Courses

AFR 100 Introduction to Africana

This interdisciplinary course introduces students to the discipline and examines the literature, history, arts, material culture, as well as sociological, political, economic, and philosophical perspectives of the experiences of people of African descent in the Americas. The course sheds light on the relationship between the past and the present in shaping Black world making, especially in the Americas. Four themes guide the direction of the course: fragmentation, exclusion, resistance, and community.

AFR 105 Africa: Special Topics in African History, 1500-1900

For many observers, the history of Africa begins with European colonization. What about the period prior to colonization? This introductory survey of African history from 1500 to 1900 covers the social, political, cultural, and economic life of sub-Saharan peoples. Topics include African kingdoms, the transatlantic and the Indian ocean slave trades, the expansion of European power after the abolition of the slave trade, Islamic reforms, and the spread of Christianity. The course not only introduces students to a range of historical events in the continent, but also highlights how some of these events shaped other parts of the world.

AFR 114 Introduction to African American Literature I: 1600-1910

This introductory course traces the development of a distinct African American literary tradition from the Atlantic Slave Trade to 1910. Students examine music, orations, letters, poems, essays, slave narratives, autobiographies, fiction, and plays by Americans of African descent. The essential questions that shape this course include: What is the role of African American literature in the cultural identity and collective struggle of Black people? What themes, tropes, and forms connect these texts, authors, and movements into a coherent living tradition?

AFR 115 Introduction to African American Literature II: 1910-Present

This introductory course traces the development of a distinct African American literary tradition from 1910 to the present. Students examine music, orations, letters, poems, essays, autobiographies, fiction, and plays by Americans of African descent. The essential questions that shape this course include: What is the role of African American literature in the cultural identity and collective struggle of Black people? What themes, tropes, and forms connect these texts, authors, and movements into a coherent living tradition? This course is a continuation of African American Literature I, which considers literary production before 1910.

AFR 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.

AFR 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.

AFR 201 Race, Ethnicity, and Feminist Thought

This course focuses on race, ethnicity, and national power at their intersections with gender. Acknowledging the realities of white supremacy and patriarchy, students develop their understanding of these systemic and interlocking oppressions, while exploring the resistance to such oppressions that continues to give rise to critical feminist theory. Using a range of transdisciplinary perspectives, students examine the work of BIPOC feminist scholars and activists and encounter modes of critical and liberatory theorizing that productively challenge notions of what constitutes theory. Additionally, students practice ongoing self-reflection, or awareness of their own positionality and the ways it affects their journey through the course.

AFR 202 Coming of Age While Black

This course proceeds from the premise that coming of age while Black is fraught with the dangers created by a system of anti-black surveillance. Students examine “coming-of-age” memoirs and films that began during the era of the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950s. Typically, the films and memoirs in this sub-genre feature a young Black protagonist, often a teen, navigating, sometimes successfully but not always, a world defined by intersecting oppressions created by race, class, gender, sexuality, and/or colonial identity. Prerequisite(s): a course in Africana or in Rhetoric, Film, and Screen Studies.

AFR 214 Afro-Latinx Diasporas in the United States

Over the last two decades, Afro-Latinx culture and history has become a rich area of study. Emphasizing ethnographic approaches, this course examines how racial formations, gender and national belonging have historically and recently intersected in the production and representation of Blackness within Latinx spaces. Students draw from decolonial frameworks and use different media to critically analyze how anti-Blackness rooted in the myth of racial democracy shapes Afro-Latinx cultures in the U.S. Recommended background: coursework in Africana, anthropology, gender and sexuality studies, or Latin American and Latinx studies. Crosslisted in Africana, anthropology, and Latin American and Latinx studies.

AFR 221 Sociology of Immigration

Since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Amendments of 1965, the United States has received millions of immigrants from virtually every part of the world. The magnitude of these recent immigrant flows has reshaped the demography of the nation. But the magnitude of the flows is only part of the story. Today’s immigrants are extremely diverse, ethnically, culturally, and racially. Students explore sociological approaches to immigration as they discuss, debate, analyze, and critique academic, political, and mainstream articulations of immigration processes in the United States.

AFR 223 Survey of Literatures 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, NourBese (Philip), Hopkinson, and Dionne Brand; others, from Francophone and Hispanophone writers, including Guillen, Carpentier, Condé, Chamoiseau, Depestre, Ferré, Santos-Febres, and Morejón. The course places each work in its historical, political, and anthropological contexts, and introduces students to to a number of critical theories and methodologies with which to analyze the works, including poststructural, Marxist, Pan-African, postcolonial, and feminist. Recommended background: AFR 100 or one 100-level English course.

