African and African Disapora Studies Department
African and African Disapora Studies Department

Shirley E. Thompson


Associate ProfessorPh.D., 2001, History of American Civilization, Harvard University

Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies
Shirley E. Thompson

Contact

Interests


Creole Studies/Creolization; American Studies; Black Film; Diasporic Politics

Biography


Professor Thompson is Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies. She currently serves as the American Studies Graduate Advisor and the Associate Director of the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies. She received her Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization (2001) and her A.M. in History (2000) from Harvard University. She received her A.B. degree in History (1992) from Harvard College.

Research Interests

She is currently researching a book project entitled "No More Auction Block for Me: African Americans and the Problem of Property" which traces out some of the legacies of slavery for African American encounters with property and ownership. Specifically, it explores the interwoven concepts of race and property value from the vantage point of African American historical memory, political economy, and expressive culture. Situated at the intersection of legal and economic discourses, the notion of property also finds expression in literature and performance, material and expressive cultures. Thus, the project draws on the methodologies of cultural history, literary criticism, performance studies, ethnography, and critical theory. Her first book, Exiles at Home: The Struggle to Become American in Creole New Orleans is a cultural history of New Orleans' French-speaking free people of color over the middle decades of the nineteenth century. The dissertation on which it is based was awarded the Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize by the American Studies Association in 2001. Her work has been supported by fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the American Association of University Women.

Courses Taught

Courses taught include: Property in American Culture; Paradigms for African American Studies; Race, Law, and US Society; Black Representations of the South; Slavery Across the Genres; Cultural History of the US to 1865
General teaching interests include: African American and African Diaspora Studies; Harlem Renaissance; Atlantic Slavery; Interdisciplinary Methodologies

Courses


AMS 385 • Cultural History Of Us To 1865

30745 • Fall 2016
Meets M 10:00AM-1:00PM BUR 436B

Description:

This graduate seminar will introduce students to a range of primary literature and scholarly debates relevant to the cultural history of the United States from the colonial period through the Civil War. In addition to our own weekly seminar, students will attend the lectures given in the corresponding undergraduate course, “Main Currents of American Culture” which explores the theme: “America in Crisis.” In recent years, we Americans have increasingly defined ourselves in terms of our actions and reactions in particular moments of crisis. Events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina have provoked debates about the substance of our national identity and character and have revealed deep fault lines in the bedrock of our society. Each week we will take as our starting point a particular moment of crisis, paying attention to the political, social and cultural forces that gave rise to the crisis as well as the dispersal, transformation and/or entrenchment of these forces in its aftermath. The critical moments we will focus on will include the King Philip’s War; The Trail of Tears; the “American Renaissance”; and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry among others. Our semester will culminate, of course, in the crisis of disunion and the Civil War. In this course, we will examine the British, (and to a lesser extent the Spanish and French) colonial legacies in the United States and social formations among the diverse groups of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans both within and on the borders of these colonies. We will consider many dimensions of American national identity: What is the proper relationship among the nation, the states, and individuals? How have Americans negotiated the tension between republicanism and democracy or between religious and secular world views? What would it mean to recognize slavery as one of the founding institutions of the United States? We will study the formation of American identity around differences of race, class, gender, religion, and region. We will study these developing identities through literature, political documents, painting, music, newspapers and other media.

AFR 372C • Race And Place

29355 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM CMA 3.114
(also listed as AMS 321, GRG 356T)

When Harriet Tubman struck out for her own freedom and for that of countless others, she knew that her success depended on an intimate knowledge of the geographic boundaries of slave and free territory and the network of safe(r) spaces known as the Underground Railroad. When segregationists advocated for laws and policies that reinforced the color line, they spoke from an interest in “keeping blacks in their place.” When current day media executives attempt to market their programming to African American audiences they often frame them in terms of an “urban” market.  As these examples show, social constructions of race and status in the United States have always intersected with social constructions of place.

This course explores these intersecting themes of race and place by considering a range of topics beginning with the formulation of an exclusively white national space from the conquest of indigenous land and the transportation of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic. We will also consider various challenges to this white supremacist national logic, from the presence of the Haitian Republic to expressions of black nationalism, diasporic imaginings and exilic critique. We will discuss geographies of plantation slavery and Jim Crow segregation and black resistance to these geographies as individuals and groups such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Marcus Garvey, Anna Julia Cooper, Rosa Parks, and the Freedom Riders forced a reconfiguration of public and private space. We will focus on such iconic black urban and rural spaces such as Harlem, Chicago, New Orleans, the Sea Islands, and more to keep track of the varied and complex politics of race and belonging. This course will provide a theoretical foundation in critical race studies and cultural geography and it will engage a wide variety of media, including speeches, memoir, poetry, music, visual culture, performance culture, film, and television. 

