wost 397l syllabus WOST 397L: THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF WHITENESS AND WOMEN
ARLENE AVAKIAN
Spring 2001
MW 3:35-4:50
OFFICE HOURS: Bartlett 7B
email: avakian@wost.umass.edu

Designed for students who have some familiarity with the historical, economic and political bases of racism, this course will explore the social construction of whiteness, its interaction with gender, and historical and contemporary political resistance to white privilege. Goals of the course are: 1. to gain an understanding of the historical, economic and political forces responsible for the construction and maintenance of whiteness; 2. to explore the mechanisms which insure that whiteness is experienced as the norm and not as a race; 3. to explore the relationships between the constructions of whiteness and the constructions of gender; 4. to foster students' ability to position themselves on the multiple axes of race, gender and class and to help them gain an understanding of the role they play in maintaining the privileges they have; 5. to help students explore effective action to challenge white privilege.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS:

1. CLASS PARTICIPATION: The work we do in this course will depend on the exchange of ideas that will take place in the class. Attendance is critical, and by attendance I mean coming to class ready to engage with the material having read it carefully and critically. Much of the work connecting gender to whiteness has not been done. Much of what we read will not mention women. I expect you to raise questions, and to make connections. Attendance in class, then, means more than being there; it means coming to class ready to be a participant. Since we are in a system in which your work is graded, and since I consider the class discussion to be a part of the work of the class, I will grade your work in class participation. (10%)

2. INDIVIDUAL WRITTEN WORK: Students will be expected to write 2 five page analytic papers. Topics will be announced in class. Each paper will be 35% of the grade. (70%)

3. ACTION PROJECTS: In addition to the strictly academic work of the course, students working in groups will be required to design and implement activist projects, on or off campus, to challenge white supremacy. The projects will be chosen and worked on collectively. The project design should include ways to evaluate success of project. I will devote some class time for sharing of projects -- successes and problems -- and will meet with each group outside of class. At the end of the semester each group will make a presentation to the class about the project and will be responsible for a written description and evaluation. The project will be given a group grade. (20%)

4. DISCUSSION GROUPS: Students are required to enroll in WOST 296Q, a one credit mandatory p/f practicum which will provide a space to share emotional responses to the class material in a small group setting on a weekly basis. Groups will consist of 10 students each and be facilitated by students who have taken this course. These facilitators are NOT RESPONSIBLE for the discussion. They will be there to help keep the focus on whiteness. It will be up to students in the group to come ready to share their own concerns. Each week students will be required to submit 2 copies of a 1-2 page (double spaced, typed) journal focussing on one aspect of the material for that week. One of these copies should have your name on it and will be for the facilitator and the other should be anonymous and will be for me. They will not be graded but will be commented on by the facilitator and returned to students the next week. These journal entries are opportunities for students to work on some of the issues that come up in response to the class. Grades will be based on attendance and completion of journal entries on time. More than two unexcused absences, or more than two missed journal entries will result in a "F" for the practicum. The grade for the practicum is completely separate from the grade for the course. Only students who are registered in this class will be enrolled in the practicum.

REQUIRED BOOKS:

BOOKS ARE FOR SALE AT:
FOOD FOR THOUGHT BOOKS--E. PLEASANT STREET, AMHERST

READER IS FOR SALE AT:
COLLECTIVE COPIES--S. PLEASANT STREET, AMHERST

BOOKS AND READER ARE ON RESERVE IN THE LIBRARY AND IN THE WOMEN'S STUDIES LOUNGE--208 BARTLETT

COURSE CALENDAR

  • 1/31 & 2/5 INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE & DEFINITIONS Video Showing: The Color of Fear
    Reading:

    Theodore Allen, The ]nvention of the White Race (Allen), "Introduction" Barbara Jeanne fields, "Slavery, Race and Ideology in the USA" (Reader)
    Charles W. Mills, "Overview" (Reader)

  • 2/7 WHO IS WHITE? WHO IS "OF COLOR?" RACIAL CONUNDRUMS AND ME "WEAKNESS" OF "WHITE BLOOD"
    Reading:

    Ian F. Haney Lopez, "A Note on Whiteness," "White Lines," & "Appendix A, The Racial Prerequisite Cases" & " Appendix B, Excerpts. .." (Reader)

  • 2/12 WHAT IS RACIAL OPPRESSION?
    Video Showing: Race: The Floating Signifier
    Reading:
    Allen, Chapter 1

  • 2/14 THE CREA TION OF WHITENESS THE IRISH, RELIGION & CLASS
    Reading:
    Allen, Chapter 2
  • 2/19 HOLIDAY -NO CLASS

  • 2/20 TODAY IS A MONDAY AT UMASS-we will have class CONTINUATION OF THE CREATION OF WHITENESS
    Reading:
    Allen, Chapter 3

  • 2/21 CONQUEST, THE SLA VE TRADE, & DEVELOPING CAPITALISM
    Reading:
    Ronald Bailey, "'Out of Sight, Out ofMind': The Struggle of African American Intellectuals Against the Invisibility of the Slave[ry] Trade. .." (Reader)
    Randall Robinson, "Thoughts About Restitution," (Reader)

