African American Studies
Professors Rice-DeFosse (French), Creighton (History), Carnegie (Anthropology), Herzig (Women and Gender Studies), Nero (Rhetoric), and Fra-Molinero (Spanish); Associate Professors Jensen (History; chair), Houchins (African American Studies), and Melvin (History); Assistant Professors Chapman (Music), Beasley (African American Studies and American Cultural Studies), and Osucha (English); Lecturer Bessire (History)
African American studies is an interdisciplinary program designed to enrich knowledge of the experience of African Americans from the past to the present, both within and beyond the United States. Attention is given to "race" as a critical tool of analysis for explaining the allocation of economic resources, the formation of personal and group identity, and the changing nature of political behavior. Study of African American experiences provides insight into secular cultural practices, intellectual traditions, religious doctrines and practices, and social institutions with attention to issues of class, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
The chair of African American studies provides a list of courses offered each year. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program, students should 1) consult regularly with the chair or a faculty advisor in African American studies to ensure that their program has both breadth and depth and 2) devise programs of study approved by the chair or a faculty advisor by the fall semester of the junior year.
Thesis advisors should be chosen by each student, in consultation with the chair, according to the subject matter of the thesis.
More information on the African American studies program is available on the website (www.bates.edu/AAS.xml).
Major Requirements. Students must complete eleven courses and a thesis. Required courses for the major include Introduction to African American Studies (African American Studies 100), Interdisciplinary Studies: Methods and Modes of Inquiry (Interdisciplinary Studies 250), a junior-senior seminar, at least one course that has an experiential component, and a senior thesis (African American Studies 457 and/or 458). Majors must also take at least one course that emphasizes feminist histories and analyses and one that focuses on black diasporic life outside the United States. In addition, students are expected to develop, in consultation with their advisor, a disciplinary or thematic concentration of no fewer than three courses drawn from other departments and programs. Possible areas of concentration may be in literature or the arts (music, theater, dance, fine art), film studies, environmental studies, gender studies, politics, public policy, anthropology, economics, education, sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, race and science, or may focus on a particular world region (e.g., the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America). To fulfill these requirements courses may be chosen, with the guidance of a faculty advisor and the approval of the chair, from African American studies or from the list of approved electives that follows the course descriptions.
Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses applied toward the major.
Minor. A minor in African American studies allows students to develop a basic foundation in the field and to complement the perspective and modes of analysis offered in their major area of study. The program has established the following requirements for a minor in African American studies:
1) AAS 100. Introduction to African American Studies.
2) AA/WS 201. African American Women and Feminist Thought.
3) AA/HI 243. African American History.
4) Three additional courses, of which one should focus on black diasporic life outside the United States, and one should be at the 300 level.
Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses applied toward the minor.
AAS 100. Introduction to African American Studies.This course examines African American history and culture through four themes: fragmentation, exclusion, resistance, and community. Particular attention is given to the diversity of cultures in the African diaspora in the Americas. Not open to students who have received credit for African American Studies 140A. Enrollment limited to 40. Normally offered every year. Staff. Concentrations Interdisciplinary Programs.