AFR 372F • Race, Law, And U S Society

29435 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM CMA 3.114
(also listed as AMS 370, HIS 365G)

This seminar examines the intersection of racial ideology and legal culture in the United States. We will take a broad historical approach that spans the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but we will also survey a range of contemporary sites where racial discourses permeate American law and conceptions of the rights and responsibilities of citizens. The legal construction of race in America is inextricably bound up with the development and dissolution of the institution of race-based slavery. Therefore, a consideration of laws concerning slavery, segregation, and desegregation will form the backbone of the course. We will pay special attention to Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857); Plessy v. Ferguson (1896); and Brown v. Board of Education (1954), cases that span a crucial century. By considering the long trajectories of race, law, and social transformation, we will begin to see how racial reasoning has informed many aspects of U.S. legal culture for a wide range of ethnic and social groups and how race has influenced the development of property law, family law, immigration law, and civil rights law.

This course will embrace interdisciplinary methods: we will put court cases in conversation with literature, film, social scientific writings, music, and other pertinent material. The goals of this course include 1. exploring the social and legal construction of race at various moments in American history; 2. understanding the intersection of race, gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and other markers of identity; 3. examining the interpenetration of law and popular cultural forms; and 4. determining how race has informed American conceptions of a wide variety of issues, such as privacy, property, citizenship, national security, and sovereignty.

AFR 372C • Property In Amer Culture

30649 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CBA 4.344
(also listed as AMS 370)

Former President George W. Bush frequently refered to the United States as an “ownership society.”  Indeed, the ownership of property has been among the central tenets of an American sense of belonging and citizenship from the colonial period to the present. And yet for certain segments of society, ownership and property have been very troubling ideas. Dispossessed of and removed from ancestral homelands, Native American nations have been forced to reconfigure their relationship to land and ownership.  Struggles over the sanctity of burial grounds and the recovery of sacred objects have forced the United States to confront its assumptions regarding ownership.  Their bodies literally turned into property to be bought and sold on the market, African Americans have attempted to recast themselves as citizens with property rights even in the face of large-scale violence and institutional racism.  The property and citizenship duties of wives once subsumed under the name and title of husbands, women’s property has consistently troubled the relationship between work and the home, and between public and private realms.  This course explores American conceptions of property over a wide range of economic transformations from the mercantile to the digital age, paying special attention to the ambiguous and tension-filled meanings of property for Women, African Americans and Native Americans.

 

Possible Texts:

Solomon Northrup, Twelve Years a Slave

Gloria Anzuldua, Borderlands/La Frontera

Andrew Ross, Celebration Chronicles

Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine

And a course packet

 

Assignments:

3 short papers (2-3 pgs.):            10% each

1 longer paper (8-10 pgs.):            30%

1 oral presentation and outline:            20%

participation and prepared-ness:            20%

AFR 374E • Atlantic Slavery: Hist/Mem

30782 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM WEL 4.224
(also listed as AMS 370)

What would it mean to consider the emergence of a United States national identity (and other national identities) from the perspective of the intersecting trade routes and shifting imperial projects constituting what scholars have called the Atlantic World? What would it mean to consider the emergence of global capitalism through the particular lens of the transatlantic slave trade and the diversity of labor and production regimes it spawned? This course places the overarching processes of domination and dehumanization arrayed on behalf of European and US empire and against African peoples alongside the various sites of struggle and resistance in which people of African descent articulated and enacted visions of freedom. In doing so, it details how the conditions for a politicized black diasporic identity have emerged from contexts of cultural and linguistic diversity among African-descended populations. This course charts a history of Atlantic slavery by focusing on primary sources detailing crucial events and contexts such as the Zong Massacre (1791); the Haitian Revolution (1804); and Dred Scott v Sandford (1857) among others. It also considers how historians, memoirists, fiction writers, visual and performance artists and filmmakers have come to terms with that history and its implications, especially regarding the moral, political, and economic investments nations and empires have made in the commodification of human beings.

                   

Requirements

4 response papers (2-3 pages) 10% each

research paper outline (2 pages): 5%

oral presentation: 10%

Final paper (8-10 pages): 25%

participation and attendance: 20%

 

Possible Texts

Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother

Olaudah Equiano, Narrative

Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation

Stephanie Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery

Charles Johnson, Middle Passage

Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies

course reader of shorter readings; films, visual art, exhibitions TBD

 

Upper-division standing required. Students may not enroll in more than two AMS 370 courses in one semester.

