Further information concerning planned graduate course offerings can be obtained by calling the Afro-American Studies Department office at (413) 545-2751, or by visiting the department's website at www.umass.edu/afroam/.
All courses carry 4 credits unless otherwise specified.
AFROAM 591B. Black Radical Thought (Undergraduate/Graduate)
This course will focus on contributions to Marxist intellectual and political traditions by African and African-descended thinkers. We will read and discuss works by major figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, Walter Rodney, Amilcar Cabral, Angela Davis, Aime Cesaire, Franz Fanon. We also hope to introduce you to a selection of perhaps lesser known figures such as Babu, Achille Mbembe, George Padmore, Claudia Jones, Harry Haywood, James Boggs, Muhammad Ahmad. The course will require extensive reading, informed participation in class discussion, and a final paper. Credits, 3.
AFROAM 591E. Black Feminist and Queer Insurgencies (Undergraduate/Graduate)
This course traces black feminist and queer theories of militancy, insurgency, and revolutionary planning from Harriet Tubman to the present day. Untethering our perspective from the domain of normative masculinities, we will instead focus on forms of organization, revolt, and defensiveness (Nash) that are equally attuned to care, healing, and the transformative force of pleasure and desire (Hartman; Musser). We will study how people take care of each other in the face of state violence and the neoliberal state’s ongoing divestment from public infrastructure and services by exploring histories and experiments in mutual aid, community and armed defense, femme expertise and care webs (Piepzna-Samarasinha), revolutionary mothering (Gumbs, Martens, Williams), radical separatism and communal living, critical solidarities, sex radicalism, and abolition as a form of both radical imagination and social transformation. We will seek to map an alternative genealogy of black revolutionary theory through the history of black feminist and queer militancy. Throughout, we will be invested in the long-term work of black study (Moten and Harney) and utopian planning at the same time as we investigate practical tactics and strategies that approach white supremacy as a racial and gendered act of war that requires immediate mobilization and response. Credits, 3.
AFROAM 630. Critical Race Theories
Participants in this seminar, Critical Race Theories, will examine the general foundational ideas and concepts shaping today’s now proliferating scholarly enquiries that operate under the term critical race theories. While the basis for today’s critical race theories developed from Critical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory in legal scholarship, many scholars from a variety of disciplines have transformed for their own contexts the insights that have informed legal scholarship in this area. An understanding of the entrenched racial structures in the United States and their basis in the social contract informing much of Western culture is especially useful for reading and analyzing a substantial portion of African American literature. Seminar participants will read early documents (The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, The Constitution of the United States of America, The Bill of Rights, Emancipation Proclamation, the Reconstruction Amendments) together with texts by historical figures, philosophers, and others who have shaped or have responded to systems of race in the United States (Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Banneker, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others) texts on theories of race (Smedley, Frederickson, Eze and others), and legal as well as literary, political, and philosophical critical race theorists (Bell, Crenshaw, Gotanda, Austin, Mills, Baldwin, Neal, Fuller, Du Bois, among others).
AFROAM 691C. Historiographical Methods in Afro-American Studies
This course will introduce you to some of the basics of what it means to read, think, and write as an historian. We will explore what historians do and why as well as the "objectivity question," the development of African American history as an academic discipline, and one or two current controversies. We also will learn how to locate and use the resources of the Du Bois Library such as microforms, government documents, the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois, on-line indices and collections, as well as those of such important national repositories such as the Library of Congress, the Moorland-Spingarn Collection at Howard University and the Schomburg Center of the N.Y. Public Library.
AFROAM 692Q. African Diaspora Studies: Introduction to Concepts and Historiography
*Required foundations course for Graduate Certificate in African Diaspora Studies.
This course will offer an introduction to 1) key concepts and definitions e.g. diaspora, Pan-Africanism, Afro-centrism, etc. 2) the classic works in the field. 3) major trends in contemporary scholarship.We will be reading a selection of works discussing the contours and history of the field as well as examples of recent scholarship. Two papers on major themes will be required. This course is required for the Graduate Certificate in African Diaspora Studies and is open both to students pursuing the certificate and to graduate students with a general interest in the subject.
AFROAM 692T. Gender and Power in the Atlantic World
This course examines the history of the Atlantic World through a gendered lens, exploring the ways in which European conquest and colonization of the Americas and the enslavement of millions of Africans and indigenous Americans gave rise to modern gender categories and hierarchies. In this course, students will engage with both foundational and more recent scholarly works on the subject, encountering a broad temporal and geographical range. Over the course of the semester, they will come to understand the ways in which the formation and reformation of gendered ideologies and identities lay at the center of Atlantic colonial and imperial projects, racial slavery, and nascent Western capitalism.
AFROAM 693B. The Rise of the Carceral State
This graduate seminar will introduce students to carceral studies, an interdisciplinary body of scholarship that takes the late twentieth century expansion of the U.S. prison system as its primary object of analysis. Drawing on a variety of sources – influential older articles and books, a growing literature on the prison system's historical development, and recent examinations of mass incarceration’s “collateral consequences” – this course will provide a firm sense of the chronological, political, and institutional development of the U.S. carceral state. In doing so, this course will pay particular attention to the distinct relationship between domestic regimes of policing and incarceration and various black political struggles, from individuated acts of resistance to insurgent social movements. By placing this body of scholarship in conversation with the history of black politics, this graduate course seeks to both familiarize students with an emerging field of study and offer a unique perspective on the state of Black Studies.
AFROAM 693C. The History of Love, Sex, and Marriage in Black America
Why aren’t more African Americans married? Are African American women doomed to stay single? Is the two-parent black household a myth? These are some of the questions frequently asked about contemporary black relationships. This graduate course examines the history of African American love, sex, and marriage. Spanning slavery to present, this course investigates the political, economic, and social drivers that have shaped black love and family. It will pay special attention to the relationship between African American romantic and sexual encounters—heterosexual and queer—and mid-twentieth century social movements (e.g. Civil Rights and Black Power Movements). This course also will explore miscegenation; rape and sexual violence; free love and the sexual revolution; reproduction, childrearing, and family; pornography and sex work; marriage reform and welfare rights; and disease and medicine.
AFROAM 701-702 Major Works Seminar in Afro-American Studies I and II
An intensive study of fifty major works of Afro-American Studies. Required of all first-year doctoral and masters candidates, and open only to them.
AFROAM 753. Special Topics in Afro-American Literature & Culture: The Blues
An intensive study of the history of the blues. The nature of blues music and lyrics in an African and African American social, political, and musical context, and the use of the blues tradition in literature. No reading knowledge of music required or expected.