Associate Professor — Ph.D., 2003, Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley
Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies
AFR 372C • Beyonce Femnsm/Rihanna Womnsm
29690 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 930am-1100am GDC 2.216
(also listed as WGS 335)
In her single “Flawless,” released in December 2013, Beyoncé Knowles samples a speech by Nigerian writer Chimananda Ngozi which includes her definition of “feminist”: a “person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” As Beyoncé then continues to sing about what it means for “ladies” to “post up, flawless,” she literally inserts her music into African Diaspora conversations about what black feminism is, means, and does. In this course, we also enter this black feminist conversation—by engaging the music of recording artists Beyoncé and Rihanna as popular, accessible expressions of African American and Caribbean feminisms that reach worldwide audiences. Beginning with close analysis of these artists’ songs and videos, we read their oeuvre in conversation with black feminist theoretical works that engage issues of violence, economic opportunity, sexuality, standards of beauty, and creative self-expression. The course aims to provide students with an introduction to media studies methodology as well as black feminist theory, and to challenge us to close the gap between popular and academic expressions of black women’s concerns.
Jack Halberstam, Gaga Feminism
Diane Rialton, Music Video and the Politics of Representation
Patricia Hill Collins, From Black Power to Hip Hop
Beverly Guy Sheftall, Words of Fire
bell hooks, ain’t i a woman
Faith Smith, Sex and the Citizen
Kemala Kempadoo, Sexing the Caribbean
AFR 392 • Black Studies Theory II
29895 • Spring 2015
Meets T 1100am-200pm BUR 228
An in-depth exploration of the innovative, complex, and distinctively African diaspora social structures and cultural traditions, as well as the historical, cultural, political, economic, and social development of people of African descent.
AFR 317E • Black Spiritualities
30440 • Fall 2014
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm JES A209A
(also listed as R S 316K)
Born out of civil rights struggles in the 1960s, African Diaspora Studies departments and programs represent one of the youngest fields in academia. Yet the development of Black intellectual traditions is far from new. In fact, Africans in the Americas have been elaborating systems for developing and recording our knowledges since the Middle Passage. Psychology, medicine, visual arts, dance, historiography, literature: African Diasporics developed corollaries to all of these, as we Creolized African, European, and indigenous knowledge bases to serve the needs of the enslaved and their descendants. Traditionally, academia has pigeonholed these intellectual pursuits under the rubric of “African Diaspora religion,” so reinforcing stereotypes of African “irrationality.” More recently, however, scholars in the field of African Diaspora studies have developed a new approach to these knowledge bases. These scholars have attempted, first, to engage African Diaspora ways of knowing on their own terms; and, second, to bring these submerged epistemologies into conversation with Western academic disciplines. In this course, students will both read and participate in such efforts to bridge vernacular and academic epistemologies.
Theoretical, historical, and literary readings centering these problematics will challenge us to complicate easy divisions between traditional and scholarly knowledge, and to think creatively about how relationships between the two inform historical and contemporary cultures of the African Diaspora.
Texts (needs to be specific texts, not “course packet” or “TBA)”:
Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn
Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit: African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy
Yvonne Daniel, Dancing Wisdom: Embodied Knowledge in Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candomble
Sharon Bridgforth, love conjure/blues
AFR 356E • Black Women And Dance
30500 • Fall 2014
Meets MWF 100pm-200pm JES A207A
(also listed as WGS 340)
dance your anger
and your joys.
dance the guns
dance, dance, dance…
What does it mean for Black women to dance your anger and your joys, as activist-artist Ken Saro Wiwa put it: that is, to use our moving, creative, powerful bodies to respond to the violences of racism and sexism, and to envision new ways of being and moving in the world? This course journeys towards answers to this question by exploring women's participation in ritual, concert, and social dance in North America, Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil. We will work through readings, viewings, and stagings, and interweave text, movement, and action to encourage students’ artistic as well as academic self-expression. Some of the questions we explore include: How can we view and create artistic work while still keeping social justice issues in mind? How do embodied practices become modes of organizing communities? How can we decipher the fragile histories that we carry and move through in our own bodies?
Primary Texts:,available at UT Co-op Bookstore
Yvonne Daniel, Dancing Wisdom: Embodied Knowledge in Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candomble
Brenda Dixon Gottschild, The Black Dancing Body
Celeste Fraser Delgado and José Muñoz, eds. Everynight Life: Culture and Dance in Latino/a America
Julie Malnig, ed. Ballroom, Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake: A Social and Popular Dance Reader
**All other texts on the syllabus, unless otherwise noted, will be available electronically
This course may be used to fulfill the visual and performing arts component of the university core curriculum and addresses the following four core objectives established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board: communication skills, critical thinking skills, teamwork, and social responsibility.
Students will experiment with sharing and creating knowledge of multiple literatures, cultures, histories, identities, and experiences in an intellectual community with many diverse, creative viewpoints. Students will be asked to compose dance journals, in which they are asked to “talk” to their body and pay attention to self-consciousness, aches and pains, “what feels good”, and pride. Students are asked to connect journal entries back to theoretical studies of perceptions of women and/in dance.
Critical Thinking Skills:
Students will be asked to compose spoken and written statements that reflect thoughtful, careful attention to subjects at hand, show inquisitiveness, represent attempts to make connections outside the classroom, and demonstrate creative engagement in new topics.
Students will be asked to explore dance practice in a group setting, such as ritual dance, concert dance, or social/popular dance. To record their dance participation, students will keep a dance journal in which students will write reflections on Black women and dance in group experiences. Students will complete this work by speaking to other participants about their role in the group dance.