AFR 227

This course examines the history of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It examines invisibility and spectacle in black death, voyeurism, and the destruction of the black body in the new public square. Is it true that black lives are more easily taken and black bodies destroyed with less legal consequence than others? What are the ways in which black lives do not matter? This course analyzes media coverage and debates on social media about black death. Students place these discussions in conversation with the critique of race and racialized violence offered in literature, music, film and social theory.

AFR 233 Literary Representations of the Africana Religions

Using the literatures of African and African-descended peoples, this course examines the religions-traditional/indigenous, Christian, Islamic, and so-called “syncretic”-from the continent and the diaspora. The selected works may represent the religious traditions, rituals, and practices of the Yoruba, Shona, Asante, Tswana, as well as African Independent Churches, Rastafari, and followers of Vodun, Santería, Candomblé, and related religions. Students approach texts-novels, short stories, dramas, films and poems-as literary productions and not just media to convey information about the religions they represent. This course is also attentive to contexts; students examine the sacred symbol systems represented as well as the historical era depicted and the literary traditions and cultures that produce them. Recommended background: course work in Africana or religious studies.

AFR 236 Race Matters: Tobacco in North America

This course explores race and the history of tobacco in North America. With a primary focus on the intersection of tobacco capitalism and African American history, the course introduces students to the impact of tobacco on the formation of racial ideologies and lived experiences through a consideration of economic, cultural, political, and epidemiological history. Recommended background: at least one course in Africana, African American history, American studies, or gender and sexuality studies.

AFR 239 Anti-Blackness and the Environment

This course interrogates the link between anti-Blackness and the environment. It examines how race, power, and environmental risk converge to create environmental racism, which disparately impacts Black communities. This is a conundrum of the Anthropocene: those who cause the least pollution experience its effects the most. Students explore this dynamic while paying attention to how communities fight back and demand justice. They also consider the role this dynamic plays in our current climate crisis and what it implies for the responsibility and possibilities of repair.

AFR 242 Passing/Trespassing

This course examines the rhetoric of containing black bodies in cinematic and literary narratives. In passing narratives light-skinned people move across racial lines supposedly fixed by biology, custom, and law. In trespassing narratives black persons enter spaces denoted as white by law or custom. This course calls attention to fear, fantasy, punishment, and resistance as ongoing dimensions of race and white supremacy. Recommended background: at least one course with race as a central topic.

AFR 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.

AFR 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): AFR 100, AMST 200, or GSS 100, and one other course in Africana, American studies, or gender and sexuality studies.

AFR 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.

AFR 254 Black Theater and Performance in America

In this course students explore a neglected corner of American theater history. Through scholarly texts, plays, and multimedia, students learn about the important contributions African Americans have made in the field of theater and analyze the development of Black performance onstage. They also examine the social and political issues that affected the development of the plays, the theater companies, and the performers involved, and they consider how this work developed under the shadow of white supremacy. Students are expected to develop critical arguments on the various topics covered in the course and develop their own theatrical aesthetic. Prerequisite(s): one course in Africana, English, or theater.

AFR 255 Black Poetry

How does the African American poetic tradition specifically contribute to the literary canon of African American literature and larger conceptions of American and global literature? This course is both an introduction to Black poetics and a deep exploration. The course considers so-called basic questions (e.g., What are Black poetics?) and more sophisticated questions (e.g., How do Black poetics transform the literary and cultural landscape?). Students read a variety of authors who maneuver between intra- and inter-racial politics, including such canonical authors as Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni, and less well-known authors such as Jayne Cortez and LL Cool J.

AFR 257 African American Women’s History and Social Transformation

This course examines the political, social, and cultural traditions created by Black women from slavery to the present. Students consider their transformative influence on major questions and social movements. Through novels, plays, autobiography, music, and nonfiction produced by and about Black women, students explore a range of intellectual and cultural traditions. Recommended background: one course in gender and sexuality studies and/or one course in Africana.

AFR 259 Contemporary African American Literature

This course introduces students to contemporary African American literature. They explore literature written after 1975, considering a range of patterns and literary techniques as well as consistent themes and motifs. Students read a mix of canonical and less well-known authors. This course requires a nuanced, complicated discussion about what encompasses the contemporary African American literary tradition. Prerequisites(s): one 100-level English course. Recommended background: course work in American studies, Africana, or English.

AFR 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; they also include criticism written about her work. Recommended background: one 100-level English course or AFR 100.

AFR 267 Blood, Genes, and American Culture

Places recent popular and scientific discussions of human heredity and genetics in broader social, political, and historical context, focusing on shifting definitions of personhood. Topics include the commodification of human bodies and body parts; racial, colonial, and gendered disparities in science and medicine; and the emergence of new forms of biological citizenship. Recommended background: course work in biology and/or gender and sexuality studies.

