Assistant Professor — Ph.D., 2004, History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Assistant Professor, Department of African & African Diaspora Studies
African diaspora; intellectual history, theory, and social movements; race and racial formation
LAS 381 • Race, Empire, And Modernity
39648 • Fall 2015
Meets W 1200pm-300pm GWB 1.138
(also listed as AFR 385)
Race and empire are central features of the modern world that have shaped social life, political structures, power relationships, and modes of governance across space and time. Modernity as a marker of historical progress is seen to mark an age of scientific discovery, economic development, and democratic governance that holds the potential for moving humanity beyond racial and national oppression. This seminar asks how might we understand race, empire, and modernity if they are viewed as deeply imbricated, mutually constitutive structures and modes of thought ordering the social world. If they emerged together, how have they taken shape historically? What is gained by viewing them together? What are the theoretical and methodological demands made of such an inquiry? This seminar begins with the rise of those empires that issued from the “discovery” of the Americas and the inauguration of the European slave trade and plantation slavery, and examines how slavery, race and racial oppression, genocide, and colonialism proved central to the major leaps in science, industry, and the dawn of democracy. With a theoretically rich reading schedule that will touch on the colonial period but largely focus on the twentieth century, we will read across the disciplines in history, literature, political theory, and anthropology, and pay particular attention to how those subjected to racialized modernity within the African diaspora (the Caribbean, Africa, the U.S., and Europe) thought about, debated, and approached modernity, empire, racial slavery, what it means to be human, and the nature of freedom.
Potential books for this course include:
Sherwin Bryant, Rivers of Gold, Lives on Bondage: Governing through Slavery in Colonial Quito.
Neil Roberts, Freedom as Marronage.
Richard Iton, In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics and popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era.
Omise’eke Tinsley, Thiefing Sugar: Eroticism between Women in Caribbean Literature.
Christina Sharpe, Montrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects.
David Scott, Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice.
Deborah A. Thomas, Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica.
LAS 322 • Race, Empire, And Modernity
39588 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm GEA 114
(also listed as AFR 372F)
Modernity is generally seen to involve a narrative of historical progress away from periods of human development characterized by the entanglements of tradition, myth, despotism, oppressive governments, and religious dogma. It reflects a web of assumed cultural, political, philosophical, and technological discoveries and advancements that have benefited humanity. Yet this story takes on a different narrative arc when we consider that race and racial oppression only emerged as social categories and systems of domination, with the dawn of modernity. What does it mean to study modernity from the perspective of the colonization of the Americas, the rise of plantation slavery, genocide against native peoples, and the systems of racial domination that have persisted since slavery? Why has empire been the dominant mode of world organizations from the dawn of modernity until the mid-20th century? What are we to make of such notions of liberty, justice, and democracy, when those terms were explicitly denied enslaved Africans and their descendants?
This course will examine race and empire as central features of modernity and enlightenment thought, with particular attention to how the enslaved, colonized, and those others, often explicitly excluded from dominant conceptions of the nation-state, engaged with modernist thought and political structures, often expanding its core concepts, and at times moving beyond those terms of order to articulate alternative notions of freedom and liberation. We will examine how empire, race and racial oppression, and the structures of colonialism have been central to modernity, and how those caught within this web of cultural, political, philosophical, and scientific advancements have challenged those structures.
Anthony Bogues, Empire of Liberty: Power, Desire, and Freedom.
Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom.
Sylvia Wynter, Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis.
LAS 310 • Liberation In Afr Diaspora
40530 • Fall 2014
Meets MWF 200pm-300pm PAR 206
(also listed as AFR 317E)
Examination of liberation and freedom struggles in the African diaspora, focusing on common intellectual, political, and social currents among the diaspora's various groups. Course focuses on three major themes: abolitionism, Pan-Africanism and national liberation, and hip hop. Particular emphasis will be on the ideas associated with these movements, and the major organizations and intellectual currents in all three.
May be counted toward the global cultures flag requirement.