Flag(s): Writing, Global Cultures

AFR 372C • Race And Place

30345 • Fall 2013
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM GDC 2.502
(also listed as AMS 321)

When Harriet Tubman struck out for her own freedom and for that of countless others, she knew that her success depended on an intimate knowledge of the geographic boundaries of slave and fee territory and the network of safe(r) spaces known as the Underground Railroad. When segregationists advocated for laws and policies that reinforced the color line, they spoke from an interest in “keeping blacks in their place.” When current day media executives attempt to market their programming to African American audiences they often frame them in terms of an “urban” market.  As these examples show, social constructions of race and status in the United States have always intersected with social constructions of place.

This course explores these intersecting themes of race and place by considering a range of topics beginning with the formulation of an exclusively white national space from the conquest of indigenous land and the transportation of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic. We will also consider various challenges to this white supremacist national logic, from the presence of the Haitian Republic to expressions of black nationalism, diasporic imaginings and exilic critique. We will discuss geographies of plantation slavery and Jim Crow segregation and black resistance to these geographies as individuals and groups such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Marcus Garvey, Anna Julia Cooper, Rosa Parks, and the Freedom Riders forced a reconfiguration of public and private space. We will focus on such iconic black urban and rural spaces such as Harlem, Chicago, New Orleans, the Sea Islands, and more to keep track of the varied and complex politics of race and belonging. This course will provide a theoretical foundation in critical race studies and cultural geography and it will engage a wide variety of media, including speeches, memoir, poetry, music, visual culture, performance culture, film, and television. 

Texts:

May include; Aimé Cesaire, Notebook of a Return to My Native Land; James Baldwin, Blues for Mister Charlie; Alice Walker, Meridian; Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Harlem is Nowhere and a course packet of excerpts from secondary and primary texts.

Grading breakdown:

3 response papers (2-3 pages): 10% each

summary and outline for the final project, 1 page(5%)

Oral presentation of final project (10-15 minutes) (15%)

Final paper, 8-10 pages (30%)

Participation and preparedness (20%)

AFR 390 • Black Studies Theory I

30535 • Fall 2013
Meets T 9:00AM-12:00PM BEL 232

In this course we will explore some of the central themes and problems of Black Studies in the United States and the Black Diaspora. We will ask: What is race and how has it functioned in the constitution of modernity, space, and selfhood? What is blackness and how is it lived and expressed? What is the relationship of slavery to capitalism, empire, war, and democracy, and what are the ideological, performative, and cognitive legacies of slavery? Finally, what formations of imagination and sociability have (dis)organized Black communal life, and which remain vital?

To ask these questions, of course, requires that we simultaneously engage more basic inquiries about the very dynamic nature, constitution, and aim of Black Studies. What is Black studies? Who are its subjects? What is its object? These, and the opening questions, are rendered even more complex when we recognize that Black Studies – in the United States as in its Black diaspora versions – is defined by unstable, shifting, and contested genealogies, boundaries, and projects. Black Studies is as contested, unstable, and vulnerable as the social life/social death it portrays, and as such defies – although certainly encourages – final categorizations. 

We will pursue these and other questions emerging out of our seminar by following the intellectual path W.E.B. Du Bois marked in his The Souls of Black Folk. As the achievement of a highly dedicated yet quite often parochial man of his time, Souls reflects an intellectual terrain that is, on the one hand, quite generative, and on the other, fraught and sometimes perilous. To grapple with Du Bois is to engage the larger field of Black Studies; to grapple with the field of Black Studies is to engage Du Bois. An attentive reading of Du Bois will engender propositions that both address the text and extrapolate it. This resulting set of propositions, in turn, gives us an entry into the ever-shifting conceptual assemblage that is Black Diasporic Studies. 

Course assignments and expectations

This is an intensive, collective theoretical conversation. It requires consistency of reading and participation over the entire semester. Students must be prepared to actively engage in seminar discussions during every session. Attendance and active participation are mandatory, and are a considerable portion of your evaluation.

The seminar space must be respected. Please take care of your health and rest needs so that you are not tempted to nap or doze off during our sessions. If agreed, we will have a 15 minute break at the halfway point of our seminar. Please turn off any electronic device that might produce distracting sounds. 

