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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Fall 2003

AMS 315 • 20th Century African American Popular Culture

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
26350 TTh
3:30 PM-5:00 PM

Course Description

This is an interdisciplinary course in American Studies and African American Studies that uses reading and writing assignments to compare overarching narratives of African American cultural history with an examination of different aspects of African American popular culture from 1945 to the present. Robin Kelley argues that in order to properly write a history of black working-class resistance, we need to look beyond labor organizations and formal political movements and focus on "infrapolitics", the daily strategies of resistance, hidden from the mainstream, that inform and shape more formal modes of black political struggle. This course will compare historical narratives, cultural criticism, and primary sources in African American popular culture. Classes will incorporate lectures with discussions, films, and music. Each week, readings and sources will examine a different aspect of the cultural politics of African American life. Topics will include: the Black Arts Movement, representations of ghettos, black nationalism, the cultural politics of funk music and blaxploitation film, representations of the black middle class, the quest for a Black aesthetic, and the emergence of hip hop culture. This course will give students tools for studying African American popular culture as well as opportunities to grapple with the issues both historically and personally.

Grading Policy

Assignments (essays will incorporate personal consultations and a draft/revision process) Essay 1. 6-8 pages. 20% of final grade. Students will analyze a text based on concepts and materials from the first half of the course. Essay 2. 10-12 pages. 35% of final grade. In consultation with the instructor, students will develop their own project. Students will attempt to answer a question about an aspect of African American popular culture and may take a variety of approaches, including historical, autobiographical, or ethnographic. Final Exam. 35% of final grade. Identifications and essays on all units. Class participation and attendance. 10% of final grade.


Texts: The main text for this course will be a course packet, which will include selections from: Amiri Baraka, Black Music; Miles Davis, Miles: The Autobiography; Ben Sidran, Black Talk; Addison Gayle, Jr., ed., The Black Aesthetic, Leroi Jones and Larry Neal, eds., Black Fire, Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, Rickey Vincent, Funk, Kenneth B. Clark, Dark Ghetto, Elaine Jackson, Toe Jam, Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, S. Craig Watkins, Representing The other texts for this course will be selected from among the following: William L. VanDeBurg New Day In Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975 Gina Dent, ed. Black Popular Culture Chester Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go Amiri Baraka, Blues People Gena Dagel Caponi, ed. Signifyin(g), SanctifyinÂ’ and Slam Dunking: A Reader in African American Expressive Culture Films: The Spook Who Sat By the Door, Cotton Comes to Harlem Music: Miles Davis, On the Corner; Funkadelic, Funkadelic


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