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Skidmore College
SankofaBlack Studies Program

Spring 2021 Courses

AH 251C-002 African Art and Travel: From Tourist “Kitsch” to Travel Albums

Lara Ayad, T/R 11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m.

Explores the role of African art in travel and the role of travel in African art. Students will explore a range of materials created by Africans across the continent between the late medieval period and the present. Regionally-focused case studies include Afro-Portuguese ivories from the 15th century, colonial postcard photographs, and Ethiopian Christian icons created today for the adventure tourism market. Students will question canonical definitions of authenticity and originality in African art, and will explore issues of racial and sexual representation, cultural appropriation, and commodification and capitalism. Designated a non-Western culture course; fulfills humanities requirement.

AH 251C-003 Photography in Africa

Lara Ayad, T/R 8:10-9:30 am

Traces the development of the photographic medium, from its inception in 1839 to the present, within the context of social, political, and technological developments on the African continent. Students will focus on regionally-based case studies of portraiture, landscape, documentary, and avant-garde photographs created during the colonial and post-colonial periods, and will examine the relationship between photography and shifting definitions of art, science, and authenticity. Critical issues also include racial and sexual representation, political activism, and globalization. Designated a Cultural Diversity course; fulfills humanities requirement.

AH 375D Voices and Spaces in Contemporary African Art

Lara Ayad, W/F 10:30 am-12:20 p.m.

Explores the definition and representation of contemporary African art and artists from the mid-20th century to the present. Despite the West's long history of misrepresenting Africa as a site of "primitive tribes" and poverty, living artists from the continent have been gaining recognition for their work domestically and internationally. Students will curate an online exhibition (in this pandemic time) that may include works in our Tang Museum, and will engage virtually with artists, curators, and critics. We will consider how contemporary African art engages museums and exhibitions, racial identity, gender and sexuality, nationalism, and globalization. Prerequisite: one AH course or permission of the instructor. Designated a cultural diversity course; fulfills humanities requirement.

IA 351C Colorism in Paradise

Rachel Cantave, W/F 8:40-10 a.m.

This course will introduce the concept of colorism, its relationship to racism, and consider the prevalence of color over race as a preferred identity and socio-political category across Latin America and the Caribbean. The course requires students to read interdisciplinary academic texts and utilize critical race and social praxeology theory to interrogate specific, national contexts within the Latin American and Caribbean region. We begin by examining colorism as a part of nationalist projects in the region (mestizaje and “racial democracy”), including the confluence of anti-Haitian and anti-Black discourse in the Americas, as well as the insider-outsider positioning of Asian and South Asian immigrants in the region. We then consider how colorism is maintained through familial beliefs, census categories, educational curriculums, skin bleaching, and pressures to "mejorar la raza." Finally, this course will acknowledge contemporary efforts to eradicate racism and colorism, and destigmatize African and Indigenous ancestry in the region.

GWS 321 Gender, Race, and Science

Gwen D’Arcangelis, T/R 2:50-4:10 p.m.

What does science have to do with gender and race? How have scientific disciplines such as biology or engineering defined and shaped gender and race? In what ways can science reinforce, or alternatively, challenge sexism and racism? This course critically examines practices of science and the way in which they shape and are shaped by larger political, cultural and social contexts. The pieces we will read examine the role of science in society with respect to gender and race primarily, but also sexuality, class and imperialism. Topics include the biology of sex difference, eugenics, DNA ancestry testing, reproductive technologies, and more. For each topic, the class will examine how scientific knowledge is produced, applied, and shaped by experts, practitioners, and community and activist groups.

Prerequisite: GW 101 (or equivalent knowledge).

Counts as an IGR elective and a BST elective.

Fulfills cultural-diversity requirement.

HI 251D African American History Since 1865

Jennifer Delton, T/R 4:30-5 p.m.

This course offers historical background for those seeking to understand the current struggle for racial justice. Centered on the voices of Black activists and thinkers, the course explores different perspectives/strategies in the struggle to overcome racial barriers and white racism. Topics include: the promise and terror of Reconstruction, resisting Jim Crow, the Black press and Black business, Civil Rights Movement, Black power, and workplace equity.

HI 330 Caribbean Revolutions

Jordana Dym, M/W 5:10-6:30 p.m.

