AMS 315 • Urban Crisis-W
3:00 PM-4:00 PM
This is an interdisciplinary course in American Studies and African American Studies that uses reading and writing assignments to examine the trajectory of racial formation in African American urban communities from roughly 1900 until the present. This course will use urban history, African American history, and media studies to look at how inner city African American communities have been shaped over time, physically and rhetorically, from a variety of perspectives. The tensions between sociological and anthropological representations of African American urban communities, urban policy, the constructions of African American communities by mainstream and alternative media, and the political and cultural strategies of African American activists will be explored fully.
Thomas Sugrue argues that the urban crisis began not with the riots of the 1960s but with larger postwar economic transformations. By comparing historical narratives, cultural criticism, and primary sources, this course extends his argument by examining African American history in cities over the last century. In order to see how ideas of race have operated in the city, we will look at a range of voices, from many perspectives, that illuminate the topic. Classes will revolve around discussions of readings assigned for each class period. If you take this class, be prepared to keep up with and discuss short readings for each class. This will be an essential part of your grade. Classes will be supplemented by lectures and films. Each week, readings and sources will examine a different aspect of the cultural politics of African American urban life. Topics will include: ghetto formation, the roles of the NAACP, Urban League and other movements as agents of social change, the roles of both the media and social science in racial formation, deindustrialization, urban rebellions, the impact of suburbanization on ideas about race in the city, and the underclass debate, among others. This course will give students tools for studying urban history as well as opportunities to grapple with the issues on a topic of their choosing.