Ethnic and Diasporic Studies

Ethnic and diasporic studies as an academic discipline lie at the intersection of several increasingly powerful developments in American thought and culture. First, interdisciplinary and comparative scholarship has become so prevalent as to represent a dominant intellectual norm. Second, the use of this new scholarly methodology to meet new academic needs and illuminate new subject matter has given rise to a plethora of discourses—women’s studies; Native American studies; African American studies; gay, lesbian, and transgender studies; and global studies. Third, and perhaps most important, there has been a growing recognition, both inside and outside academia, that American reality is incorrigibly and irremediably plural and that responsible research and pedagogy must account for and accommodate this fact.

We define ethnic and diasporic studies—loosely—as the study of the dynamics of racial and ethnic groups (also loosely conceived) who have been denied, at one time or another, the full participation and the full benefits of citizenship in American society. We see these dynamics as fascinating in and among themselves but also feel that studying them illuminates the entire spectrum of humanistic inquiry and that a fruitful cross-fertilization will obtain between ethnic and diasporic studies and the College’s well-established curricula in the humanities, the arts, the sciences, and the social sciences.

2017-2018 Courses

First-Year Studies: Pilgrimage and Initiation

Open , FYS—Year

1) Pilgrimage and initiation play a major role in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Sufi Islamic traditions of South Asia. This seminar introduces students to the cultures of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka through a comparative study of religious practices. In homes, temples, and shrines throughout this region, devotees perform elaborate rituals of initiation. These often occur at moments of life-cycle transition. Calendar-based sacraments also occur on the major holidays of each religion. When devotees celebrate these ceremonies, they are "performing" important cultural values. 2) Globally, pilgrimage festivals can be seen as codes for interpreting cultures. Meaningful journeys reflect the structure of initiation rites in that one is transformed by the experience. 3) Pilgrim fairs and festivals serve multiple functions. They provide venues not only for religious expression but also for arts performance, social negotiation, and economic exchange. 4) This seminar explores questions such as: Are pilgrimage and tourism functionally indistinguishable? What role, if any, do travelers’ intentions play in such an analysis? Is a spiritually inscribed journey qualitatively different from tourism with recreational, cultural, or service agendas? How does the transitional process of a journey relate to the experience of arrival at a destination? What do pilgrimage and initiation sometimes have in common with the experience of immigration? 5) Using travel memoirs, we explore themes of quest, discovery, and personal transformation. Postcolonial writings on spiritually inscribed journeys raise issues of dislocation, exile, memory, and identity. We inquire critically into traditional mappings of “sacred geographies” and the commercial promotion of competing destinations. 6) Sources: Within travel industries, we analyze the specialists who service many spectacles and attractions found along pilgrimage routes. Films and photographic sources are used extensively. Readings are drawn from cultural studies, history of religions, anthropology, and personal narratives.

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African Diasporic Dance

Component—Year

Students may enter this yearlong course in the second semester only with permission of the instructor.

This yearlong course will use physical embodiment as a mode of learning about and understanding African diasporic cultures. In addition to physical practice, master classes led by artists and teachers regarded as masters in the field of African diasporic dance and music, along with supplementary study materials, will be used to explore the breadth, diversity, history, and technique of dances derivative of the Africa diaspora. Afro Haitian, West African, Orisha dances (Lucumi, Afro Cuban), and social dance are some genres that will be explored. Participation in year-end showings will provide students with the opportunity to apply studies in a performative context.

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Diversity and Equity in Education: Issues of Gender, Race, and Class

Advanced , Seminar—Year

The education system is a central institution in the socialization of young people and the maintenance of the modern nation-state. Schools support meritocratic models of society by providing opportunities for social mobility. Paradoxically, schools also reproduce gender, racial, and class inequality. In this course, we will examine the roles that schools play in the transmission of culture, formation of identity, and reproduction of social structures. Paying special attention to gender and its intersection with other social categories, we will look at practices and policies that shape students' performance as they strive for competence, achievement, and acceptance. We will also analyze the larger political and economic contexts that shape both schools and the communities in which they are situated.

