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Skidmore College
SankofaBlack Studies Program

Spring 2022 Courses

EN 229: Decolonizing the Mind

Calvin Baker, W/F 12:20-1:40 p.m.

The proliferation of discussions of race, in both the public and private sphere, has renewed awareness of the centrality of racial identity, injustice, and grievance to American culture, politics, and ideas of selfhood. This course will historicize the concept of race; examine its literary and cinematic representations, and the ways these ideas interact with the world. It will consider the ways myths about race are reproduced and contested. We will ask what happens when race is narrated in literature and examine the treatment of the racialized self, as well as literary strategies for escaping or altering racial constructs. Do literary texts open up new possibilities of being, model new modes of interpretation, and provide new insights into racial, violence, justice, individual freedom?





EN 241L: Afrofuturism: Literature and Culture

Paul Benzon, T/Th 11:10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

What can robots, spaceships, and extraterrestrial life forms tell us about the conditions of Blackness in America? How can these and other science-fictional figures help us to confront the realities of racism and to imagine new modes of living and being? In a cultural moment in which we are increasingly attuned to histories of enslavement and inequality, what is at stake in using literature, art, and culture to imagine far-flung futures and alternate timelines?

In this course, we will explore these and other questions through the study of Afrofuturist literature and culture. Taking cultural critic Kodwo Eshun’s provocation that “Black existence and science fiction are one and the same” as our jumping-off point, we will consider Afrofuturist cultural production across a range of media and genres. Paying close attention to how speculative, science- fictional, and technological motifs allow for new formulations of aesthetic and social possibility, we’ll study how Afrofuturist creators reimagine questions of power, identity, embodiment, community, and futurity. Possible texts for consideration will include literature by W.E.B. DuBois, Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, Colson Whitehead, and N.K. Jemisin; music by Sun Ra, Parliament- Funkadelic, Drexciya, Afrika Bambaataa, Outkast, and Janelle Monáe; art by Rammellzee and Wangechi Mutu; and films including District 9 and Black Panther. As part of the Bridge Experience’s Practice/Application component, students will work together to curate and host a series of Afrofuturist Popups, in which they will present key Afrofuturist texts in a range of media and discuss them with a public audience. 

GW 351D: Disease, Health, and Nation

Gwen D’Arcangelis, T/Th 11:10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

In this course students will examine the role that gender and race/ethnicity play in relation to societal understandings of and institutional responses to infectious disease. Race/ethnicity and gender are understood as intersecting markers of social position (in concert with class and sexuality, among other markers) that shape conceptions of disease, health/illness, and national belonging.  The course explores the racialization and gendering of healthcare and governance in both U.S. and global contexts, as well as social movements that seek to equitably distribute health care and medicine.

EN 360P: Black Feminism and Contemporary Poetry

Bakary Diaby, M/W 2:30-4:20 p.m.

In this course, we will investigate the continuing dialogue and the tensions between Black feminist thought and poetic form in the twenty-first century. The course is structured around five poets: Morgan Parker, Eve Ewing, Danez Smith, Don Mee Choi, and Amanda Gorman. Alongside these central poets, we will also read theoretical material from Gloria Anzaldúa, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Christina Sharpe and other thinkers. Coupled with investigating the affordances of poetic form (especially over the length of a book), topics will include intersectionality, aesthetics, racism and affect, violence and history, and other subjects. Students can also expect poems from Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Kate Rushin, Evie Shockley, Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Phillis WWheatley, and more. Students must lead discussion once in the semester, write one short response paper, and one final paper.

Prerequisites: EN 110

GWS 321 Gender, Race, and Science

Gwen D’Arcangelis, T/R 2:50-4:10 p.m.

IG 251: Taking the Journey Home

Lisa Grady-Willis, T/Th 11:10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

This course examines the concept of home as it relates to the historical and contemporary realities of Black people in the United States.  Using the work of renowned scholars and writers such as bell hooks and Toni Morrison, students will explore notions of home as a catalyst for dialogue both within and between families and communities.  Students will interrogate their own experiences of home as they grow as a community of writers and critical thinkers. 