AFR 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, Aidoo, Nwapa, Head, Cole, Mda, Abani, Okorafor, and Atta; 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, Ben Jelloun, 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.

AFR 269 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 Esteban Montejo, Mary Prince, and Sor Teresa Chicaba; and fictional works inspired by the narratives, such as texts by Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, Charles Johnson, Michelle Cliff, Sherley Ann Williams, and Colson Whitehead. Recommended background: one 100-level English course or AFR 100.

AFR 280 Health and Healing in Africa

A perception that Africa is a “diseased continent” has long persisted in the West, but this image, born of colonialism, ignores how Africans have sought to create and maintain healthy communities over time. This course begins by exploring how Africans have diagnosed and treated ailments in the precolonial era. It then examines the impact of colonial conquest and policies on the spread of diseases, and the emergence of missionary and colonial medicines. The course concludes by examining how state building, international development, and transnational capitalism have shaped healing practices.

AFR 301E 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.

AFR 302 Black Feminist Activist and Intellectual Traditions

This seminar examines the intersections of gender with Black racial and ethnic identities as they have been and are constructed, expressed, and lived throughout the anglophone and francophone African/Black diaspora. The course not only pays special attention to U.S. women and the movements where they lead or participate; but it also devotes substantial consideration to African, Caribbean, Canadian, European, and Australian women of African descent. The course combines approaches and methodologies employed in the humanities, social sciences, and arts to structure interdisciplinary analyses. Using Black feminist (womanist), critical-race, and queer theories, students examine Black women’s histories; activism; resistance; and cultural, intellectual, and theoretical productions, as well as digital literacy. Prerequisite(s): one course in Africana, American studies, or gender and sexuality studies.

AFR 303 Birthing while Black

This course explores the complex and intense history of Black reproduction in the United States and abroad. Students examine the social value of Black life both during and after enslavement. They mine contentious topics such as welfare caps, compulsory sterilization, abortion access, and the disparate experiences of Black mothers in the U.S. healthcare system that have led to maternal death rates twice the national average. The course considers both the ordinary experiences of Black women birthing as well as the sensationalized experiences of mothers such as activist Erica Garner, athlete Serena Williams, and pop icon Beyoncé.

AFR 304 Decolonization

This course mines the topic of justice while explicitly focusing on the concept of decolonization. In doing so, it identifies various iterations of coloniality, such as colonialism, settler colonialism, and postcolonialism. It traces decolonial sentiment through previous anti-colonial and anti-imperial movements. It then examines the multiple conceptualizations of decoloniality that are determined to sever colonial ties. In doing so, the course allows students to envision decolonial futures.

AFR 305 Art, Power, and Politics

An anthropological examination of the relationship among art, power, and politics. What can the artistic works of various societies say about their worlds that other creations cannot? What claims can art make about the workings of power, and what artistic techniques does power itself employ? Students consider these and other questions from a number of different perspectives, including the politics of perception, the place of art in modern life, the artistry of terror, the art of protest and propaganda, and the dream of building a beautiful regime. Recommended background: familiarity with classical social theory, especially Marx, is encouraged but not necessary. Prerequisite(s): one course in Africana, American studies, anthropology, art and visual culture, or gender and sexuality studies.

AFR 306 Queer Africana: History, Theories, and Representations

This course examines the debates among authors, politicians, religious leaders, social scientists, and artists in Africa, the African Americas, and Afro-Europe about non-normative sexualities, throughout the diaspora. While the course analyzes histories of sexualities, legal documents, manifestos by dissident organizations, and anthropological and sociological treatises, it focuses primarily on textual and cinematic representations, and proposes methods of reading cultural productions at the intersection of sexualities, race, ethnicities, and gender. Recommended background: at least one course offered by the Program in Africana, the Program in gender and sexuality studies, or one course in literary analysis.

AFR 307 Spaces of Black Liberation

This course examines Black Feminisms in the Americas through an anthropological lens. Using decolonial frameworks, students engage with media created by Black womxn with an emphasis on Brazil and the United States. They analyze how Black communities exercise everyday forms of resistance through knowledge sharing, communal care, art (music, visual and performance), refusal, abolition, and other forms of social and political activism. Prerequisite(s), which may be taken concurrently: one course in Africana, anthropology, gender and sexuality studies, or sociology. Recommended background: coursework in the humanities or social sciences. Crosslisted in Africana, Anthropology, and Gender and Sexuality Studies.