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Gender, Race, and Media: Historicizing Visual Culture

Advanced , Seminar—Year

In this course, we will engage with the field of visual culture in order to develop a critical framework through which we may understand visual perception as a set of practices that inform and are informed by structures of power. Throughout the semester and the year, we will consider the following questions: What does it mean, from an historical perspective, to live in a society that seemingly privileges visual perception? How does power figure into past and contemporary viewing practices? How have visual technologies been leveraged to situate alternative practices of looking more squarely within Western publics’ fields of vision? We will accomplish this by focusing on the rich scholarship of visual culture theory, media and communication scholarship that foregrounds gender and racial analysis, and the excellent work that bridges media/visual studies and women’s history. We will work with a variety of texts, such as art, advertising, print magazines, television programming, film, and social media. Readings roughly span the 19th century through the contemporary era. Through our readings, we will observe the ways in which the 19th-century production and circulation of images of the “other” and a gendered gaze began to take on a particular potency in the United States and Europe with the growth of industrialization, commercial advertising, and immigration. Twentieth-century scholarship will focus on, among other things, the rise of a global media landscape in which the lines between producers and consumers of media become increasingly blurred. An examination of contemporary viewing practices will enable us to consider some of the implications of a radically fractured “mediascape” and its attendant struggles over ownership of meaning, as media technologies enable visual processes of signification to spin out wildly in unpredictable and surprising directions.

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Global Masculinities

Open , Seminar—Fall

What does it mean for straight white men in fraternities and the military to grab each other’s penises as part of a hazing ritual (Ward 2015)? Or for blond, “all-American” jocks to dress like “nerds” with glasses and perform a Revenge of the Nerds skit for a high school’s “homecoming king” contest (Pascoe 2007)? Or for the National Basketball Association to feature a promotional video of Yao Ming, the first Chinese player in the NBA, leading a Tai-chi practice on a basketball court wearing his Rockets jersey (Wang 2004)? What do these images and practices reveal about the diverse cultures of masculinity that exist within the United States and around the world? Often when scholars study gender, they focus on women. In contrast, within this course we will spotlight the lives of men who have long escaped critical examination as members of an unmarked category that has stood for humanity in general. In exploring the diversity of men’s lives across the globe, this course will highlight the social construction of masculinity; that is, rather than understanding being “male” or a “man” as biological facts, we will view them as sociocultural constructs that vary not only according to time but also setting. We will see how masculinity intersects with race, class, age, language, sexuality, religion, and nationality to create various models of hegemonic and subordinate masculinities that co-exist and compete with one another. We will explore how, even as masculinity operates to empower men as a group, they inhabit positions of power and wealth and simultaneously regulate the behavior of all men. Therefore, we will also discuss how drag queens, butch lesbians, and transgender people create their own complex genders (Taylor 2004) that have the power to disrupt the gender binary that, in turn, supports not only a white normative queer community and heteronormative family system but also hetero-masculinist states as part of a global capitalist system of homosocial bonding and rivalry. Potential readings include Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (2011) by C.J. Pascoe, Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men (2015) by Jane Ward, Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Passing (2014) by Jeffrey McCune, “The Track of My Tears: Trans* Affects, Resonance, and PitBulls and Parolees” (2015) by Harlan Weaver, Manly States: Masculinities, International Relations, and Gender Politics (2012) by Charlotte Hooper, and Chih-ming Wang’s “Capitalizing the big man: Yao Ming, Asian America, and the China Global” (2004). For conference work, students will have a chance to expand upon their personal interests and learn the fundamentals of ethnographic research by conducting mini-ethnography on a selected topic of their choice. Samples of past student work may be found on the instructor’s faculty home page.

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First-Year Studies: Health, Illness, and Medicine in a Multicultural Context: A Service-Learning Course

Open , FYS—Year

What is the difference between disease and illness? Do people in different cultures manifest the same illness similarly? Has the biomedical model resulted in better health for all? Why do women get sicker but men die quicker? This course offers an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness within a cultural context. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness. We will also examine the interrelationship between humans and the natural and built environment. A lifespan approach examining child, adolescent, and adult issues will provide additional insight. Issues of sexuality, gender, race, and ethnicity are a central focus, as well. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers or in public health. Conference work may range from empirical research to bibliographic research in this area. The community partnership/service-learning component is an important part of this class. We will work with local agencies to promote healthy and adaptive person-environment interactions within our community.

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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open , Lecture—Spring

Remember, remember always, that all of us…are descended from immigrants and revolutionists. —Franklin D. Roosevelt

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon where people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there temporarily or permanently. While anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigrants and immigration. The course begins with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of sociological and social psychological research on immigrants. We then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will analyze the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will look at how the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as the intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.​

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Amandla! Power, Prejudice, Privilege, and South African Human Development Under and After Apartheid

Open , Seminar—Fall

It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. —Nelson Mandela (1994), Long Walk to Freedom

For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret. —Alan Paton (1948), Cry, the Beloved Country