In this course, students will engage texts that deal explicitly with (post)colonialism, slavery, racism, sexism, religious discrimination, poverty, state violence, genocide, sexual violence, and more. This course will explore the questions: “How can we view and create artistic work while keeping social justice issues in mind?”; “How do embodied practices become modes of organizing communitieis?”; “How can we decipher the fragile histories that we carry and move through in our own bodies?”.
In this course, students engage texts that deal explicitly with (post)colonialism, slavery, racism, sexism, religious discrimination, poverty, state violence, genocide, sexual violence, same-sex sexuality, and embodiment. While the professor will provide historical contexts and academic frameworks for discussing these issues, many students may be unfamiliar with them and so may initially experience emotional responses as they confront their own privilege and oppression, ignorance and knowledge. The professor asks that students pay attention to such feelings and note where they challenge their ability to approach texts analytically. I also ask that everyone come to class willing to discuss these difficult, complex topics with openness and respect. Expressions of First World-ism, racism, classism, religious intolerance, homophobia, heterosexism, ableism, or sexism will not be tolerated. Instead, I expect students to take seriously the responsibility involved in university education in general, and in reading works that document violence and social injustice in particular. As part of this responsibility, I ask students to consider carefully how social and geopolitical positioning shapes what they do and do not react to, and complicates their relationships to texts in different ways.
- Critical thinking—spoken and written statements reflect thoughtful, careful attention to subjects at hand; demonstrate independent, original thought; and include specific, properly documented references to all sources.
- Inquisitiveness—classroom participation shows willingness to ask questions about aspects of readings/discussions that remain unclear, and to seek additional information.
- Making connections beyond the classroom—spoken and written statements express when a reading speaks to your particular experiences, interest, or knowledge.
- Creativity— spoken and written statements express willingness to engage new topics with imagination and flexibility. Imagining differently is the first step in changing the social injustices that we will engage!
AFR 388 • Women Of Color Feminisms
30530 • Fall 2013
Meets M 900am-1200pm BEL 232
(also listed as WGS 393)
“Nothing Less than to Imagine Another System of Value”: Postcolonial Feminism and The Work of Imagination “Calling for a black feminist criticism is to do nothing less than to imagine another system of value, one in which black women have value.” --Grace Hong
Recent postcolonial feminist criticism, including the beautiful new writing of M. Jacqui Alexander and Saidiya Hartman, argues persuasively that to tell meaningful stories of black and brown womanhood—and particularly of women of color’s sexuality—traditional scholarship, and particularly academic work which relies on the archive, can never suffice. While archives may be a point of departure, they posit, scholars must turn to creative methodologies to intuit and imagine narratives of postcolonial women’s freedom: a freedom that has remained an impossibility in official discourses but that must be invented even where it did not exist in the past, in order that it might exist in the future. In this course we will dialogue with recent postcolonial feminist scholarship that explores the particular importance of imaginative work in theorizing the histories, politics, and intimacies that women of color participate in and contest. Focusing on—and challenging the boundary between—imaginative scholarship and creative literary texts as two types of narrative theorizing, this seminar aims to open space for students to experiment with creative methodologies in their own work.
Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route
Jamaica Kincaid, Autobiography of My Mother
Grace Cho, Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War
Jessica Hagedorn, Dream Jungle
M. Jacqui Alexander, Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred
Nalo Hopkinson, The Salt Roads
Gayatri Gopinath, Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures
Shani Mootoo, Valmiki’s Daughter
Kara Keeling, The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, The Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense
Sharon Bridgforth, love conjure/ blues
AFR 372E • Black Women And Dance
30322 • Spring 2013
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm MEZ 1.120
(also listed as WGS 340)
What does it mean for Black women to dance the guns to silence, as activist-artist Ken Saro Wiwa put it; that is, to use our moving, creative, powerful bodies to respond to the violences of racism and sexism, and to envision new ways of being and moving in the world? This course journeys towards answers to this question by exploring women’s participation in ritual, concert, and social dance in North America, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil. We will work through readings, viewings, and stagings, and interweave text, movement, and action to encourage students’ artistic as well as academic self-expression. Some of the questions we explore include: How can we view and create artistic work while still keeping social justice issues in mind? How do embodied practices become modes of organizing communities? How can we decipher the fragile histories that we carry and move through in our own bodies?
AFR 372C • Postcolonial Women Writers
30269 • Fall 2012
Meets MWF 200pm-300pm GEA 114
(also listed as E 370W)
Instructor: Tinsley, O Areas: V / G
Unique #: 35618 Flags: n/a
Semester: Fall 2012 Restrictions: n/a
Cross-lists: AFR 372C, C L 323 Computer Instruction: No
Prerequisites: Nine semester hours of coursework in English or rhetoric and writing.
Description: In September 1995, at the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, participants committed that, by the end of the 20th century, all governments should “determine to advance the goals of equality, development, and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of all humanity.” But after the first decade of the 21st century, have these goals been significantly advanced? How do women across the world view their positions as citizens, migrants, workers, parents, activists, and artists in this new millennium? This course explores answers to these questions by engaging literary work published by postcolonial women writers in the past decade. The creative texts that we consider question whether the effects of imperialism have ended in women’s lives; whether Western feminisms have developed to address Global Southern women’s needs; and what new possibilities for decolonization, feminism, and creativity remain to be explored. Theoretical, historical, and literary readings centering these problematics will challenge students to complicate easy divisions between feminism and postcoloniality, and to think creatively about how relationships between the two inform historical and contemporary cultures of globalization.
Texts: Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying; Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother; Chiminanda Adichie, Purple Hibiscus; Calixthe Beyala, How to Cook Your Husband the African Way; Dionne Brand, What We All Long For; Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber.
Requirements & Grading: Class Participation, 15%; Midterm, 25%; Final Paper, 25%, Short Book Reviews (5), 35%.