Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
caaas masthead
Cherise Smith, Ph.D, Director JES A232A, Mailcode D7200, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-1784

João H. Costa Vargas

Associate Professor Ph.D., University of California, San Diego

Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies

Contact

Biography

Additional affiliations:

Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Latin American Studies

 

AFR 390 • Black Studies Theory I

30660 • Fall 2014
Meets TH 100pm-400pm JES A230
show description

In this course we will explore some of the central themes and problems of Black Studies. We shall ask—what is blackness and how is it lived and expressed throughout the African diaspora? What is race and how has it functioned in the constitution of modernity, space, and selfhood? What is relationship of slavery to capitalism, empire, and democracy and what are its legacies? Finally, what are the cultural, imaginative, and institutional forms that have organized black communal life and which forms remain vital?

We shall pursue these and other questions by following the intellectual path marked by W.E.B. Du Bois’s great work The Souls of Black Folk. As a founding and seminal text within the field, Souls continues to map a compelling and encompassing intellectual terrain. As the achievement of a brilliant yet quite often parochial man of his time, Souls maps an intellectual terrain that is fraught and sometimes perilous. As such, we shall grapple with Du Bois to engage the larger field of Black Studies and grapple with the field of Black Studies in order to engage Du Bois. We shall take up Du Bois’s questions in order to go beyond them. And, we shall take up questions Du Bois neglected or never considered in order to supplement the project he helped to create with his landmark text, The Souls of Black Folk.

AFR 321 • Afr Diaspora In Americas-Bra

30625 • Spring 2014
Meets
(also listed as ANT 324L )
show description

Travel to Brazil req.

AFR 320 • Race And Criminal Justice Sys

30300 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 930am-1100am ART 1.110
(also listed as ANT 324L, LAS 324L )
show description

In this course, we will discuss historical and contemporary studies that provide arguments about the connections between race, poverty, and the criminal justice system.  More specifically, our readings and discussions will provide perspectives through which to understand not only how and why acts of police violence, questionable court proceedings, and unjust sentences routinely take place, but also why and how they are often sanctioned by society at large.  What historical and contemporary circumstances explain and are necessarily connected to the acquittal of the officers involved in the killing of Diallo?  What historical and contemporary circumstances explain the brutality and subsequent acquittal of the officers involved in the beating of Rodney King in 1991?  As we will see, not only can such examples be multipied ad nauseam, but also their connections become evident once we comprehend how society and its institutions (re)produce representations and practices that often take race, age, class, and gender as markers of expected behavior.

 

AFR 381 • Critical Race Theory & Praxis

30420 • Fall 2012
Meets T 100pm-400pm BEL 232
(also listed as ANT 391 )
show description

Questioning assumptions of both United States liberals and conservatives with respect to racial injustice, critical race theorists have presented alternative perspectives that seek connections between race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. By investigating the facets of white supremacy and its subordination of non-white racialized social groups, critical race theorists aim to both present analyses of power differentials as to encourage and participate in collective action that challenge such power differentials.

To expand and contrast the initial perspectives on critical race theory offered in the volume edited by Kimberlé Crenshaw et al., we will discuss whether, how, and why other progressive intellectuals/activists anticipated, elaborated and/or criticized those perspectives. Particular attention will be given to how the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and class are experienced both within and outside the U.S., and how such experiences and their theorizations challenge hegemonic racial constructions and their consequences. 

This course serves as an introduction to questions related to the nature and process of global white supremacy. Readings and debates will focus on the ways in which white supremacy depends and builds on, while often veiling, its patriarchal heteronormative anti-black foundations.

 

AFR 320 • Race And Criminal Justice Sys

30393 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 930am-1100am WAG 420
(also listed as ANT 324L, LAS 324L )
show description

In this course, we will examine historical and contemporary studies that provide arguments about the connections between race, poverty, and the criminal justice system. More specifically, our readings and discussions will provide perspectives through which to understand not only how and why acts of police violence, questionable court proceedings, and unjust sentences routinely take place, but also why and how they are often sanctioned by society at large. What historical and contemporary circumstances explain and are necessarily connected to the acquittal of the officers involved in the killings of Diallo, Bell, Sanders, and so many others? What historical and contemporary circumstances explain the brutality and subsequent acquittal of the officers involved in the beating of Rodney King in 1991? Such examples suggest recurring patterns that point to ways in which society and its institutions (re)produce representations and practices that often take race, age, class, and gender as markers of expected behavior.