Grading

Research Paper (15-20 pages): 50%                                                                   

Leading Class Discussion: 25%

Class participation (including freethinking weekly piece): 25%

AFR 372F • Race, Law, And U S Society

30339 • Spring 2013
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM MEZ 2.124
(also listed as AMS 370)

This course examines the intersection of racial ideology and legal culture in the United States. We will take a broad historical approach that spans the 19th and 20th centuries, but we will also survey a range of contemporary sites where racial discourses permeate American law and conceptions of the rights and responsibilities of citizens. The legal construction of race in American is inextricably bound up with the development and dissolution of the institution of race-based slavery. Therefore, a consideration of laws concerning slavery, segregation, and desegregation will form the backbone of the course. By considering the long trajectories of race, law, and social transformation, we will begin to see how racial reasoning has informed many aspects of U.S. legal culture for a wide range of ethnic and social groups, and how race has influenced the development of property law, family law, immigration law, and civil rights law.

This course will embrace interdisciplinary methods: we will put court cases in conversation with literature, film, social scientific writings, music, and other pertinent material. The goals of this course include 1. Exploring the social and legal construction of race at various moments in American history; 2. Understanding the intersection of race, gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and other markers of identity; 3. Examining the interpenetration of law and popular cultural forms; and 4/ determining how race has informed American conceptions of a wide variety of issues, such as privacy, property, citizenship, national security, and sovereignty.

AFR 387 • Property In American Culture

30473 • Spring 2013
Meets M 11:00AM-2:00PM SZB 380
(also listed as AMS 390)

AMS 390

Property in American Culture

Spring 2013

BUR 436, W 10-1

 

Prof. Shirley Thompson

Office: BUR 452

 

Former President George W. Bush often referred to the United States as an “ownership society.”  Indeed, the ownership of property has been among the central tenets of an American sense of belonging and citizenship from the colonial period to the present. And yet for certain segments of society, ownership and property have been very troubling ideas. Dispossessed of and removed from ancestral homelands, Native American nations have been forced to reconfigure their relationship to land and ownership.  Struggles over the sanctity of burial grounds and the recovery of sacred objects have forced the United States to confront its assumptions regarding ownership.  Their bodies literally turned into property to be bought and sold on the market, African Americans have attempted to recast themselves as citizens with property rights even in the face of large-scale violence and institutional racism. The property and citizenship duties of wives once subsumed under the name and title of husbands, women’s property has consistently troubled the relationship between work and the home, and between public and private realms. 

 

In historical and contemporary usage, the term, “property” has conveyed rights in persons, places, things, and ideas to individuals, collectivities, corporations, and other entities. This course explores American conceptions of property over a wide range of economic transformations from the mercantile to the digital age. We will interrogate the spoken and unspoken investments our nation has had in the idea of property. We will consider liberal and republican descriptions of and justifications for private property ownership. We will trace the evolution of those ideas over the course of American history, paying special attention to how property resonates in the reflections of those who have traditionally been less able to define the stakes of ownership—those such as women, African Americans, Native Americans, and the poor among other groups.

 

Texts may include:

Stuart Banner, American Property: A History of How, Why, and What We Own

Ned Blackhawk, Violence over the Land

Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places

Johnson, Soul By Soul

Best, The Fugitive’s Properties

Stanley, From Bondage to Contract

Zelizer, Purchase of Intimacy

Starn, Ishi’s Brain

Zukin, Point of Purchase

Stewart, On Longing

Hayden, Building Suburbia

Kruse, White Flight

Conley, Being Black, Living in the Red

Lessig, The Future of Ideas

 

Grading

research paper (20-25 pages)                                                               40%

Presentation of the paper (15-20 min.)                                                            15%

Short reading analysis (3-5 pgs)/ leading discussion                            20%

class participation                                                                                25%

AMS 355 • Main Curr Of Amer Cul To 1865

30675 • Fall 2012
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM BUR 136
(also listed as HIS 355N)

Description

In recent years, we Americans have increasingly defined ourselves in terms of our actions and reactions in particular moments of crisis.  Events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina have provoked debates about the substance of our national identity and character and have revealed deep fault lines in the bedrock of our society.  This interdisciplinary course examines a range of cultural and social transformations in what we now call the United States of America from the colonial period until the end of the Civil War.  Each week we will take as our starting point a particular moment of crisis, paying attention to the political, social and cultural forces that gave rise to the crisis as well as the dispersal, transformation and/or entrenchment of these forces in its aftermath.  The critical moments we will focus on will include the Salem Witch Trials; the Election of 1800; the “American Renaissance”; and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry among others.  Our semester will culminate, of course, in the crisis of the Civil War.

