The representation of black lives in writing, art, politics and society bears a legacy of erasure, suppression and denial, a practice sometimes referred to by critics as “whitewashing”. This legacy, undoubtedly linked to the growth of modern European imperialism in the wake of Columbus’s American encounters, can often obscure the history of black people and their cultural output in different periods. From the “whitening” of Ancient Egypt—whereby it was situated within a European Mediterranean world, as opposed to an African one—to quiescence about the presence of black people in Britain prior to the Second World War, black representation in world history often featured as a kind of absence prior to the 1960s.
This module aims to examine representations of black lives and cultural output over a broad range of fields, including the visual arts, literature, history and politics, and in different historical periods. It investigates what it means to be black—generally understood as a social category or construct relating to Africans and their descendants, whether Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin, African American or Black British—in relation to critical discourses of ethnicity, race and postcolonialism. It will also be informed by seminal theories of race by black academics and theorists, including W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, Henry Louis Gates, Sylvia Wynter, Joyce A. Joyce, Barbara Smith, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy.
Anticipated Coursework Assessment for 2018/19:
Essay (2,500 words) 65%
Scrapbook / anthology 30%
12 Years a Slave, dir. Steve McQueen (Los Angeles: Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2013). DVD.
Mary Seacole, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands  (Cambridge: Penguin, 2011).
W. E. B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” in The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Dover, 1994), 1-7.
Alain Locke, “Enter the New Negro”; W. A. Domingo, “The Tropics in New York”, The Survey Graphic (March 1925).
Amy Jacques Garvey, “On Langston Hughes: I am a Negro—and Beautiful”; Elise Johnson McDougald, “The Task of Negro Womanhood”; Marita O. Bonner, “On Being Young—a Women—and Colored” in Double-Take: A Revisionist Harlem Renaissance Anthology, ed. Venetria K. Patton and Maureen Honey (New Brunswick; London: Rutgers University Press, 2010).
I Am Not Your Negro, dir. Raoul Peck (New York: Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2016).
Samuel Selvon, The Lonely Londoners  (London: Penguin, 2006).
Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice  (New York: Dell, 1991).
Campos-Pons, María Magdalena, and William Luis, “Art and Diaspora: A Conversation with María Magdalena Campos-Pons”, Afro-Hispanic Review 30, no. 2 (2011): 155-66. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23617166.
Secondary texts (indicative list)
Brent H. Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003).
Henry L Gates and Cornel West, The Future of the Race (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1997).
Henry L. Gates, The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (London: Verso, 1995).
Stuart Hall, Jennifer D. Slack, and Lawrence Grossberg, eds., Cultural Studies 1983: A Theoretical History (Durham: Duke University Press 2016).
Stuart Hall, Selected Political Writings: The Great Moving Right Show and Other Essays, eds. Sally Davison, David Featherstone, Michael Rustin, and Bill Schwarz (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017).
Bell hook, Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism  (New York: Routledge, 2015).
C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (New York: Vintage, 1989).
David Scott, Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment (Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 2005).
Barbara Smith, The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000).
Michelle A. Stephens, Black Empire: The Masculine Global Imaginary of Caribbean Intellectuals in the United States, 1914-1962 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006).
Rhonda Y. Williams, Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century (New York; London: Routledge, 2015).