AFR 381 • Critical Race Theory & Praxis

30338 • Fall 2011
Meets T 200pm-500pm GRG 408
(also listed as ANT 391 )
show description

 Questioning assumptions of both liberals and conservatives with respect to racial injustice, critical race theorists have presented alternative perspectives that seek connections between race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. By investigating the facets of white supremacy and its subordination of people of color, critical race theorists aim not only to present analyses of power differentials but also, and as importantly, to change such power differentials through collective action.To expand and contrast the initial perspectives on critical race theory offered in the volume edited by Kimberlé Crenshaw et al., we will discuss whether, how, and why other progressive intellectuals/activists anticipated, elaborated and/or criticized those perspectives. Particular attention will be given to how the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and class are experienced both within and outside the U.S., and how such experiences and their theorizations challenge hegemonic racial constructions and their consequences.  

AFR F321 • Afr Diaspora In Americas-Bra

81517 • Summer 2011
Meets
(also listed as ANT F324L )
show description

This course seeks to provide participants with an overview of the theories, histories, and politics of the African Diaspora in the Americas.  The main themes of the course – the histories, politics, and knowledges of the African Diaspora in the Americas from the perspective of black peoples – are often excluded from academic and public debates.  This course intends to fill such void.  Participants of the course, lectures and debates will be expected to master and apply concepts necessary to understand and intervene in the struggles of black peoples in the Americas.The course is divided in the following four modules:I.    Routes and Roots of the African Diaspora (Theory I)II.    Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the African Diaspora (Theory II)III.    Foundations of Critical Black Thought and PraxisIV.   Engaging the Local, the National, and the Transnational: Black Politics and Identity (Ethnographic Project)

AFR 320 • Race And Criminal Justice Sys

30440 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 930am-1100am CBA 4.328
(also listed as ANT 324L, LAS 324L )
show description

In this course, we will discuss historical and contemporary studies that provide arguments about the connections between race, poverty, and the criminal justice system. More specifically, our readings and discussions will provide perspectives through which to understand not only how and why acts of police violence, questionable court proceedings, and unjust sentences routinely take place, but also why and how they are often sanctioned by society at large. What historical and contemporary circumstances explain and are necessarily connected to the acquittal of the officers involved in the killing of Diallo? What historical and contemporary circumstances explain the brutality and subsequent acquittal of the officers involved in the beating of Rodney King in 1991? As we will see, not only can such examples be multiplied ad nauseam, but also their connections become evident once we comprehend how society and its institutions (re) produce representations and practices that often take race, age, class, and gender as markers of expected behavior.

AFR 374D • Race And Social Change

35780 • Fall 2009
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm BUR 134
(also listed as ANT 324L )
show description

RACE AND SOCIAL CHANGE

ANT 324L 30470/AFR 374 D 35780 FALL 2009

Tu-Thurs 2-330 Bur 134

 

João H. Costa Vargas

EPS 2.112 A

E-mail: costavargas@mail.utexas.edu

 

The main objective of this course is to comprehend the historical background and the contemporary circumstances within which progressive political projects emerge and become effective. Since the political organizations and perspectives we will be focusing on are rooted in the racialized cities within which they struggle, we will also investigate the ways in which our experiences with race are shaped by the necessary politicization of urban space, and how our experiences with urban space become inflected by race. If there exist hopes for a more equitable society, such hopes must be grounded in a comprehension of the political perspectives emerging out of radical and inclusive critiques of life in the city.

 

This course is organized around the following topics: 1) how urban spatial relations both encourage and inhibit the formation of racial and ethnic identities; 2) how public policies give a spatial dimension to ethnic and racial experiences; 3) how urban culture registers the points of division and unity in city life; and 4) how political projects of social change elaborated by members of underprivileged communities emerge from and challenge power relations at the local, national, and transnational levels. 

 

 

Required texts

Books are available at the Resistencia Bookstore: 1801 S 1st St # A, Austin, TX 78704-4255,  tel.: 416-8885. The reader is available at Abel’s: 715 W 23rd Street, tel.: 472-5353. Books and the reader are on the PCL reserves.

 

1. Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton. American Apartheid (Cambridge, MA: Harvard

U.P., 1993).

2. Robin D.G. Kelley, Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional! (Boston: Beacon, 1997).

3. The South End Press Collective, What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race, and the State of

the Nation (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007)

4. Max Rameau, Take Back the Land (Miami: Nia Interactive Press, 2008)

5. Reader

 

 

Course dynamics

I encourage you to develop the habit of studying, debating, and writing reading reports and short papers with at least one or two colleagues.

 

It is crucial that readings be completed prior to the date when they are scheduled. Besides completing the reading, you will be responsible for the following:

 

A) 2-page typed reports, one every two weeks, covering the previous two week’s readings. These reports will be turned in at the beginning of each third week, unless otherwise noticed.  

 

  • These reports will be brief critical summaries of what you consider to be the main points in the texts assigned.
  • Rather than restating what the texts present, you should (a) draw parallels and contrasts between the texts assigned for each week, and (b) engage with the authors in such way that you are constantly asking critical questions.
    • Why does the author make such claims? What is the evidence s/he presents? How does s/he interpret her/his data? Do you agree with the argument? Why?
  • You should attempt to connect the reading to current events and lectures;
  • The reports should include at least one question and/or insights you consider important to discuss in class.