How do the contexts in which we live influence our development? And how do these contexts influence the questions that we ask about development and the ways in which we interpret our observations? In this course, we will evaluate from a cultural-ecological perspective these and other key questions about development through a discussion of human development in South Africa during and after the apartheid era. We will discuss ways in which cognitive, language, and socioemotional development and mental and physical health are influenced by the environments in which we live—which, during apartheid, was determined by the governmental classification of race. Key topics will include fear, racial stereotyping and discrimination, identity formation, acculturation and globalization, crime and violence, and forgiveness and reconciliation. We will also take a broader view of these topics in discussing what human development in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa can tell us about human development in general. In thinking about human development in South African contexts, we will also discuss South African psychological research during and after apartheid, with a view toward understanding more broadly how psychological research can both influence and be influenced by public policy. How did researchers’ political affiliations, race, ethnicity and cultural beliefs and practices affect the questions they asked, the measures they used, the ways in which they interpreted their data, and even whether and where they published their research findings? Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary research in psychology, human development, anthropology, sociology, and public health; from memoirs and other first-hand accounts (including Nelson Mandela’s autobiography); and from classic and contemporary South African literature. We will also view and analyze several classic and contemporary films, including: The Power of One, Tsotsi, Catch a Fire, and Cry, the Beloved Country.

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The Empathic Attitude

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

It is when we try to grapple with another man’s intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun. —Joseph Conrad

We mark with light in the memory the few interviews we have had, in the dreary years of routine and of sin, with souls that made our soul’s wiser; that spoke what we thought; that told us what we knew; that gave us leave to be what we…were. —Emerson, Divinity School Address, 1838

After graphically describing her predicament to her cousin Molly, Sarah asked: “So, do you understand?” “Yes, I do, I certainly do,” her cousin replied. “You do?” Sarah asked again. “Most emphatically, I do.” “Then you agree with me?” “Oh no.” “You sympathize with me then?” “No, I don’t.” “Then you at least see it from my point of view.” “Hardly.” “Then what do you understand?” “You are simply a fool!” “How dare you judge me?” “If I see it from your point of view, I shall only be a different kind of judge. My dear Sarah, don’t you see that there is no escaping judgment?”

For Conrad, the other is so shrouded in mists that our empathic understanding must necessarily fall short. For Emerson, an empathic rapport is rare but possible. As for Sarah and Molly, what can we say? Do they completely fail to understand each other, or do they understand each other only too well? Indeed, what do we mean by understanding in this context? Too often, understanding is confused with agreement or the absence of judgment. This course will examine what an empathic understanding entails and the function of empathy in defining areas of conflict, as well as in the resolution of conflict. In brief, the empathic attitude requires us to enjoy and appreciate the differences between ourselves and others even as we attempt to bridge those differences.

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First-Year Studies: Islam

Open , FYS—Year

This course will provide a comprehensive introduction to the foundational texts of Islam, the historical development of different Muslim cultures, and the contemporary issues that animate Islam’s ever-evolving manifestations. We will begin with the Qur’an, a book whose juxtaposition of narrative fragments, apocalyptic imagery, divine voice, and sociopolitical themes conveyed in rhymed Arabic prose has both entranced and confounded readers. We will look at the historical roots of the “isms” used today to describe the orientations of Sunnism, Shi‘ism, Sufism, and Salafism. Looking beyond the Middle East, where only about 20% of the current global population of Muslims reside, we will examine how migrating people, concepts, texts, and practices both transform and are transformed by existing traditions in different geographical locations. Contemporary preoccupations such as the status of women in Islam and the relationship between Islam and violence will be examined from a variety of perspectives, illustrating the intricacies of Muslim and non-Muslim acts of interpretation and their relationship to power and authority.

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American Muslims: History, Politics, and Culture

Open , Seminar—Year

The United States has a long and complicated history with its very diverse body of Muslim citizens. Muslim slaves were brought involuntarily to this country and forcibly kept from practicing their religion. Many of their descendants began to rediscover Islam in the early 20th century and were joined by an increasing number of Muslim immigrants after the Immigration and Nationality Act ended racial quotas on immigration in 1965. White converts joined them throughout the years. Although Muslims currently comprise only 1% of the American population, their significance goes well beyond their numbers. Beginning with Malcolm X in the 1950s and early 1960s and continuing to the post-9/11 era in the 21st century, perceptions about Muslims have functioned as barometers of deep social and political anxieties. To carefully examine these anxieties is to expose major fault lines in the domestic and foreign policies of the United States. The rise of fearmongering discourse from self-proclaimed “experts” on radical Islam after 9/11 is very much connected to the religious, political, and economic objectives of different groups, which are important to investigate. This course will look behind, but also beyond, the hot-button issues that dominate current headlines, exploring the variety of ways in which Muslim Americans have flourished in America and contributed to its intellectual and creative heritage in substantial ways. Material studied throughout the year will include many examples from the rich body of American Muslim memoirs, social and political critique, theology, literature, poetry, and art.