AFR 308 Black Resistance from the Civil War to Civil Rights

From antebellum slavery through twentieth-century struggles for civil rights, black Americans have resisted political violence, economic marginalization, and second-class citizenship using strategies ranging from respectability to radicalism. Engaging with both historical and modern scholarship, literary sources, and other primary documents, this course explores the diverse tactics and ideologies of these resistance movements. By considering the complexities and contradictions of black resistance in American history and conducting source-based research, students develop a deep understanding of the black freedom struggle and reflect on the ways that these legacies continue to shape present-day struggles for racial justice.

AFR 320 Immigrant Racialization

The racialization of immigrants is intimately tied to the construction of race for all groups in U.S. society. In this seminar students engage the intersecting literatures of race, ethnicity, and immigration to explore implicit and explicit discussions of racial hierarchies, and how immigrants fit into and challenge existing accounts of assimilation and incorporation. They deconstruct the racialization of citizenship status with particular attention to how blackness is integral to the immigrant racialization project. Prerequisite(s): INDS 250 or SOC 205. Recommended background: SOC 204.

AFR 321 Afroambiente: Escritura negra y medio ambiente

This course studies the response of black writers and intellectuals of the Spanish-speaking world to issues related to the natural environment. In several countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and Equatorial Guinea, from colonial times to the present, 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 websites that present issues related to the environment and the arts. All readings are in English. Taught in Spanish. Prerequisite(s): one 200-level Hispanic studies course above 211. Only open to juniors and seniors.

AFR 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, Carby, Christian, Cobham, Valerie Smith, 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, Gayl Jones, Head, Condé, Brodber, Brand, Evariston, Zadie Smith and Harriet Wilson. Cross-listed in Africana, English, and gender and sexuality studies. Strongly recommended: at least one literature course.

AFR 352 Re-Writing, Re-Reading Lovecraft: Race in Mid-Century America through Popular Media

The course uses the recent HBO series Lovecraft Country, an American horror drama developed by Misha Green based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, to examine African American urban life during the era of Jim Crow. Students view the series and also read some of the white supremacist texts of Lovecraft and the revision of those works by Ruff. Students put these fictional representations in historical context by reading about and conducting research on some of the major historical, sociological, and economic studies about the period. They also listen to music and read some of the literary works of the time. Recommended background: course work in Africana, film studies, gender and sexuality studies, or literature.

AFR 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.

AFR 390 Afro-Latinoamérica

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. Writers of African descent attest to the struggle for freedom and the abolition of slavery as well as anti-colonialism. 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. Recommended background: AFR 100. Only open to juniors and seniors.

AFR 391L Screening Slavery: A Transnational Approach

This course takes a transnational approach to films about the four hundred years of the enterprise in trans-Atlantic slavery. A transnational approach emphasizes the creation of a global audience, and sometimes one that is specifically Black or Pan-African, for films about slavery and its aftermath. These films challenge and question the stereotypes about slavery and enslaved people that were the foundation for anti-Blackness in United States and other Western national cinemas. The filmmakers considered in this course are most often members of the African diaspora in the Americas, especially, from the United States, Cuba, Martinique, and Brazil. Prerequisite(s): AF/RF 162 or a course in Africana.

AFR 395T

This seminar takes as its premise that black literature engages with and reflects parts of the world in which it is produced. In this course, students sort through the various conversations authors and critics have with each other. They read canonical authors and less well-known figures in an effort to tease out the nuance present in this body of work. Each text is paired with another in a form of dialogue. These exchanges are not set, so it is up to students to understand how the texts speak to each other. Literary criticism requires us to think through privilege, citizenship, capitalism, intraracial dynamics, gender and sexual dynamics, and political movements. The course theme may vary from year to year (e.g., disability, literature of the left, black queer studies).

AFR 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 AAS 457 in the fall semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both AAS 457 and 458.

AFR 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 AAS 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both AAS 457 and 458.

AFR S11 Bordering Hispaniola: Blackness, Mixture, and Nation in the Dominican Republic

This course explores Dominican identity and its relation to ideas of nation vis-à-vis the island’s shared border with Haiti. Before departing for Santo Domingo, students consider the contexts of colonialism, state formation, and labor migration that shape contemporary Dominican identities. In the Dominican Republic, students visit key sites in the African and Haitian diasporas in the country. Further, they examine performance and popular culture as key sites of antiracist engagement. Students employ participatory ethnographic methods and map making to examine key themes of identity, performance, and resistance. Cross-listed in Africana, anthropology, and Latin American and Latinx studies.

AFR S14 Disaster, Displacement, Diaspora

This course examines how natural and social disasters cause dislocation and forced displacement in Black and indigenous communities. Students consider the natural and manmade calamities that cause movement and migration, and analyze how communities survive such shifts by refashioning old notions of home and by keeping community bonds strong while settling in new spaces.

AFR 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.