AA/AC 119. Cultural Politics.This course examines the relationship of culture to politics. It introduces the study of struggles to acquire, maintain, or resist power and gives particular attention to the role culture plays in reproducing and contesting social divisions of class, race, gender, and sexuality. Lectures and discussion incorporate film, music, and fiction in order to evaluate the connection between cultural practices and politics. Enrollment limited to 40 per section. Normally offered every year. M. Beasley. Concentrations
AA/EN 121J. African American Literature.This introductory course traces the development of a distinct African American literary tradition by focusing on the call-and-response pattern of slavery through the civil rights, feminist, and Black Power liberation movements. Students examine the music, oratory, letters, poems, essays, slave narratives, autobiographies, fiction, and plays by Americans of African descent. Two essential questions shape this course: What is the role of African American literature in the cultural identity and collective struggle of black people, and what should that role be? What themes, tropes, and forms connect these texts, authors, and movements into a coherent living tradition? Enrollment limited to 25. Staff. Concentrations
AA/RH 162. White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American History.Since its origins in the early twentieth century, film has debated how to represent black suffering. This course examines one aspect of that debate: the persistent themes of white goodness, innocence, and blamelessness in films that are allegedly about black history and culture. Historical and cultural topics examined in film include the enslavement of Africans, Reconstruction, and the civil rights movement. Particular attention is given to films in the interracial male-buddy genre. [W2] Normally offered every year. C. Nero. Concentrations
AA/WS 201. Black Feminist Thought.While focusing primarily on African American women, this interdisciplinary course surveys historical, intellectual, political, and cultural contributions as well as literary, filmic, and artistic representations of women throughout the Black Atlantic. Using perspectives from the social sciences (especially history, anthropology, and sociology), the humanities (particularly literature), and critical race, womanist/black feminist, and queer theories, students examine experiences and depictions of women of African descent. The class pays particular attention to developing knowledge and understanding of black women's 1) experiences of enslavement and colonization; 2) involvement in liberation movements; 3) efforts at self-definition and self-sufficiency; 4) social and political activism; and 5) production of modes of analysis at the junctures or articulations of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 15. Normally offered every year. S. Houchins. Concentrations
AA/EN 223. Survey of Literature of the Caribbean.This course examines the literatures of the African diaspora in the Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Some texts are drawn from Anglophone authors such as Lamming, Anthony, Walcott, Brodber, Danticat, Lovelace, Brathwaite, and Denis Williams; others, from Francophone and Hispanophone writers, including Guillen, Carpentier, Condé, Chamoiseau, Depestre, Ferré, and Morejón. The course places each work in its historical, political, and anthropological contexts. Students are introduced to a number of critical theories and methodologies with which to analyze the works, including poststructuralist, Marxist, Pan-African, postcolonial, and feminist. Prerequisite(s): one 100-level English course. S. Houchins. Concentrations
INDS 235. The Politics of Pleasure and Desire: Women's Independent and Third Cinema and Video from the African Diaspora.This course examines independent and Third Cinema, and some written texts by women of African descent using contemporary theories of female pleasure and desire. By viewing and reading these cultural productions drawn from "high" and "low" culture in the light of a variety of film theories (e.g., feminist, womanist/black feminist, postcolonial, diasporic) as well as race-critical, feminist, and cultural theories, students explore the "textual" strategies that construct black female representations, and Afra-diasporic authors/directors and audiences as subjects and as agents of political change. Cross-listed in African American studies, rhetoric, and women and gender studies. Open to first-year students. S. Houchins. Concentrations Interdisciplinary Programs.
AAS 241. Filming Black Futures.This course examines the novel idea that black peoples around the world have a future, despite the preponderance of films that confine them to a present or eliminate them altogether. Students examine mostly independent, non-studio-produced films that depict black peoples imagining, planning, and creating future worlds. Prerequisite(s): African American Studies 100 or African American Studies/Rhetoric 162. C. Nero. Concentrations
AA/HI 243. African American History.People of African heritage in this country have been described as both "omni-Americans" and a distinctive cultural "nation within a nation." The course explores this apparent paradox using primary and interpretive sources, including oral and written biography, music, fiction, and social history. It examines key issues, recurrent themes, conflicting strategies, and influential personalities in African Americans' quest for freedom and security. It surveys black American history from seventeenth-century African roots to current problems that remain in building an egalitarian, multiracial society for the future. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 40. (United States.) H. Jensen. Concentrations
AA/MU 249. African American Popular Music.The history of the twentieth century can be understood in terms of the increasing African-Americanization of music in the West. The rapid emergence and dissemination of African American music made possible through recording technologies has helped to bring about radical cultural change: it has subverted received wisdoms about race, gender, and sexuality, and has fundamentally altered our relationship to time, to our bodies, to our most basic cultural priorities. This course explores some crucial moments in the history of this African-Americanization of popular music and helps students develop an understanding of the relationship between musical sound and cultural practice. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 40. D. Chapman. Concentrations
INDS 250. Interdisciplinary Studies: Methods and Modes of Inquiry.Interdisciplinarity involves more than a meeting of disciplines. Practitioners stretch methodological norms and reach across disciplinary boundaries. Through examination of a single topic, this course introduces students to interdisciplinary methods of analysis. Students examine what practitioners actually do and work to become practitioners themselves. Prerequisite(s): African American Studies 100 or 140A or Women and Gender Studies 100, and one other course in African American studies, American cultural studies, or women and gender studies. Cross-listed in African American studies, American cultural studies, and women and gender studies. Enrollment limited to 40. Normally offered every year. Staff. Interdisciplinary Programs.
