Professor Alex Deschamps
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Women's Studies, 208 Bartlett, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA. 01003
Office: Bartlett 7B * Hours: Tu 1:30-3:30pm & Th 1:30-3:00pm or by appointment
Telephone: (413) 545-1958 * Fax: (413) 545-1500 * Email: afd@wost.umass.edu
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Wost 394H Theorizing Black Feminisms Spring 2002
  Tu & Th: 11:15-12:30pm at Hasbrouck 104A  
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Course Description

To understand Black Feminist thinking, it is important to explore the context out of which it emerges. We will analyze the evolution of Black Feminist consciousness and thought in the U.S. from the 1930s to contemporary time, since th e struggle for black women's liberation which emerged in the mid-1960s is a construction of both intellectual and activist tradition during slavery and during the anti-slavery movement. This course will also be an interpretative analysis of the work and t hought produced by a range of leading black women writers, scholars and intellectuals in everyday and alternative locations for knowledge production. For purposes of this course, Black Women encompasses all women of African descent/heritage.

   This seminar is designed to introduce to, and familiarize students with, the theoretical contributions of African American and African Diasporan feminists working in a variety of disciplinary fields. These women all rely upon the notion that issues of race, gender, sexuality and social class are central, rather than peripheral to any history, analysis or assessment of life. During the course we will outline the basic principles and practices of Black Feminism, conte xtualize the emergence of contemporary feminist work in historical perspective and also examine the written and spoken texts of nineteenth-century feminist foremothers. We will identify and characterize the major issues which black feminists address as we ll as the various forms of resistance to social structures. Black women will be viewed as producers of knowledge and as transforming agents. We will study the works and contributions of early feminists as well as later and contemporary scholars and activi sts.

   Once an understanding of black feminist traditions is established, we will revisit the question of Black Feminism, as well as the continuities and discontinuities in the various definitions and analyses as they have emerged over time. We will discuss the theoretical and methodological assumptions underlying the intellectual and political traditions upon which these scholars rely. And most importantly, the course will also explore (a) realistic obstacles Black women encounter; (b) ways in which Black women have (re)defined self and community; (c) building a community by explicating the interface between the feminist struggle of women of color in the U.S. and outside the U.S.; (d) examining feminist expressions in the African Diaspora; and (e) identifying ways in which we can serve as social change agents. Special attention will be given to linking Black Feminist thought and Black Feminist activism (theory and practice).

Course Requirements and Grading

Guidelines for Content and Critical Analysis Response Papers

Your discussion questions and occasional critical analysis/response papers are suggested as a way to promote critical thinking, to monitor comprehension of the readings, to challenge your own thinking, and to help you engage in critic al discussions. Suggestions for writing the papers include (a) choose two or three points to help focus your response or critique and (b) take risks and incorporate your ideas about the subject, but remember this is not just your opinion. You must include content from the readings, you must comment on the contributions of the work, critically examine the "soundness" of the arguments, discuss insights gained or limitations to the analysis. Essentially, I want to know that you have read, understoo d, and analyzed the readings. Grades will be based on the quality and clarity of your arguments as well as the organization of your ideas.

Academic Honesty

My assumption is that students are generally honest. Necessary action will be taken against students who commit academic dishonesty in compliance with official guidelines. Read and familiarize yourselves with the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities booklet.

Required Books

Patricia Hill Collins:
Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. 2000. New York: Routledge.
Audre Lorde:
Sister Outsider. 1996. CA.: The Crossing Press.
Margo V. Perkins:
Autobiography as Activism: Three Black Women of the Sixties. 2000. Mississippi: University Press.
Kimberly Springer:
Still Lifting, Still Climbing: African Women's Contemporary Activism. 1999. New York University Press.
E. Frances White:
Dark Continent of Our Bodies: Black Feminism and the Politics of Respectability. 2001. Temple University Press.
Handouts and other assigned readings.

Highly Recommended

Beverly Guy-Scheftal:
Words of Fire. 1995. New York: The New Press.
Bell hooks:
Feminism is for Everybody. 2000. Cambridge, MA: Southend Press.

Books are available at Food For Thought Bookshop, North Pleasant Street, Amherst and also on reserve in the library.

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Course Calendar

Tue January 29

Introductory Exercises, Syllabus, Goals, Expectations, Definitions

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Shifting the Margins, Beyond the Margins: Black Women (Re) Naming, (Re) Writing, (Re) Claiming Feminism

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Thu January 31

Lifting As We Climb: Early Expressions of Black Feminism

Readings:

[Handout]-Ula Taylor: The Historical Evolution of Black Feminist Theory and Praxis.

[Handout]-Maria W. Stewart: Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation of Which We must Build, and Lecture Delivered at Franklin Hall.

[Handout]-Ana Julia Cooper: The Status of Women in America.

[Handout]-Joy James: Ella Baker, Black Women's Work and Activist Intellectuals.

