African Americans, Mass Incarceration and Citizenship

Explores in depth the presence of African Americans within the phenomenon of U.S. mass incarceration and its implications for notions of citizenship. Surveys the history of prison build-up resulting from legislation and policy over the past forty years including the governmental discussions of drug policy and welfare reform that disproportionately affected African Americans.

Troubling Pasts: Slavery, Genocide, and Terror

Examination of commemorative practices surrounding difficult pasts. Analyzes slavery, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and 9/11; considers the role of collective memories of trauma and injustice in the formation of racial, religious, and national identities. Readings address historic sites, monuments and other forms of commemorative art, museums, fiction, and film. Examines social, political, ethical, and economic considerations behind various forms of commemoration.

Displacements: Migration and Human Trafficking

Examination of the meaning of migration in the global world through cross-disciplinary texts and visual media. Situates the phenomenon of human trafficking within the context of these general movements focusing on the risks involved when people endanger their lives to find a better and more strategic position in the world. Explores how these experiences should be interpreted, and how processes and the politics of race, space and place are a condition and/or outcome of these movements. Investigates and considers ways to resolve some of the problems associated with such movements.

Popular Representations of Black Masculinity

The course will examine the production and circulation of representations of “Black Masculinity” in post-19th Century American culture, within popular realms of expression including film, visual culture, music videos, advertising, popular music, television, drama and stage, literature, and dance/performance. The course will also explore the ways stereotypical images of Black masculinity have impacted public policy perceptions of African American, and the ways that Black cultural producers have used Black masculinity as sites to stage alternative perceptions of Black humanity.

Hollywood and Africa: Case Studies in Filmic Representation

This course on Hollywood films about Africa—from classics such as “African Queen” (East Africa), “Tarzan” (Equatorial Africa) and “Out of Africa” (Kenya) to recent productions such as “Blood Diamond” (Sierra Leone), “The Last King of Scotland” (Uganda), “Lord of War” (arms trade), “The Constant Gardner” (Kenya) and “Black Hawk Down” (Somalia)—will tack back and forth between filmic representation and case study, using the latter to critique the former.

Michael Jackson and Performance of Blackness

Examines the Black Performance context that produced Jackson’s singular creative genius within the realms of music, movement and politics, including the influence of Black vernacular practices like signifying and sampling, the network of Black social spaces known as the Chitlin’ Circuit, the impact of Black migration patterns to urban spaces in the Midwest, and Black performance traditions including Blackface minstrelsy. One course.

The History of Hip-Hop

What began as a localized activity designed to provide a safe haven for Black and Latino youth in New York City, has become a global brand that has had a documented impact on the cultural, political and economic realities of youth throughout the globe. This course will examine the organic social and cultural foundations of Hip-Hop, as well as the key aesthetic innovators/innovations, and the debates that have arisen over Hip-hop’s increased influence. One course.

Sampling Soul

Examines how the concept of “Soul” has functioned as raw data for contemporary forms of cultural expression. Considers the broader cultural implications of sampling, in the practices of parody and collage, and the legal ramifications of sampling within the context of intellectual property law. Course also offers the opportunity to rethink the concept of archival material in the digital age. One course.