AAS 301 - Race: The History of a Concept1 course unit
In recent years, both racist and anti-racist politics have increased in visibility across the globe from professional sports arenas to public squares, from social media to college campuses. Popular responses to these occurrences, however, betray the fact that most people lack a basic understanding of race, its history, and its function within contemporary society. Through an engagement with primary, secondary, and theoretical texts, “Race: The History of a Concept” surveys roughly 500-year history of the concept of race, particularly as it defines blackness, anti-blackness, indigeneity, and whiteness. The course explores the major evolutions of race, racializations, and race thinking in the West, including Early Modern cultural-religious distinctions; Enlightenment rationality, and environmental determinism; nineteenth-century social Darwinism and scientific racism; twentieth-century racial liberalism; and Postmodern social constructionist definitions. We will contextualize these shifts within the long and complicated history of transatlantic commerce, colonialism, slavery, nationalist independence movements, and globalization. The course answers and then nuances the timely question “what is race,” but simultaneously and more importantly, the course tracks the constitutive relationship between race and notions of the modern, progress, democracy, liberalism, and the nation-state, which are ideas often disassociated with the practices of race and racialization. That is to say, race, racism, and white supremacy are not phenomena distinct from modernity (i.e., something “backwards”), but rather, race is and has been central to the creation and function of progress. By the end of the course, students will recognize that the stories we tell about race and especially racism (e.g., colorblindness as progressive; racism as only individual, intentional hatred) fail under the pressures of history, specifically the words and practices of the philosophers, artists, writers, scholars, and politicians, who originally crafted our modern racial concept.
Prerequisite(s): Completion of AAS 101 Introduction to Africana Studies , AAS 201 Black Feminist/Queer Theories , ATH 112 Cultural Anthropology , SOC 101 Introduction to Sociology , OR WST 202 Topics in Women’s and Gender Studies are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Meets general academic requirements DE and SL.
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