 

Late reports will not be accepted. At the end of the semester you will have turned in 7 two- page reports. For your final grade, I’ll only consider your 6 highest graded reports.

 

Since there will be a report every two weeks, consistency is key in securing a good final grade.

 

B) Participation in class discussions. You will be expected to participate in class discussions in two ways.

  • The first will be through your critical interventions during lectures, and presentations by other students.
  • The second will be in the group setting. Each participant will be assigned a group, which will present twice on the semester-long ethnographic project: once the design, and once on the result of their research. It is important that the research, writing, and presentation work be divided as equally as possible among members of each group.
    • I encourage you to find ways to render your presentation as interesting and captivating as possible. You can use multimedia (film, photograph, music) and other means to make your arguments and engage your colleagues.

 

C) A final, 10-15-page ethnographic report. This paper, written collectively by each group, will be a critical analysis of the ways in which individuals and communities occupy, make sense of, challenge, and maintain spatial configurations in the city. How are race and urban space marked by each other? You must start collecting material about an area of Austin at the beginning of the semester. The area can be a community organization, a public space (swimming pool, library, park), et cetera. Examples of research material that you can collect are: ethnographic notes, photographs, newspaper, journal, and magazine articles, interviews, and so on. More information on this will be provided during the semester.

 

Participation

The participation grade will depend on your consistent and active engagement in class discussion by way of critical, insightful commentaries based on our readings. For those who are not used to talking in class, group presentations will be good opportunities to speak while supported by the colleagues with whom you prepared your interventions.

 

Your participation grade will also depend on your attendance. It is impossible to obtain a good participation grade with a poor attendance.

 

A note on attendance

Each time you have 4 unjustified absences, your final grade will be diminished by a letter grade. The rule is cumulative, so that your grade will be dropped another letter grade with the 8th, 12th, and 16th absence.

 

Grading

Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

 

Reading reports: 40%

Final paper: 30%

Participation: 30%

 

Notice

Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, telephone 471-6259.

 

 

Course structure

 

Part I (Weeks 1-3)

  • Historical background: genesis of race thinking
  • Colonialism and violence
  • The Black Radical Tradition
  • Strategic essentialism versus strategic universalism
  • Black feminist theory

 

Part II (Weeks 4-6)

  • Race and urban space: facets of U.S. segregation
  • Anglos and Mexicans in the U.S. Southwest
  • The politics of black representations
  • Oppression and resistance: social movements and racial solidarity

 

Part III (Weeks 7-8)

  • Black Power
  • Women and the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Black Panther Party
  • Government repression against organized radical movements

 

Part IV (Weeks 9-12)

  • Urban rebellions in the mid-1960s
  • Black Wealth/White wealth
  • Youth resistance
  • The limits and consequences of contemporary conservative ideologies

 

 

Part V (Weeks 13-15)

  • The effects of Hurricane Katrina and new social movements
  • Black diaspora utopias: multiracial/multiethnic transnational alliances
  • Taking back the land: a case study

 

 

Meeting and reading schedule

 

Readings marked with an asterisk * are in the course reader

 

Week 1

August 27 Introduction

 

 

Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel

Hill: University of North Carolina University Press, [1983] 2000), pp. 121-155.*

 

 

Week 2

            September 1 Tuesday

September 3 Thursday

 

Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel

Hill: University of North Carolina University Press, [1983] 2000), pp. 155-171.*

Paul Gilroy, Against Race: Imagining political culture beyond the Color Line

(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 11-53.*

Patricia Hill Collins, “The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought.” In Kum-

Kum Bhavnani, editor, Feminism & ‘Race’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 184-202.*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 3

September 8 Tuesday: Report 1

September 10 Thursday

 

bell hooks, Feminism is for everybody: Passionate politics (Cambridge, MA: South End

Press, 2000), pp.vii-x; 1-47.*

Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of

Liberty (New York: Vintage Books, 1997), pp. 22-55.*

Angela Davis, Blues Legacy and Black Feminism (New York: Vintage, 1998), pp. 3-41.*

Luke Charles Harris, “The Challenge and Possibility for Black Males to Embrace

Feminism.” In Devon Carbado, editor, Black Men on Race, Gender, and Sexuality (New York: New York University Press, 1999), pp. 383-386.*

 

 

Week 4

September 15 Tuesday

September 17 Thursday

Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton, American Apartheid (Cambridge, MA: Harvard

University Press, 1993), pp. 1-59.

