hegel, Hugo.
AFRS 3365. Research in African and African Diaspora History.
This research seminar will focus on the following major issues in African and African diaspora history: Africa and Atlantic slavery, colonialism in Africa, modern state formation in Africa, and Africa and globalization.
AFRS 3570. Advanced Seminar in African Politics.
The continent of Africa boasts some of the most rapidly growing economies in the world, but the proportion of people living in poverty remains higher than in any other region. Nearly all African states experimented with democratic reform in the last two decades, but many leaders have become adept at using political institutions to entrench their power. Most large-scale civil wars have ended, but violence remains. Explores the economic, political, and security challenges of this continent of contrasts. Topics include poverty and economic growth, the “resource curse,” democratic institutions, civil society, ethnic relations, state failure, foreign assistance, and intervention.