  • 2/26 SHIFTING GENDER CONSTRUCTIONS
    Video Showing: Sigrid Brauner on Gender and Race in 1491
    Reading:
    Merry E. Weisner, "Spinning Out Capital: Women's Work. .." (Reader)
    Imrnanuel Wallerstein, "The Ideological Tensions of Capitalism ..." (Reader)

  • 2/28 WHITE SUPREMACY , NATIONALISM AND DEMOCRACY: BRITAIN AND IRELAND
    Reading:
    Allen, Chapters 4 & 5

  • 3/5 BECOMING WHITE AND RESISTING WHJ'l'ENESS: Prudence Crandall
    GUEST LECTURE: Dr. Jennifer Rycenga
    Reading:
    David Roediger, "Irish American Workers & White Racial Formation" (Reader)
    Herbert Aptheker, "Introduction" and " Abolitionism and Racism" (Reader)

  • 3/7 MAINTAINING WHITE SUPREMACY -SCIENCE & EPISTEMOLOGY
    Reading:
    Audrey Smedley, " A Different Order of Being..." (Reader)
    Reginald Horsman, "Race & Manifest Destiny..." (Reader)
    Ella Shohat & Robert Slam, eds. "Formations of Colonialist Discourse"

  • 3/12 MAINTAINING WHITE SUPREMACY--LITERATURE
    Reading:
    Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark (first halt)

  • 3/14 CONTINUE MORRISON
    Reading:
    Finish Playing in the Dark

    March 19 & 21 -- SPRING BREAK -- NO CLASS

  • 3/26 WHITE PUBLIC SPACE
    GUEST LECTURE: Professor Enoch Page, Anthropology
    Reading:
    Page, "No Black Public sphere in White Public Space. .." (Reader)

  • 3/28 WHITE SUPREMACY AND CHRISTIANITY
    Reading:
    Lillian Smith, Killers of the Dream (first half-Forward, Introduction to page 80)
    Grace E. Hale, "Domestic Reconstruction" & "Seeing the Land of Difference" (Reader)

  • 4/2 CONTINUE SMITH
    Reading:
    finish Killers of the Dream (parts 2 & 3, not part 4)

  • 4/4 WHITE SUPREMACY AND WOMEN'S NATURE
    Reading:
    Claudia Koontz, "Love and Order in the Third Reich," (Reader)
    Kathleen Blee, "Reading Racism: Women in the Modern Hate Movement," (Reader)
    Kathleen Blee, "Womanhood and the Klan Fraternity," (Reader)

  • WHITE SUPREMACY AND FEMINISM
    Reading:
    Adrienne Rich, "Disloyal to Civilization" & "The Distance Between Language and Violence" (Reader)

  • 4/16 HOLIDA Y -NO CLASS

  • 4/18 WHITE SUPREMACY AND KEEPING RACE "INVISIBLE"
    Reading:
    Thomas Rose, "Innocence and Affirmative Action" (Reader)
    Barbara I. Flagg, "Transparently White Subjective Decision Making..." (Reader)
    Trina Grillo & Stephanie Wildman, "Obscuring the Importance of Race..." (Reader)
    Wildman with Davis, "Language and Silence..." (Reader)

  • 4/23 SHADES OF WHITENESS/CLASS
    Reading:
    John Hartigan, "Name Calling: Objectifying 'Poor Whites'"(Reader)
    Doug Henwood, "Trash-O-Nomics" (Reader)

  • 4/25 SHADES OF WHITENESS/ETHNICITY
    Video Showing: Pinched Cheeks and Slurs in a Language That A voids Her
    Reading:
    David Roediger, "Whiteness & Ethnicity in the History"(Reader)
    Karen Sacks, "How Jews Became White Folks" (Reader)

  • 4/30 PUBLIC POLICY , WHITE SUPREMACY AND "RACE NEUTRALITY"
    Reading:
    Jill Quadagno, "The Politics of Welfare Reform, " & "Explaining American Exceptionalism, " (Reader)
    Rickie Solinger, "The Stick and The Carrot..." (Reader)

  • 5/2BECOMING RACE TRAITORS-- TRANSGRESSING THE BORDERS
    Reading:
    John H. Bracey, "The Responsibility of Whites for Racial Justice"
    Wimsatt, "We Use Words Like Mackadocious..." & "Aren't You in the Wrong Neighborhood?' (Reader)
    Winant, "Behind Blue Eyes: Whiteness and Contemporary U.S. Racial Politics (Reader)
    Editors of Race Traitor Magazine, "What We Believe" (Reader)
    Noel Ignatiev, "How to be a Race Traitor: Six Ways to Fight Being White" (Reader)

  • 5/7& 5/9 MILITANT WHITENESS -- VICTIMS AND DEFENDERS
    Video Showing: Blood in the Face
    Reading:
    Ross & Mauney, "The Changing Face of White Supremacy" (Reader)
    Seamus Dunn & Valerie Morgan, "Protestant Alienation in Northern Ireland" (Reader)

  • 5/14-16 PRESENTATION OF STUDENT PROJECTS & COURSE SUMMARY