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The Holocaust

Open , Seminar—Spring

The Holocaust raises fundamental questions about the nature of our civilization. How could a policy of genocide be carried out by one of the most advanced and sophisticated countries of Europe? In this course, we will examine how these appalling events took place, beginning with anti-Semitic ideology and policy. At the same time, we will confront a surprisingly neglected perspective of the victims, whose perspective—how they chose to respond to the impending catastrophe (through art, diary-writing, mysticism, violence, hiding, etc.)—has not been integrated into an overall history of the Holocaust. Finally, we will attempt to come to grips with the crucial but neglected phenomenon of bystanders—non-Jews who stood by while their neighbors were methodically annihilated, rescued Jews, or became perpetrators themselves. We shall inevitably be compelled to make moral judgments. But these will be of value if they are informed and based on a fuller understanding of the perspectives of the various actors in this dark chapter of European history.

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Jewish Mysticism From Antiquity to the Present

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

This course examines a vibrant countertrend within Judaism known as mysticism. We begin with the biblical and ancient “Chariot” mysticism, proceed to ascetic medieval German pietism, and dwell at length on the erotically-charged “Kabbalah” that emerged in medieval Spain and Southern France—observing its unique conceptions of God, evil, demonology, sin, death, sexuality, and magic. We then follow the emergence of circles of mystics in 16th-century Safed (Land of Israel) that eventually sparked a mass messianic movement around the figure of Shabbetai Tzvi. In the second semester, we delve into the most popular and enduring Jewish mystical movement, Hasidism. Founded on the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov (The Besht) in 18th-century Eastern Europe, Hasidism was forged into a mass movement by charismatic miracle-workers called “tzaddikim” and spread by means of oral and written tales. We follow the emergence of Hasidic dynasties, gauge Hasidic responses to modern phenomena like Zionism and the Holocaust, and follow the movement’s continued flourishing today in tight-knit communities from Brooklyn to Jerusalem. Finally, we will examine popular contemporary neo-Kabbalah. Throughout, we strive to appreciate different manifestations of Jewish mysticism within their changing historical contexts.

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Borders and Transnational Mobilities

Open , Seminar—Year

In a global context where immigration has become one of the biggest flashpoints in political discourse, our understanding of how human and nonhuman mobility takes place needs constant re-examination and refinement. In addition to major humanitarian issues leading to global refugee crises, we are also looking at an ever-growing number of people who move across and within national borders in search of work, opportunities, education, and a chance to fulfil their aspirations for a better life. People also move because of conflict, dispossession, coercion, and environmental issues. Classical scholarship on migration has focused predominantly on the two largely distinct phenomena of “immigration” and “emigration,” while more recent developments in transnational studies and the "mobility" turn have led to a stronger emphasis on cross-border movements and flows of people, goods, capital, ideas, and vectors. Here, we will focus on building our knowledge about global and transnational mobility from an issue-based interdisciplinary perspective, drawing from the fields of sociology, anthropology, economics, history, and global studies. These issues include refugee crises, human trafficking, economic exploitation, modern-day slavery and indentured servitude, the global care-chain, and the emergence of new groups of precarious people around the world. To help with our exploration of these issues, we will be looking at how different regimes of mobility have developed under the auspices of globalization in the past three decades from a national, regional, international, and transnational perspective. What are some of the reasons influencing the movement of people away from their homes and countries of origin? How does the movement of people from privileged and wealthier backgrounds differ from that of people from poorer, marginalized communities (particularly in the Global South)? What are some of the institutional frameworks and regimes that govern, regulate, and produce new classes of “migrants” in today's world? The course will follow a modular structure that focuses on various themes within mobility studies. In each module, we will be using classical and contemporary readings that address the themes and issues at hand, in addition to nontraditional sources such as videos, blogs, online forums, and websites. The second half of the course will be focused on helping students design and propose projects based around some of the issues covered and through an engagement with different forms of data and methods: surveys, ethnographies, demographics, historical, and digital. This course will likely appeal to students interested in learning, researching, and working with different migrant communities around the world.