AA/AN 251. Imagining the Caribbean.One anthropologist writing about the Caribbean asserts: "Nowhere else in the universe can one look with such certainty into the past and discern the outlines of an undisclosed future." Caribbean social systems bore the full impact of Western imperial expansion yet have adjusted to it in resilient and creative ways. The course surveys and interprets aspects of Caribbean life, and the ways in which they have been represented, drawing on a variety of sources—historical, ethnographic, literary, and visual. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 20. Normally offered every year. C. Carnegie. Concentrations
AA/DN 252. Contemporary Issues in Dance.This course focuses on current dance works and some of the issues that inform contemporary dance practices. Discussions include the ways in which choreographers, performers, and societies confront matters of political climate, cultural diversity, entertainment, globalization, and the politicized human body in dance. Open to first-year students. [W2] C. Dilley. Concentrations
AA/EN 253. The African American Novel.An examination of the African American novel from its beginnings in the mid-1800s to the present. Issues addressed include a consideration of folk influences on the genre, its roots in the slave narrative tradition, its relation to Euro-American texts and culture, and the "difference" that gender as well as race makes in determining narrative form. Readings include narratives selected from among the works of such writers as Douglass, Jacobs, Wilson, Delany, Hopkins, Harper, Chesnutt, Johnson, Toomer, Larsen, Hurston, Wright, Petry, Ellison, Baldwin, Walker, Morrison, Marshall, and Reed. Prerequisite(s): one 100-level English course. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 25. Staff. Concentrations
INDS 257. African American Women's History and Social Transformation.This course examines the political, social, and cultural traditions African American women have created from slavery to the current moment, notably the influence of African American women on the major social movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries including abolition, woman's suffrage, the club movement, women's liberation, the black arts movement, the civil rights movement, and Black Power. Through novels, plays, autobiography, music, and nonfiction produced by and about African American women, students explore a range of intellectual and cultural traditions. Recommended background: one course in women and gender studies and/or one course in African American studies. Cross-listed in African American studies, politics, and women and gender studies. Not open to students who have received credit for African American Studies/Women and Gender Studies 257. Not open to students who have received credit for AA/WS 257. Enrollment limited to 30. (Identities and Interests.) (Institutional Politics.) M. Plastas. Concentrations Interdisciplinary Programs.
