Racial Americana: On the Afterlives of Genocide and Enslavement

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

In an era when politicians, pundits, artists, activists, scientists, and sociologists alike herald the beginning of a “postracial” age, it would appear to some in the United States that “race” might best be jettisoned, consigned to the rubbish bin of mere prejudices that we are all charged to overcome. But what if this narrative about advancement obscures the deep histories, indeed the foundations, of how racial domination is produced— and reproduced— in this country? Arguably, the “new world/s” upon which the Americas stand were built through twinned processes of Native American genocide and African enslavement. In this seminar, we will concern ourselves with the legacies of these processes, seeking to understand how they undergird racial thinking and racial inequality in the United States. We will thoroughly question the biological while exploring the social and ontological “facts” of race. While other courses focus on identity and identifications, this course will delve more deeply into the histories that ground race-making projects, as well as the literal and figurative legacies to which they give birth. Drawing from film screenings, class discussions, and readings from rich bodies of research in Native American and African American studies, as well as in Chicano/a studies, this seminar aims to unpack “common-sense” ideas about race. Together, we will develop new vocabularies to discuss the histories and contemporary impacts of the category’s origins, elaborations, and persistence.