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Cities of the Global South

Open , Seminar—Fall

Saskia Sassen conceptualizes the “global city” as a model defined by the concentration of the economic activities of globalization, from infrastructure to services, as well as new forms of corporate governance and labor structures. The restructuring of global neoliberal economics has been a major factor in the unbalanced development experiences of various cities and urban centers in the Global South. While many enjoy vast material benefits from rapid economic expansion in cities like Singapore and Mumbai, others also experience an increase in precarious conditions and unprecedented levels of inequality, as witnessed in cities like Jakarta, Johannesburg, and São Paulo. In this course, we will be looking at the implications and consequences of uneven development in urban societies of the Global South. We will be particularly focused on issues such as urban informality, poverty, violence, inequalities, segregation, and surveillance as they pertain to cities outside the Global North countries. In addition, the course will also be focused on changing notions and meanings behind “urban” in the context of increasingly cosmopolitan societies and globalization by looking at how migration and mobility have had an impact on the social, political, and economic dynamics of urban living. Some of the case studies that we examine include gated communities in Johannesburg, informality in Mumbai and Jakarta, and precariousness in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Finally, we look at how urban transformations and realities in cities of the Global South give rise the new forms of social movements and political agency among dispossessed and marginalized communities that strive to make demands and claims at both micro and macro levels—from the collective mobilization of migrant women in Hong Kong in order to secure humane working conditions to the major public protests and revolutionary movements in cities such as Cairo. We will be reading and engaging with the works of scholars such as Sassen, David Harvey, Asef Bayat, Stephen Graham, Mike Davis, Teresa Caldeira, and Ananya Roy, among others. Students will be given the opportunity to design case studies of different cities in the non-Western world, focusing on key issues that we read and discuss in the course.

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Temporariness and Displacement: Refugees, Migrants, and Aliens

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

What does it mean to be a “temporary” person? The multiple discourses surrounding “migrants,” “refugees,” “illegals,” and other non-native-born people often paint problematic, exaggerated, and frustratingly misunderstood portraits about entire communities and populations. Politicians and movements (often of the far-right disposition) continue to reinforce views of the foreigner as a national threat, one that will rip apart the fabric of society if left to their own devices. Yet, more than ever, we live in a world where almost 245 million people are living in a country other than where they were born, and that includes millions of refugees and displaced populations who struggle under incredibly vulnerable and precarious conditions. Some 740 million people migrate internally, primarily from rural to urban centers, bringing the total number of migrants to more than one billion people. Here, we focus on communities and groups of migrants who are often targeted as national “problems”: refugees, undocumented persons, and so-called “economic” migrants. We start by looking at how different groups of migrants become categorized through institutionalized regimes as “temporary” populations—guest workers, asylum seekers, seasonal workers, and foreign workers—and examine what implications this temporariness imposes upon migrants themselves, both at the everyday level and in terms of the larger political climate. We will explore the realities of today's migrant experience with a special focus on temporariness, globalized fragmentation of social reproduction, and regimes of managed migration around the world. Throughout the course, we will be reading the works of Faranak Miraftab, Aihwa Ong, Nicole Constable, Guy Standing, Joseph Carens, David Bacon, and others as resources to bolster our discussions and reflections on the key questions of citizenship, rights, and temporariness. The course will require students to seek out and engage with local community organizations that work with different migrant communities and to develop reflective projects (blogs, forums, wikis, or journals) focusing on these key questions.

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On Whiteness: An Anthropological Exploration

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Putih, Blanken, Blankes, Wazungu, Caucasian, Blanc, White, Oyibo, Onye ocha, Putih, Brancos, Blancos. All these words, in different parts of the world, have denoted particular populations as white. Who counts as white people, however, varies and has as much to do with behaviors and perceptions as with pigmentation. Settlers in overseas colonies, for example, ensured their ongoing privileged whiteness through particular behaviors, including racial segregation and the creation of leisurely pursuits and manners that mimicked the metropole. Whiteness is a complicated and messy category of particular relevance at this historical moment, and we will approach it in several ways. First, we will consider the discipline of anthropology as the source of an analytical toolkit. Having mastered that, we can conduct a more critical exploration of the discipline of anthropology and its practitioners’ work on questions of white and nonwhite. We will then turn to the examination of particular sites where whiteness has been generated and contested. These include the Dutch colonies of South Africa and Indonesia and British-occupied Kenya, followed by contemporary and more local expressions of whiteness—including white nationalism and popular culture in postwar Great Britain and shifting notions of whiteness in the United States. In all our explorations, we will examine the constructions of whiteness as it articulates with gender, class, sexuality, and popular culture and with broader political contexts. Our resources will include anthropological texts, film, memoir, and fiction. We will read, in no particular order, from the works of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Pauline Black, Paul Gilroy, Jane Lazarre, Ann Stoler, Franz Boas, Vincent Crapanzano, and others still to be determined. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a Radical Empathy workshop early in the semester in order to strengthen our work together as a group.

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