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Tue February 05

Black Women Claiming Space: Contributions to The Rhetoric

Readings:

[Text]-Patricia Hill Collins, pp. 1-43.

[Handout]-Michael Awkard: A Black Man's Place in Black Feminist Criticism.

[Handout]-bell hooks: Black Women Shaping Feminist Theory.

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Thu February 07

Black Feminist Theory as an Epistemic Site

Readings:

[Text]-Patricia Hill Collins, pp. 45-225.

***Critical Analysis 1 Due.***

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Intersectionalities, Interdisciplinaries, Conflicts, and Tensions: Always, Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality and More

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Tue February 12

Conversations: Social Construction of Whiteness & Theorizing Black Feminisms

Video Screening: Stuart Hall - Race, A Floating Signifier

Readings:

[Handout]-Barbara Christian, The Race For Theory. The Black Feminist Reader.

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Thu February 14

Not Just race, Not Just Gender

***Discussions***

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Tue February 19

Monday's Class Schedule re President's Day

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Thu February 21

Sexuality, Historicies, Identities: Refuting Black Women as Spectacle

Video Screening: The Hottentot Venus

Readings:

[Text]-E. Frances White, pp. 81-114.

[Handout]-Anne Fausto-Sterling, Gender, Race, Nation. The Comparative Anatomy of "Hottentot" Women in Europe, 1815-1817.

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Tue February 26

Community Silences and Tensions: (Re) Framing Race and Sexuality

Readings:

[Handout]-Paula Giddings, The Last Taboo.

[Handout]-June Jordan, A New Politics of Sexuality.

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Thu February 28

Black Feminist Expansions and Queer Theory

Readings:

[Handout]-Cheryl Clarke, Living The Texts Out: Lesbians and the Uses of Black Women's Traditions.

[Text]-E. Frances White, pp. 151-182.

***Critical Analysis 2 Due.***

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Tue March 05

Sisterhood(s)?

Readings:

[Text]-Audre Lorde, pp. 13-109.

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Thu March 07

Sisterhood(s)?

Readings:

[Text]-Audre Lorde, pp. 110-189.

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Tue March 12

Writing the Personal, Writing the Political

Readings:

[Text]-Margo V. Perkins, Reading to be assigned.

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Thu March 14

Biomythography

***In-class Assignments***

***Critical Analysis 3 Due***

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March 16-24

Spring Break

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Tue March 26

Conversations: Social Construction of Whiteness & Theorizing Black Feminisms

Video Screening: Spike Lee's Bamboozooled

Readings:

[Handout]-David Wellman, Minstrel Shows, Affirmative Action Talk, and Angry White Men: Marking Racial Otherness in the 1990s.

[Handout]-Susan Gubar, Spirit-Murder At The Movies.

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Thu March 28

Thinking Through The Theory: Oprahrization and Black Feminism

**Discussion and Application of Theory***

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Tue April 02

Black Feminism, Contemporary Black Music, Blues, Legacies

***Student Selections and Handouts***

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Thu April 04

Theory Outside The Box

Guest Lecture - Priscilla Page

***Cultural Critique 1 Due***

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Still Lifting, Still Climbing, And Then Some: Contemporary Discourses

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Tue April 09

African American Women's Political Voices

Readings:

[Text]-Kimberly Springer, Part I, pp. 17-45.

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Thu April 11

The Continuous Struggle

Readings:

[Text]-Kimberly Springer, Part II, pp. 49-105.

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Tue April 16

The Continuous Struggle

Readings:

[Text]-Kimberly Springer, Part III, pp. 107-160.

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Thu April 18

Contemporary African Women's Activism

Readings:

[Text]-Kimberly Springer, Part III, pp. 189-273.

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Tue April 23

Contemporary African Women's Activism

Readings:

[Text]-Kimberly Springer, Part III, pp. 275-339.

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Thu April 25

Contemporary Voices - A New Generation of Activism

***Roundtable Panel Discussion***

***Cultural Critique 2 Due***

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The Transnational and Diasporan Context

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Tue April 30

Counter Discourses: Nation and Nationalism

Readings:

[Text]-E. Frances White, pp. 117-150.

[Handout]-Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African Feminism: A Theoretical Approach to the History of Women in the African Diaspora.

[Text]-Kimberly Springer, pp. 167-184.

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Thu May 02

Knowledge as Power

Readings:

[Text]-Patricia Hill Collins, pp. 227-290.

[Handout]-Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Mothering: A possible Black Feminist Link to Social Transformation.

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Tue May 07

Conversations: Social Construction of Whiteness & Theorizing Black Feminisms

Readings:

[Handout]-Nellie Y. McKay, Acknowledging Differences: Can Women Find Unity Through Diversity?

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Thu May 09

Further To Fly: Feminism, Black Women & The Politics of Empowerment

***In Class Exercises/Discussions***

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Tue May 14

Synthesis and Summaries

***Final Assignment Due***

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