ENGLISH 821 - Seminar: Critical Theory
Fall 2022, Section 001 - Race and Comparison After Globalization
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing in English, Women's Studies, or English and Education Program. Permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/29/22 - 12/9/22 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
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<P>This course interrogates the changing terrain of racial comparison across the last century, whether between differently racialized persons or among discrepant regimes of racialization. To focus our inquiry, we will consider how neoliberal globalization – roughly, the oft-celebrated expansion of the connective currents of trade and migration in the late twentieth century – has transformed understandings and narratives of race, racism, and racialization, both popular and academic.</P> 

<P>The decolonization movements that triumphed across much of Africa and Asia in the mid-twentieth century not only transformed the global dispensation of national sovereignty; they also disrupted the available paradigms for understanding the relationship among different races. These national liberations, after all, heralded the collapse of the British and French empires, which had each articulated their particular understandings of race in a comparative and global frame. What happened, then, to the comparative understandings of race that had first emerged under those colonized conditions, and what remains of such understandings in our present moment?</P>

<P>The course proceeds by pairing twenty-first century texts with texts from the early twentieth century, allowing the Cold War to serve as a historical and conceptual interruption. We will consider explicit projects of racial comparison: for instance, Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents (Random House, 2020) and Aniket Jawaare’s Practicing Caste: On Touching and Not Touching (Fordham UP, 2019), on the one hand, alongside W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction (1935) and B.R. Ambedkar’s “Which is Worse: Slavery or Untouchability?” (1943), on the other. We will further consider the role of implicit racial comparisons: for instance, in the American “passing” narrative, by situating Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half (2020) alongside Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) and James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912, 1927). Finally, we will also consider racial theories that explicitly refuse comparison, for instance, reading Frank B. Wilderson’s Afropessimism (2020) alongside Okakura Kakuzo’s The Ideals of the East (1903). Theoretical and critical readings will include works by Chen Kuan-Hsing, Anne Anlin Cheng, Franz Fanon, Debjani Ganguly, Stuart Hall, Audre Lorde, Achille Mbembe, and Gayatri Spivak. Historically-oriented readings will also be provided.</P> 

<P>As these primary and secondary readings suggest, our discussions will center on the comparability, or incomparability, of the racial experiences of African-descended and Asian-descended peoples. This question, as we will see, is as urgent today as it was a hundred years ago.</P>


ENGLISH 821 - Seminar: Critical Theory
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
8/29/22 - 12/9/22

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