IG 251: Taking the Journey Home

Lisa Grady-Willis, T/Th 11:10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

This course examines the concept of home as it relates to the historical and contemporary realities of Black people in the United States.  Using the work of renowned scholars and writers such as bell hooks and Toni Morrison, students will explore notions of home as a catalyst for dialogue both within and between families and communities.  Students will interrogate their own experiences of home as they grow as a community of writers and critical thinkers. 

BST 305: Radical Black Autobiography

Winston Grady-Willis, M/W 2:30-4:20 p.m.

Black activists, such as Angela Davis and Paul Robeson. These texts not only reveal (and in some instances conceal) much about the personal lives and political struggles of these individuals, but even more about intra-racial fault lines of socioeconomic class, gender, and sexuality. Students are responsible for crafting an analytical essay for the public that includes a memoir component.

PrerequisitesBST 101 
Note(s):Fulfills cultural diversity requirement; fulfills bridge experience.  

BST 375: Black Studies Seminar

Winston Grady-Willis, W/F 10:10 a.m.-noon

Exploration of primary and secondary sources in the interdisciplinary examination of a particular topic in Black Studies. Students will pursue a research project in conjunction with close examination of groundbreaking texts in the field. Particular emphasis will be placed on texts and projects that seek transdisciplinary approaches to Black Studies.

PrerequisitesBST 101 - Introduction to Black Studies

Prerequisites/Corequisites BST 101 and approved Power and Justice Course (BSTP attribute)

Note: Fulfills cultural diversity requirement.

PL 251A: The Comparative Politics of Policing

Kate Graney, Th 6:10-8:55 p.m

The death of George Floyd in summer 2020 under the custody of police in Minneapolis, MN, USA, has led to a groundswell of protest and renewed interest in question of policing: Why do we have police forces? Why are police forces structured the way they are? Are the police in the United States really involved in many more violent incidents than police in other parts of the world? If so, why? Are police forces biased in terms of race, gender, class and other social identities, or are they able to effectively “protect and serve” all the citizens of their states? This course attempts to answer these questions by looking at the issue of policing in comparative political context; specifically, in Russia, Brazil, Germany, the Philippines, the United States, and other states.  3 Credits.

SO 204W, Intro to Race, Class, Gender

Ruth Hernandez, T/Th 3:40-5 p.m.

As the name suggests, this course will primarily examine race, class, and gender—as socially constructed categories of difference and systems of inequality. We will explore how these categories, that that we take for granted, structure identities, opportunities, and social outcomes vis-à-vis institutions such as the media, education, and the family. Using readings, films, class discussions, current issues, art, and our writing, we will critically examine the following questions: 


1) How are race, class, gender, and other categories such as sexuality and ability socially constructed?  
2) How are an individual's opportunities and life chances (or lack of) affected by his/her/their social location?   
3) What is the relationship between agency and structure?  
4) What are the structured privileges and disadvantages in my own life?  


  • Develop and exercise your sociological imagination to understand the relationship between individual experiences, life changes, and social structures  
  • Advance analytical writing skills   
  • Apply sociological concepts to the study of race, class, and gender through writing exercises   
  • Enhance course material through collaborative discussions    
  • Examine empirical research to deepen understanding of race, class, and gender  

RE 105: American Gods

Lucia Hulsether, T/Th 9:40-11 a.m.

This course has two tasks. The first task is to orient students to the broad and complex topic of religion in the Americas. The second is to understand concepts of religion that scholars, practitioners, and states have used to interpret their own contexts.

We approach the topic of religion in the Americas as an invitation to a thought experiment: How does it change when we center different standpoints? There are three units in the class. The first unit thinks about the history of religion in the Americas through the lens of settler-colonial conquest; the second unit does so through the lens of slavery and its afterlives; the third unit centers themes of migration, citizenship, and the U.S. nation-state. These units chronologically overlap. We move forward in time and then backtrack to move forward again with our attentions attuned to new dynamics of power and meaning. We do not “leave behind” any unit when we transition out of it. Rather, we begin to notice how the different parts interweave, how histories of black religion interweave with histories of indigenous practice, how immigrant narratives take up and modify histories of conquest and slavery, and how ideas of what is and is not “religious” freedom emerge in and through formations of race, sexuality, gender, and nation.