AA/EN 265. The Writings of Toni Morrison.This course surveys the writing of Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Texts are selected from her novels, essays, children's literature, and drama and also include criticism written about her work by other scholars. Prerequisite(s): African American Studies 100 and one 100-level English course. S. Houchins. Concentrations
AA/EN 267. Narrating Slavery.This course examines selected autobiographical writings of ex-slaves; biographical accounts of the lives of former slaves written by abolitionists, relatives, or friends; the oral histories of ex-slaves collected in the early to mid-twentieth century; and the fiction, poems, and dramas about slaves and slavery (neo-slave narratives) of the last hundred years. Students consider these works as interventions in the discourses of freedom—religious, political, legal, and psychological—and as examples of a genre foundational to many literary works by descendants of Africans in diaspora. The course surveys early works written by slaves themselves, such as broadsides and books by Jupiter Hammond, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs; dictated biographies such as those by Nat Turner and Sor Teresa Chicaba; and fictional works inspired by the narratives, such as works by Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, Charles Johnson, and Sherley Ann Williams. Recommended background: an introduction to African American literature or American literature. Prerequisite: African American Studies 100. Enrollment limited to 30. S. Houchins. Concentrations
AA/EN 268. Survey of Literatures of Africa.This course explores folklore, myths, and literary texts of the African continent. These include works written by Anglophone authors such as Achebe, Soyinka, Ngugi, Vera, Njau, Nwapa, and Head; those drawn from oral traditions of indigenous languages transcribed into English, such as The Mwindo Epic and The Sundiata; and those written by Lusophone and Francophone authors including Bâ, Senghor, Liking, Neto, Mahfouz, and Kafunkeno. The course contextualizes each work historically, politically, and anthropologically. Students are introduced to a number of critical theories and methodologies with which to analyze the works, such as poststructural, Marxist, Pan-African, postcolonial, and feminist. Prerequisite(s): one 100-level English course. S. Houchins. Concentrations
AA/AV 294. Religious Arts of the African Diaspora.This course examines the religious arts of the African diaspora. The arts related to the religious traditions of Candomblé, Lucumí (Santería), Rastafarianism, Vodun, and Kongo-derived religions are explored through a multidisciplinary lens. Contemporary visual culture is discussed in addition to arts created for the purpose of worship or memory, such as sculptural figures, altars, garments, and yard shows. In exploring these arts of the diaspora, the course considers and challenges constructions of race, ethnicity, and Africanicity from insiders' and outsiders' perspectives. Not open to students who have received credit for African American Studies/Art and Visual Culture s20. Enrollment limited to 20. A. Bessire. Concentrations
INDS 321. Afroambiente: Writing a Black Environment.This course studies the response of black writers and intellectuals of the Spanish-speaking world to issues related to the natural environment. In three countries, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and Equatorial Guinea, modernity has brought serious challenges to notions of economic progress, human rights, and national sovereignty, as well as individual and communal identity. Course materials include written texts from local newspapers and magazines, as well as other sources of information such as Internet sites that discuss issues related to the environment and the arts. Prerequisite(s): one 200-level Spanish literature course. Cross-listed in African American studies, environmental studies, and Spanish. Not open to students who have received credit for Interdisciplinary Studies 320. B. Fra-Molinero. Concentrations Interdisciplinary Programs.
INDS 325. Black Feminist Literary Theory and Practice.This seminar examines literary theories that address the representation and construction of race, gender, and sexuality, particularly, but not exclusively, theories formulated and articulated by Afra-diasporic women such as Spillers, Ogunyemi, Henderson, Valerie Smith, McDowell, Busia, Lubiano, and Davies. Students not only analyze theoretical essays but also use the theories as lenses through which to explore literary productions of women writers of Africa and the African diaspora in Europe and in the Americas, including Philip, Dangarembga, Morrison, Herron, Gayl Jones, Head, Condé, Brodber, Brand, Merle Collins, and Harriet Wilson. Cross-listed in African American studies, English, and women and gender studies. Prerequisite(s): one 100-level English course. Enrollment limited to 15. (Critical thinking.) S. Houchins. Concentrations Interdisciplinary Programs.
INDS 342. Performance, Narrative, and the Body.This course examines the politics of the body through the inter/transdisciplinary frames of the narrative and performance, including the specific ways performance and narrative theories of the body and cultural practices operate in everyday life and social formations. Students examine how the "body" is performed and how narrative is constructed in a variety of different contexts such as race, gender, disease, sexuality, and culture. The course places narrative and performance at the center (rather than the margins) of inquiry, asking how far and how deeply performativity reaches into our lives and how performances construct our identities, differences, and our bodies: who we are and who we can become. Recommended background: course work in African American studies, American cultural studies, anthropology, politics, sociology, or women and gender studies. Cross-listed in African American studies, anthropology, and women and gender studies. Prerequisite(s): Women and Gender Studies 100. Enrollment limited to 15. M. Beasley. Concentrations Interdisciplinary Programs.