Many movements and ideas that shape the modern world and our understanding of it have been carried on Caribbean currents. This class introduces students to Caribbean political, intellectual, cultural and artistic innovations from sixteenth-century colonization through political revolutions and struggles for economic independence today. Class case studies will concentrate on English- speaking Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, French- and Creole-speaking Haiti, and Spanish- speaking Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora cultural production—from salsa and calypso to dancehall and reggaeton; voudou to santería, and cutting- edge cinema, art, literature, scholarship—is almost as widely known as Haiti’s 18th-c and Cuba’s 20th-c revolutions and environmental struggles against hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural forces. In this research seminar, each student will develop a substantial project that, based on primary sources, considers history in context: how the past influences the Caribbean present. To prepare, we will privilege dialogue and engagement with Caribbean voices, hearing how Caribbeans tell their own history as well as how outside scholars tackle subjects such as enslavement and sovereignty, sugar and tourism, migrations and modernities.

TH 334 Mixed Race on Stage and Film

Eunice Ferreira, T/R 11:30 am-12:50 p.m.

What kinds of stories do film and theatre tell about mixed race experiences? How does Hollywood reflect and shape notions of mixed race identities? Does performance reinforce racial stereotypes - or can representations in film/theatre challenge binary notions and lead to more nuanced understandings of mixed race identities?

Through class exercises and the study of film and theatre, students will analyze how performance complicates and illuminates intersectional perspectives on multiracial identities. The course will survey historical and contemporary representations of mixed race including the "tragic mulatta" of early American theater and film, "racially ambiguous" casting practices and new works that place mixed race families center stage. With a special focus on the mixed race experiences for people of African, Latinx and Asian descent in the United States, students will examine the possibilities by which live and recorded performance can lead audiences to exchange personal narratives, engage in meaningful conversations, explore personal & social issues of identity and diversity, and foster community engagement.

SO 219 C Race and Power

Kristie Ford, M/W 10:30 am-12:20 pm

An analysis of U.S. race relations. How do people learn what it means to be “black” or “white” within U.S. society? How will the changing demographics of the U.S. affect the traditional black-white approach to race relations? How is race complicated by ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and other social identities? Students explore these questions by examining how race is constructed and reproduced within hierarchical structures of power and privilege, including educational inequalities, immigration policies, interracial relationships, and depictions of race in popular culture.

Prerequisites: one sociology gateway course (SO 101 or SO 201 or SO 202 or SO 203 or SO 204), and permission of instructor.
Note(s): (Designated a Cultural Diversity course.)

Pre-registration application:

BST 205 Black Panther Archive

Winston Grady-Willis, W/F 1-2:20 p.m.

A critical analysis of the Black Panther Party. Active in the United States from 1966-1982, The Black Panther Party was the most visible manifestation of the Black Power Phase of a larger human rights struggle. Students will interrogate primary source documents produced by Black Panther Party activists housed in The Tang Teaching museum. Working closely with these documents, students will present their critical analysis of these works publicly in relation to contemporary examples of human rights activism.

Note(s): Fulfills cultural diversity requirement; fulfills bridge experience.

PL 244 Race, State and Nation in Comparative Perspective

Kate Graney, M/W 3:30-5:30 pm

In this class we will examine how the wielding of political power and ideas about justice have shaped the experiences of people with different racial identities in three countries: the US, Brazil and South Africa. We will investigate how white supremacy was used historically as the basis of state and nation-building in these three states and how BIPOC and white citizens have challenged white supremacy and fought for more inclusive and democratic forms of nation-statehood both historically and in the contemporary moment in these three cases. At the end of the course, we will share what we have learned with the wider Skidmore community through the creation of a ‘Zine focused on issues of race, national identity and the political process in the contemporary US. This course fulfills the Bridge Experience requirement for students in the Class of 2024 and after.

WLL 363 A Race and Nature in Francophone Literatures     

Aurélie Matheron, M/W 5:10-6:30 p.m.       

This course explores the relationship between race and nature in literatures and cultures from and about Francophone sub-Saharan and Caribbean countries and regions. From the landfills of Senegal, the uranium mines of Niger, to the enduring Caribbean plantation system (among others), authors, artists, and thinkers, have attempted to make sense of the impact of the Anthropocene on our planet. While growing attention has been paid to the irreversible consequences of the impact of human activity on the environment, the figures we will study show how such consequences have disproportionately affected racialized communities around the world for more than 400 years. As we learn about anticolonial practices of nature, our study of novels, poetry, photography, and movies, will also be informed by key theoretical texts in Francophone and Anglophone environmentalism, ecocriticism, and ecofeminism. Course taught in English. Cross-listed with Black Studies and Environmental Studies. Prerequisite: EN 105 or EN 110. 

