Winter 2015 - OPEN Upper Division Seminar Courses

Black Studies Special Topics Courses

Course Description: BLST 191T

When: Mondays, 1:00-3:50pm in South Hall 3707

Refugee, royalty, or rebel? – Such characterizations often dominate popular perceptions about, and representations of, African transnationals (immigrants) and their migration experiences to North America, leaving little space for informed and nuanced discourse about Africa and African peoples’ experiences. These deeply racialized discourses about Africa have long informed, and been informed by, the ways the rest of the world interacts with the vast continent and its heterogeneous peoples – politically, economically, and culturally. In this introductory seminar, we’ll examine prevalent discourses that frame African transnationals’ experiences before and after they arrive in the US or Canada and bear witness to their first-hand narratives (written, spoken, musical, and visual). Students will critically engage with various texts in order to better understand how historical and current discursive constructions of Africa and Africanness help shape lived experience.


Course Description: BLST 193CC

When: Thursdays, 2:00-4:50pm in South Hall 3707

Across political orientation, party lines, and even racial identities, colorblindness has emerged a as a core national value. This prescriptive frame limits consideration of racial discrimination, inequity, and injustice only to those cases in that contravene the colorblind ideal.  Individuals now defend themselves against the slightest intimation that their preferences or decisions might be racially-inflected with the all-purpose disclaimer that they neither see race nor take it into account.  Most institutions now formally organize their practice around the untested presumption that colorblindness is the exclusive measure of a fairness and justice. The concept of colorblindness penetrates deeply into institutional practices of law, politics, and scholarship, where powerful actors deploy it repeatedly as an interventionist measure, designed to repudiate all race-based remedies for race-bound injustices in all spheres of public life. 

Missing from this embrace of colorblindness is any consensus about what colorblindness really is. Is it a social theory, a moral imperative, or a rhetorical prophylactic? Is it desirable or achievable? Is it a choice, an ideal, or even a cognitive possibility? Is colorblindness a courageous route to racial equity or a cowardly way of evading how race functions to produce, protect, and preserve social stratification?

This seminar examines the legal origins and evolution of the concept of colorblindness and challenges to it from Plessy v. Ferguson  in 1896 to Shelby v. Holder in 2013.  We will read Supreme Court Decisions, arguments grounded in legal theories, and studies of race and law that illuminate the actual history of race blind remedies and race bound conditions. Each student will write a term paper, create a toolkit identifying the moves, masks and mechanisms around which colorblindness coheres, and participate in weekly collaborative and interactive class exercises.


Course Description: BLST 193L

When: Tuesdays, 2:00-4:50pm in South Hall 3707

“Traditionally, sport has been viewed by most Americans as an arena of free and open competition in which ethnicity, political stance, or socioeconomic background are of little consequence. Further support for this belief is obtained upon examination of the dominant role that the Black Athlete plays in America’s most celebrated sports, e.g., football, basketball, baseball and track & field. But why should sport not be a microcosm of society? If a color line exists in the polity, the economic sphere, and in covert and subtle discrimination at the personal level, it then follows that one should expect to find racism extant in the world of sport” (Yiannakis, p. 152). In this course we will explore the history, nature and scope, of Black athletic participation in the United States.