It is impossible to be exhaustive when approaching such a broad topic as “religion in the Americas”—there are any number of themes around which we might center our forays, and one could spend a lifetime covering one religious tradition in one region within this vast geography—so our primary goal is to develop a set interpretive skills that can apply across a liberal arts education. The assignments in this course are designed to build your skills as critical readers and interpreters, as well as to create frameworks for you to explore themes that follow from and surpass this class.

SO 219C: Race and Power 

Jennifer Mueller, W/F 10:10-noon

A critical analysis of race, racism, and racial justice in the United States, as set in a global, historical context. In addition to traditional modes of teaching and learning, students use deep self-reflection and intergroup dialogue (i.e., peer-to-peer dialogue with BIPOC students and white students) to explore how race is constructed, reproduced, and transformed within hierarchical structures of power and privilege. Topics include racial identity development and ways individuals internalize and ‘do race’ in relation to other identities (e.g., gender, ability, and class); historical mechanisms of racialization, through which bodies, groups, practices, and space are ‘raced’; institutional dimensions of race, racialization, and racial inequality (e.g., in law, education, popular culture); and strategies for resisting and challenging racism – within oneself, in groups and organizations, and across society more broadly.

Prerequisites: One sociology gateway (SO 101, 201, 202, 203, or 204) and permission of instructor. Interested students should fill out a request for enrollment here:

AM 342: Black Feminist Thoughts

Tammy Owens, T/Th 12:40-2 p.m.

Examines the development and materialization of Black American feminist thoughts within historical, social, political, and cultural contexts. Interdisciplinary in foucs, it surveys feminist politics and theories through films, popular culture, manifestos, literary texts, 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.

Note(s): 300-level courses in American Studies are not ordinarily open to first-year students except by permission of the instructor. (Designated a Cultural Diversity course; fulfills humanistic inquiry.)

AN 227: Sub-Saharan Africa from a Cultural Perspective

Sonia Silva, W/F 10:10-11:30 a.m.

A survey of Africa south of the Sahara Desert from a cultural perspective. Students 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 notions of time, space, and person, ethnicity, ritual and religion, art, history, and governance.

Prerequisites: AN 101

Note(s): (Designated a non-Western culture course; fulfills humanistic inquiry and global cultural perspective.)

EN 327L: Toni Morrison

Mason Stokes, M/W 2:30-3:50 p.m.

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, the American Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the Nobel Prize for Literature, Toni Morrison surely ranks as one of America’s greatest novelists. Her work, located in the lived experience of African American culture, explores contradictions that lie at the heart of American identity: the love of freedom in a country founded on slavery; the fact of racial bigotry in a country allegedly dedicated to equality; the role of community in a country that worships the individual; and the insistence of desire in a world imagined by Puritans. Ranging across geographies and demographics, Morrison maps an American experience lived in pool halls and churches, cotton fields and urban neighborhoods, and most of all in families—families, like America, torn apart and put back together again. 

In this seminar, we’ll focus on Morrison’s first six novels (The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, and Jazz), as well as her last (God Help the Child).  We’ll also read a selection of scholarly criticism.  Assignments include four 2-page essays and one longer essay (12 pages). 

Prerequisites: Completion of the Introductory Requirement in English

CC 227 – Race and Ethnicity in Ancient Greece and Beyond

Randolph Ford, credits: 3

How did the ancient Greeks construct their “racial” and ethnic identity and why should “Ancient Greekness” matter to us living in America today? Students will study the dynamics of race and ethnicity in antiquity by comparing constructions of Greekness and Romanness with constructions of ethnic identities in ancient non-Western cultures, including the ancient Persian Empire (Iran and Iraq) as well as cultures of ancient Africa, specifically the Egyptians, Ethiopians, Nubians, and Libyans. Students consider ancient Greek evidence as well as historical and archaeological data shedding light on non-Western perspectives. Students will learn contemporary race theory and the difficulties and benefits of applying it to the study of ancient societies. Students will also examine the role of ancestry, language, religion, mythology, and literature (including historiography) in the discursive formation of racial and ethnic identities among the ancient Greeks and nearby non-Western cultures. Although centered in Ancient Greece, students will move beyond its geographical boundaries through examination of the Mediterranean culturally and its link to twentieth-century conceptualizations of race and ethnicity.

Note(s): (Designated a Cultural Diversity course; fulfills humanities requirement; fulfills humanistic inquiry and global cultural perspective.)