LAS 310 • Liberation In African Diaspora
40312 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 930am-1100am MEZ 1.102
(also listed as AFR 317E)
This course examines the liberation movements in the African diaspora, from political activities to cultural production, and the circulation of ideas among people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Though the course will concentrate on maroonage, nationalism, anti-colonial liberation, music, and studying the major figures and intellectual currents of liberation, it will also explore how African diasporic movements have impacted world history and have expanded the meanings of such concepts as freedom, enlightenment, and rights. The course will also consider how travel and internationalism informed various movements. In thinking about what constitutes the African diaspora and how a liberation movement takes shape within it, the course will explore major political and intellectual trends in the African diaspora. For example, how did the Haitian revolution (the only successful slave revolt in history) inspire Black people during slavery and after? How did it challenge enlightenment thinking and what it means to be human? How did Black nationalism articulate the bonds between African liberation movements and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement? What are Ghana, South Africa, Brazil, and Cuba important sites in the political imaginary?
Black Studies Faculty Highlight
Faculty Highlight: Dr. Minkah Makalani, Assistant Professor of AADS by Ahsika Sanders
Faculty Highlight: Dr. Minkah Makalani, Assistant Professor of AADS by Ahsika Sanders
This Spring semester, UT welcomed new faculty member Dr. Minkah Makalani to Austin as the newest addition to the African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) department.
Dr. Makalani, the author of ‘In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917 -1939’ (University of North Carolina Press, 2011), taught two undergraduate courses in the Spring semester. One course was the AFR senior seminar, and the other course was a broad look at social movements among African peoples. These courses aligned with Dr. Makalani’s personal research interests, which include the African diaspora, intellectual history, theory, social movements, race, and racial formation. “The [senior] seminar was a look at the African diaspora intellectuals and took a historian’s approach. We looked at: what are some of the things that preoccupy intellectuals in the African-American diaspora? What are some of their concerns? Then we came all the way up into the inter-colonial period and looked at different figures and different movements. All of the students got really animated about different elements so the class went great.”
“The other course, Liberation in the African Diaspora, [is] just trying to give students a broad introduction to what liberation movements in the African diaspora looked like. We discussed what ‘movement’ really means and we defined African. Then we talked about how to look at the two during slavery, so slave rebellions and most prominently the Haitian revolution.” Dr. Makalani said the course closed with a broad look at the Black Power movement, including the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, and Black consciousness in South Africa. The course also ended with a look at hip-hop, in particular how this music reflects a certain political consciousness in an effort to respond to circumstances. The course is designed to accommodate 35 to 40 students, and Dr. Makalani said that he will structure it in the future so that it will work as a basic, introductory level course for freshmen and sophomores, specifically AFR majors who might move on to take other AFR courses.
Dr. Makalani said the atmosphere at Rutgers, where he taught for eight years, differs from UT in that Rutgers was a commuter campus for faculty, which limited interactions between co-workers. “Our interactions tended to not be on campus, so that made it a bit more difficult to have the institution be a part of the intellectual community,” he said. “Here, if there is a talk on Wednesday that I might be interested in, it’s only a 15 minute bike ride to campus, whereas it was a four-hour round-trip commute at Rutgers. In that sense, the intellectual community was a bit more difficult to build and be a part of. “
Dr. Makalani also said the numbers of Black faculty are far greater here than they were at Rutgers. “Being in the African and African Diaspora Studies department specifically, that means that my immediate colleagues are all kind of interested in the same kinds of things - or at least engaging in the same kinds of questions. Whereas [at Rutgers] I was in the history department where, for the most part, my colleagues were not interested in the same kinds of field questions. That meant that I had to have those interactions and exchanges with people from English, Sociology, American Studies, but because no one really lived in the area it made it even more difficult so I kind of feel like I have come into the best possible situation in that regard,” Dr. Makalani said. “I’ve also found that with my new colleagues, there are [many] more rich discussions kind of immediately,” he said. “You don’t have to establish the ground floor to have that discussion. “
Although he is originally from Kansas City, MO, Dr. Makalani lived and worked in New York off and on for almost 20 years, the last 10 of which were straight through. New York became home to him, so moving to Texas has been a big transition. “I’m looking forward to the coming years, working more with the students. In many ways the student life reminds me of my undergrad years where you have a very small Black student population on a very large predominantly White campus. The kind of issues and concerns that I see students talking about and raising are some of the same things that I remember from undergrad, so I’ve been heartened by what students are talking about, and the kinds of debates that they have with one another that I hear before and after class.”
Dr. Makalani closed by noting, “I’m looking forward to getting more involved with them and, be they [a] Black studies major or not, helping give some insight to the things that they will do. I am much more involved in the student life [here] than I was at Rutgers, but that is a positive change.”