- Degree Programs
Graduate Courses - Spring 2011
AFASG4500: Section 001
The Living Black History graduate seminar has been designed to focus on the experience of people of African descent in the United States roughly covering the period since 1900.
Students enrolling in the seminar are assumed to have defined for themselves specific research topics for the production of scholarly papers that focus primarily since 1900. All research projects proposed for the seminar must be based primarily on primary sources, such as correspondence and personal documents pertaining to subjects located in archives and libraries, and oral history interviews collected from subjects. Other important sources that should be incorporated into papers may come from newspaper and media accounts, films, dissertations and theses, published articles and books, government records (such as FBI documents), etc. The objective is the production of original research and new interpretations on historically significant personalities, issues and events that are directly related to the African-American recent past.
Students in the Living Black History Seminar must fulfill four requirements: (1) contribute at least once every two weeks comments on seminar discussions and readings on CourseWorks; (2) present a bibliography, and a preliminary plan of work; (3) prepare a short version of your research paper-in-progress; and (4) complete a research paper.
AFASG4080: Section 001
This seminar will investigate the cultural contributions of Africans in the formation of the contemporary Americas. There will be a particular focus on the African religious traditions that have continued and developed in spite of hostile social and political pressures. Because of their important roles in the continuations of African aesthetics, the areas of visual art, music and dance will be emphasized in the exploration of the topic. This seminar will also discuss two important African ethnic groups: the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria, and the Bakongo of Central Africa. It will highlight the American religious traditions of these cultures, e.g., Candomblé Nago/Ketu, Santeria/Lucumi, Shango, Xangô, etc., for the Yoruba, and Palo Mayombe, Umbanda, Macumba, Kumina, African-American Christianity, etc., for the Bakongo and other Central Africans. In the course discussions, the Americas are to include Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the United States and numerous other appropriate locations. There will also be a focus on visual artists like Charles Abramson, Jose Bedia, Juan Boza, Lourdes Lopez, Manuel Mendive, etc., whose works are grounded in African based religions. In addition, we will explore how African religious philosophy has impacted on every-day life in the Americas, for example in the areas of international athletics, procedures of greeting and de-greeting, culinary practices, etc.
AFASG4080: Section 002
This course will explore a range of theories of marginalization related to race, class, gender, power, and sexuality, sampling works from various intellectual projects such as cultural studies, postcolonial studies, queer theory, and postmodern thought. And overarching question that guides such course is, "how do changing conceptions of social categories and competing particularities, affect what is deemed "marginal" given shifting ideas of once deemed stable categories of gender, sexuality, and race in the face of postmodern thought?"
AFASG4080: Section 003
This course will examine the emergence of the blues tradition in the African American novel. We will analyze how the Blues Novel re-imagines gender, transforms racial hierarchies, and questions spiritual boundaries. Through the analysis of blues form, characters, and ideology, we will explore recurring themes such as: violence, historical trauma, cultural memory, sexuality, race, and gender. Texts will include: Gayl Jones, Corregidora; Toni Morrison, Jazz; Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; Albert Murray, Train Whistle Guitar; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Ann Petry, The Street, among others.
AFASG4080: Section 004
“The Idea of a Black Radical Tradition” seeks to think critically and historically about the cultural-politics of black intellectual life in the twentieth century. The course will be framed by the following questions: What does it mean to talk today about a black radical tradition? What has it meant in the past to speak in these (or cognate) terms? And if we take the debate among black intellectuals in part at least to inhabit a normative discursive space, an argumentative space in which to make claims on the moral-political present, what ought it to mean to talk about a black radical tradition?
Arguably, the idea of a radical tradition has been an important part of modern black intellectual life, shaping the constructions and reconstructions of ethical-political connection across the rupturing history of black dispossession, displacement, and disenfranchisement. Part of the attractiveness, no doubt, of the idea of a black radical tradition is the way in which it offers an idiom of belonging, a vantage from which to narrate a shared past, and a perspective from which to imagine a common future. In recent years, however, in a growing number of books, we have seen the idea employed with more coherent force, perhaps more systematic intent.
The conceptual and ideological complexity of the problem posed by the very formulation is readily apparent in the fact that each of its consequential terms—“black,” “radical,” and “tradition”—is an essentially contested concept. To begin with, it is by no means self-evident what identity or what community or what history is covered by the term “black.” Surely “black” does not correspond to an a priori foundation, an ontology, that guarantees a unified way of being or seeing. Similarly, “radical” is an idea no less complex, no less ambiguous (“radical” as opposed to what?), if also no less important to the story of the modern black subject. But in the constrained aftermaths of the various black nationalisms, black Marxisms, and so on, what idea of politics does “radical” signify or organize? It is not easy to say with any certainty. Finally, what idea of a “tradition” does the idea of a black radical tradition depend upon? Tradition is a term with a complex and contested genealogy. Indeed some may argue that “tradition” does not belong in the same semantic universe as “radical.” What relation between past, present and future does it comprehend? What notion of temporality and spatiality does it map? Finally, how does the uses of these contested terms vary according to the problems posed by gender, by social class, by sexual orientation, by the problem of the popular?
AFASG4080: Section 005
Students in the Malcolm X Seminar must fulfill four requirements: (1) regularly post comments on seminar discussions and readings on Coursework’s; (2) present to the seminar an overview of one week’s assigned readings; (3) complete a research paper proposal; and (4) complete a twenty-page research paper on or about Malcolm X and topics connected with him.
AFASG4080: Section 006
This seminar is the curricular component of multi-year research project entitled Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women. The project is dedicated to recovering the history of black women as active intellectual subjects. A collaborative effort, it aims to encourage scholarship on black women’s intellectual activities among a diverse and enduring community of senior and junior scholars, and graduate students whose intellectual exchanges will cross generations and foster a scholarly tradition that outlives this particular project. The project and the seminar will culminate in a three-day, international conference to be held at Columbia.
The seminar will be conducted as a hands-on workshop specifically designed for graduate students enrolled in the Master’s Degree Program at the Institute for Research in African American Studies. In addition to weekly reading assignments and class presentations, students will be responsible for helping to build the project’s web page, constructing an ongoing bibliography, identifying, locating and documenting relevant archives, and helping to host the conference. Finally, students will complete an original research project and paper. We will workshop these papers throughout the second half of the semester.
Using contemporary philosophical literature, this course sets out to explore race as a socio-conceptual construct. The aim is to engage the various dimensions that constitute race as both social and conceptual in the field of philosophy. We will look at race from critical, phenomenological, and existential perspectives while emphasizing the ethical implications. The lectures and class discussions will assist the participants in understanding the conceptual situation of the experience of people of the African Diaspora in the Western philosophical tradition. Also, we will discuss the norms, beliefs, and values that inform the subjectivity of people of the African Diaspora and how racism consists in the Western response to their subjective experience. The structure of the course is congenial to juniors, seniors and graduate students of philosophy and the other disciplines of the humanities who wish to understand the philosophical discourse about race.