Malcolm X and Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Ballantine

Books, [1964] 1973), pp. 1-58.*

 

 

Week 5

September 22 Tuesday: Report 2

September 24 Thursday

 

Tomás Almaguer, “We Desire Only a White Population in California.” In Racial

Faultlines: The Historical Origins of White Supremacy in California (Berkeley: U of California Press, 1994), pp. 17-41.*

David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986 (Austin: U of

Texas Press, 1987), pp. 158-178, 220-234.*                                                                                                                                                                                                             

 

 

Week 6

September 29 Tuesday

October 1 Thursday

 

Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton, American Apartheid (Cambridge, MA: Harvard

University Press, 1993), pp. 60-114.

Robin Kelley, Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in urban America

(Boston: Beacon Press, 1997), pp. 1-42.

Week 7

October 6 Tuesday: Report 3

October 8 Thursday: Groups I-V presentations (groups turn in written

  report on research design and progress)

 

 

Robert F. Williams, Negroes with Guns (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, [1962]

1998), pp. vii-xiii; xv-xxxiv; 2-27; 72-86.*

Belinda Robnet, How Long? How Long? African-American Women in the Struggle for

Civil Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 53-70.*

Kwame Ture and Charles Hamilton, “Black Power: Its need and substance.” In Martin

Bulmer and John Solmos, editors, Racism (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 236-242.*

Mumia Abu-Jamal, “A Life in the Party: An Historical and Retrospective Examination of

the Projections and Legacies of the Black Panther Party.” In Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiaficas, editors, Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party (New York: Routledge, 2001), pp. 40-50.*

 

 

Week 8

October 13 Tuesday: Groups VI-X presentations (groups turn in written

   report on research design and progress)

October 15 Thursday

 

Akinyele Omowale Umoja, “Repression Breeds Resistance: The Black Liberation Army

and the Radical Legacy of the Black Panther Party.” In Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiaficas, editors, Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party (New York: Routledge, 2001), pp. 3-19.*

Assata Shakur, Assata (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1987), pp. vi-xiv; 195-207; 216-

233.*

Ward Churchill, “To Disrupt, Discredit and Destroy”: The FBI’s secret War Against the

Black Panther Party.” In Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiaficas, editors, Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party (New York: Routledge, 2001), pp. 78-117.*

 

 

Week 9

October 20 Tuesday: Report 4

October 22 Thursday

 

Thomas Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar

Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), pp. 230-271.*

Suzanne E. Smith, Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit

(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 209-246.*

 

 

 

Week 10

October 27 Tuesday

October 29 Thursday

 

Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton, American Apartheid (Cambridge, MA: Harvard

University Press, 1993), pp.115-147.

Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro, Black Wealth/White Wealth (London:

Routledge, 1997), pp. 127-170.*

 

 

Week 11

November 3 Tuesday: Report 5

November 5 Thursday

 

Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton, American Apartheid (Cambridge, MA: Harvard

University Press, 1993), pp.148-185.

Robin Kelley, Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in urban America

(Boston: Beacon Press, 1997), pp. 43-77.

 

 

Week 12

November 10 Tuesday

November 12 Thursday

 

Jacqueline Jones, “Back to the Future with The Bell Curve: Jim Crow, Slavery, and G.”

In Steven Fraser, editor, The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America (New York: Basic Books, 1995), pp. 80-93.*

Robin Kelley, Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in urban America

(Boston: Beacon Press, 1997), pp. 78-124.

Kenneth J. Neubeck and Noel A. Cazenave, Welfare Racism: Playing the Race Card

Against America’s Poor (London: Routledge, 2001), pp. 147-176.*

 

 

Week 13

November 17 Tuesday: Report 6

November 19 Thursday: Groups I-V presentations (groups turn in final

       research report)

 

Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton, American Apartheid (Cambridge, MA: Harvard

University Press, 1993), pp. 186-236.

South End Collective, What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race, and the State of the Nation

(Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007): vii-53.                                               

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984), pp. 110-113,

145-175.*

                                               

 

Week 14

November 24 Tuesday

November 26 Thursday – Thanksgiving Day

 

Robin Kelley, Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in urban America

(Boston: Beacon Press, 1997), pp. 125-158.

South End Collective, What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race, and the State of the Nation

(Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007): 54-119

Max Rameau, Take Back the Land: Land, Gentrification and the Umoja Village

Shantytown (Miami: Nia Press, 2008): 7-76.

 

 

 

Week 15

December 1 Tuesday: Report 7; Groups VI-X presentations (groups turn

               in final research report)

December 3 Thursday

 

South End Collective, What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race, and the State of the Nation

(Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007): 99-169.

Max Rameau, Take Back the Land: Land, Gentrification and the Umoja Village

Shantytown (Miami: Nia Press, 2008): 77-133.

 

AFR 321 • African Diaspora Americas-Bra

83196 • Summer 2009
Meets
show description

Travel to Brazil req.

bottom border