Notes: Does not fulfill the language study requirement. Students who wish to earn credit for the French major and minor must enroll in WLF 271 A.

AM 351D Black Feminist Thought

Tammy Owens, M 6-8:45 p.m.

Black Feminist Thought - Examines the development and materialization of Black feminist thoughts within historical, social, political, and cultural contexts. Interdisciplinary in focus, it surveys feminist politics and theories through films, popular culture, manifestos, literary texts, archives, and theoretical and historical essays. In addition, the course will address how the concepts of black feminism and black womanhood overlap and diverge in accordance with the modes of representation used to articulate them.

EN 228 19th-Century African American Fiction

Jamie Parra, W/F 1-2:20 p.m.

During the 1850s, Black writers in the US began experimenting with fiction. Frederick Douglass, for example, wrote a fictional slave narrative, The Heroic Slave; Williams Wells Brown authored Clotel, a novel about two fictional enslaved daughters of Thomas Jefferson; Hannah Crafts recast her real-life experiences as a slave and fugitive in the form of a gothic novel. By writing fiction, these and other Black writers defied white abolitionist readers’ hunger for purely autobiographical accounts of life under chattel slavery. Instead of complying with the demand for testimony, these authors explored what truths might be better expressed through imagination, fantasy, and speculation. In this course we will closely read a number of these early works and consider how 19th-century African American novelists defied a culture that denigrated Black creativity and imagination. What did the novel’s unreality afford these writers—aesthetically, politically, and ethically? We will end by turning our attention to the early 20th-century fiction of W.E.B. DuBois. Readings may include work by William Wells Brown, Hannah Crafts, Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, Frances E. W. Harper, Frank J. Webb, and Harriet E. Wilson. 

AN 227 Sub-Saharan Africa From a Cultural Perspective 

Sónia Silva. T/R 2:50 – 4:10 p.m.

This course is a survey of Africa south of the Sahara from a cultural perspective. You will learn about the cultural diversity, historical depth, and global interconnections of Sub-Saharan Africa, and examine topics of importance to understanding present and past realities in Africa. Topics include cultural politics, modernity, ethnicity, ritual and religion, and art and song. 

Prerequisite: AN 101 or permission of instructor.

EN 227 Introduction to African American Literature

Mason Stokes, T/R 1:20-2:30 p.m.

This course will survey African American literature from the 1700s to the present. Beginning with Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass, we will examine the uneasy relationship between “race” and writing, with a particular focus on how representations of gender and sexuality participate in a literary construction of race. Though this course is a survey of African American literary self-representations, we will keep in mind how these representations respond to and interact with the “majority culture’s” efforts to define race in a different set of terms. We will focus throughout on literature as a site where this struggle over definition takes place— where African American writers have re-appropriated and revised words and ideas that had been used to exclude them from both American literary history and America itself. Our text will be the Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Assignments include two short essays (2 pages) and a longer synthetic essay. 

EN 327 20th Century African American Novels

Mason Stokes, M/W 3:30-4:30 p.m.

In his autobiography, African American writer Richard Wright describes his first real encounter with books: “I had once tried to write, had once reveled in feeling, had let my crude imagination roam, but the impulse to dream had been slowly beaten out of me by experience. Now it surged up again and I hungered for books, new ways of looking and seeing. It was not a matter of believing or disbelieving what I read, but of feeling something new, of being affected by something that made the look of the world different.” In this class, we’ll read a handful of major African American novels from the twentieth century—novels that emerged from some of the most difficult moments of American history. Following Wright’s example, we’ll approach these works as “new ways of looking and seeing,” novels that will make, for us, “the look of the world different.” Possible texts include: Nella Larsen, Passing; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Richard Wright, Native Son; Ann Petry, The Street; Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; James Baldwin, Go Tell It On the Mountain; Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon. Assignments will include four 2-page essays and one longer research paper.

EC 261-001 Colonialism and Capitalism

Kamilah Williams, M/W 3:30-4:50 p.m.

This course examines the connections between colonialism and capitalism across time and around the world. It will examine how historical and present-day forms of colonialization have shaped and continue to shape capitalism around the world. Topics to be covered include the plantation complex, the economics of slavery, neoliberalism and the persistence of racial disparity.