AAS 360. Independent Study.Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair are required. Students may register for no more than one independent study per semester. Normally offered every semester. Staff. Interdisciplinary Programs.
AA/HI 390E. African Slavery in the Americas.Of the millions of immigrants who arrived in North and South America during the colonial period, the majority came not from Europe but from Africa. They came not for freedom but as human property, facing a lifetime of bondage for themselves and their offspring. Far from being the "peculiar institution" that whites in the U.S. South called it, slavery existed throughout the Americas before its abolition in the nineteenth century. By reading contemporary scholarship and examining such primary sources as music, letters, autobiographies, and material artifacts, students gain a sense of the ways Africans and African Americans survived and influenced an institution that sought to deny their humanity. Enrollment limited to 15. (United States.) [W2] J. Hall. Concentrations
AAS 390F. The Afro-Hispanic Diaspora.The 500-year presence of Africans and their descendants in the Spanish-speaking world has produced a significant body of literature by blacks and about blacks. Spanish America was the main destination of the African diaspora. Afro-Hispanic writers attest to the struggle for freedom and the abolition of slavery. Their literature shows how the participation of blacks in the wars of Latin American independence was a struggle for their emancipation. Afro-Hispanic writers in Spain, the Americas, and Africa use their art and ideas to address the postnational migrations of the twenty-first century, a diaspora that has not ceased. This course meets jointly, once a week, with Spanish 490F. Recommended background: African American Studies 100. B. Fra-Molinero. Concentrations Interdisciplinary Programs.
AA/RH 391C. The Harlem Renaissance.This course examines the New Negro Movement and the extraordinary creativity in the arts and in other aspects of intellectual life by African Americans in the 1920s and 1930s. Although this cultural phenomenon was national in scope, most scholars agree that New York City, and Harlem in particular, was its epicenter. Topics include racial, gender, and cultural identities in literature, theater, the performing and visual arts; the formation of black queer culture; and the role in promoting the arts by political organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Prerequisite(s): one of the following: African American Studies 100 or 140 or African American Studies/Rhetoric 162. Enrollment limited to 15. [W2] C. Nero. Concentrations
AA/SP 450. Representing Blacks in Cuban Literature: From the Colony to the Revolution.This course examines innovations and shifts in the representation of African descendants in Cuban literature. Students read narrative pieces, essays, letters, and poetry written by and about blacks that span the early colonial period to Revolutionary Cuba. Adapting an in-depth multi-disciplinary approach, black as object is critically analyzed in opposition to literary and historical texts that construct black as subject. Race, religion, slavery, and gender as well as the formation of Afro-Cuban subjectivities are the primary topics of study, revealing the black struggle against multiple structures of domination as well as the resilience to negotiate with power. Prerequisite(s): Spanish 215, 216, 217, 250, or 251. M. Pettway.
AAS 457. Senior Thesis.The research and writing of an extended essay or report, or the completion of a creative project, under the supervision of a faculty member. Students register for African American Studies 457 in the fall semester and for African American Studies 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both African American Studies 457 and 458. [W3] Normally offered every year. Staff. Interdisciplinary Programs.
AAS 457, 458. Senior Thesis.The research and writing of an extended essay or report, or the completion of a creative project, under the supervision of a faculty member. Students register for African American Studies 457 in the fall semester and for African American Studies 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both African American Studies 457 and 458. [W3] Normally offered every year. Staff. Interdisciplinary Programs.
AAS 458. Senior Thesis.The research and writing of an extended essay or report, or the completion of a creative project, under the supervision of a faculty member. Students register for African American Studies 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both African American Studies 457 and 458. [W3] Normally offered every year. Staff. Interdisciplinary Programs.Short Term Courses
INDS s12. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, 1960–1970: History, Strategies, and Implications.This course examines the history and strategies of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (1960–1970) and SNCC's role in the African American civil rights movement in the South from 1954. The course provides a context for students to analyze implications for present-day moral radicalism, social protest, and the relation of faith and justice making. Students read texts, witness documentaries, learn and sing freedom songs, and observe video-taped selections from the fiftieth anniversary of SNCC Conference in April 2010. Crosslisted in African American studies, American cultural studies, and history. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30. W. Blaine-Wallace. Concentrations
AA/AC s16. The Wire: The City and Race in Popular Culture.This course focuses on the HBO series The Wire. Students discuss the episodes in terms of their narrative structure and content as well as cinematic techniques including shot sequence, lighting, camera angle, editing, and transitional devices. They also explore some of the sociopolitical issues this series examines: poverty, unemployment, the drug trade, public education, the decline of newspapers, and public housing. The intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and class serves as the lens through which they scrutinize these topics. Enrollment limited to 20. S. Houchins. Concentrations
INDS s19. Food, Culture, and Performance.This interdisciplinary seminar examines the idea of cultural engagement through food. Students explore the meanings of food and eating across cultures, with particular attention to how people define themselves socially, symbolically, and politically through food consumption practices. Drawing from cultural, critical, and performance theories, students engage in the dialectics of cultural exchange and the fluidity of identity; they interrogate conceptions of desire and consumption. The course develops research and writing skills, introduces visual and performance theories of culture, and fosters an understanding of the importance of food and its relationship to identity construction, histories, and cultural literacy. Cross-listed in African American studies, American cultural studies, anthropology, and women and gender studies. Enrollment limited to 20. M. Beasley. Interdisciplinary Programs.
AA/WS s33. Reading Toni Morrison.This course surveys the writing of Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Texts are selected from her novels, essays, drama, children's literature, and drama and also include criticism written about her work by other scholars. Prerequisite(s): one of the following: African American Studies 100 or 140A, African American Studies/English 225, English 294 or 295, English/Women and Gender Studies 297 or 395. Not open to students who have received credit for African American Studies/Women and Gender Studies s32. Enrollment limited to 15. S. Houchins. Concentrations
INDS s36. Making African American History: Preserving the Archives of the Portland NAACP.The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, and it has had an active branch in Portland, Maine, since 1920. However, that branch's role in African American history is relatively unknown because there is no publicly available record of its activities. In this course, students uncover and preserve this important piece of local African American history. They begin with a historical overview of the NAACP and of African Americans in Maine coupled with training in the fundamentals of archival processing. Students then arrange and describe NAACP papers newly housed at the Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, and consider how this collection adds to the public record. Transportation and supplies are provided. Recommended background: African American Studies 100, African American Studies/History 253, or History s40. Cross-listed in African American studies, American cultural studies, English, and history. Enrollment limited to 10. M. Godfrey. Concentrations
AAS s50. Independent Study.Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair are required. Students may register for no more than one independent study during a Short Term. Open to first-year students. Normally offered every year. Staff. Interdisciplinary Programs.
ANTH 155. Cinematic Portraits of Africa.
ANTH s10. Encountering Community: Ethnographic Fieldwork and Service-Learning.
AVC 288. Visualizing Race.
ED/SO 242. Race, Cultural Pluralism, and Equality in American Education.
HI/WS 267. Blood, Genes, and American Culture.
HIST 390P. Prelude to the Civil Rights Movement.
HIST 390W. The Civil Rights Movement.
MUS 247. History of Jazz.
PLTC 229. Race and Civil Rights in Constitutional Interpretation.
PLTC 235. Black Women in the Americas.
REL 247. City upon the Hill.
REL 255. African American Religious Traditions.
SOC 205. Research Methods for Sociology.
SPAN 216A. Espana en Blanco y Negro.