We will examine the British, (and to a lesser extent the Spanish and French) colonial legacies in the United States and social formations among the diverse groups of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans both within and on the borders of these colonies.  We will watch these colonies declare independence, fighting and writing the United States into being.  We will explore the attempts of both ordinary and extraordinary Americans as they continued to debate and articulate the meanings of, exceptions to, and shortcomings in the American creed. 

In this course, we will consider many dimensions of American national identity: What is the proper relationship among the nation, the states, and individuals?  How have Americans negotiated the tension between republicanism and democracy or between religious and secular world views?  What would it mean to recognize slavery as one of the founding institutions of the United States?  We will study the formation of American identity around differences of race, class, gender, religion, and region.  We will study these developing identities through literature, political documents, painting, music, newspapers and other media.

 

Requirements

2 in-class exams:                  30% each

In-class final:                        40%

 

Possible Texts

Mary Rowlandson, Sovereignty and Goodness of God

Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer 

James Fennimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

And a course packet of shorter readings

 

Upper-division standing required. Partially fulfills legislative requirement in American History.

Flag(s): Cultural Diversity

AMS 385 • Cultural History Of Us To 1865

30745 • Fall 2012
Meets W 9:00AM-12:00PM BUR 436B

Coming Soon.

AFR F374E • Atlantic Slavery: Hist/Memory

81748 • Summer 2012
Meets MTWTHF 10:00AM-11:30AM GAR 0.132
(also listed as AMS F370)

What would it mean to consider the emergence of a United States national identity (and other national identities) from the perspective of the intersecting trade routes and shifting imperial projects constituting what scholars have called the Atlantic World? What would it mean to consider the emergence of global capitalism through the particular lens of the transatlantic slave trade and the diversity of labor and production regimes it spawned? This course places the overarching processes of domination and dehumanization arrayed on behalf of European and US empire and against African peoples alongside the various sites of struggle and resistance in which people of African descent articulated and enacted visions of freedom. In doing so, it details how the conditions for a politicized black diasporic identity have emerged from contexts of cultural and linguistic diversity among African-descended populations. This course charts a history of Atlantic slavery by focusing on primary sources detailing crucial events and contexts such as the Zong Massacre (1791); the Haitian Revolution (1804); and Dred Scott v Sandford (1857) among others. It also considers how historians, memoirists, fiction writers, visual and performance artists and filmmakers have come to terms with that history and its implications, especially regarding the moral, political, and economic investments nations and empires have made in the commodification of human beings.

 

Requirements

4 response papers (2-3 pages) 10% each

research paper outline (2 pages): 5%

oral presentation: 10%

Final paper (8-10 pages): 25%

participation and attendance: 20%

 

Possible Texts

Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother

Olaudah Equiano, Narrative

Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation

Stephanie Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery

Charles Johnson, Middle Passage

Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies

course reader of shorter readings; films, visual art, exhibitions TBD

 

Upper-division standing required. Students may not enroll in more than two AMS 370 courses in one semester.

Flag(s): Writing, Global Cultures

AFR 374D • Black American And The South

30485 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM BUR 228
(also listed as AMS 370)

This course traces the post-Reconstruction African-American conversation over the meanings, possibilities and challenges posed by the history and geography of the American South, a discussion shot through with temporality and notions of mobility.  The context of the Great Migration informs the Black construction of the South as a mythic repository of both violent memories and redemptive possibilities.  We will detail the maintenance of the boundary of the South by those who migrate across it and those who choose to stay and “cast down their buckets” where they are.    We will discuss the ways in which the historical processes of the Great migration and the lived experience of Jim Crow combine to delineate “insiders” from “outsiders.”  We will detail what has been at stake—historically, politically, and culturally—in claiming “Blackness” and “Southern-ness” at the same time.  Part of this process will be to recover the ways in which Blacks have been constructed by others within and outside of the South.  We will put Black and white Southerners in conversation with one another around issues of race and place.

We will not view the Black construction of the South as a monolith.  Instead, we will explore the uneven-ness of the Southern terrain.  In their transformations of Southern history, experience and landscape, Black Americans have constructed a place that contains multitudes and that acts as a backdrop for debates about class and gender within Black communities.  We will also draw materials from a range of genres including but not limited to fiction, speeches, newspaper accounts, photographs, paintings, poetry, and popular music including jazz, blues, rock, R&B and hip hop/rap.

 

Requirements

Participation: 15%

10-minute Class Presentation on final paper topic: 15%

Five 2-page response papers: 5% each

One 2-page précis of the final paper: 5%

One final paper 8-10 pages: 30%

Midterm Test: 10%

 

Possible Texts

Jean Toomer, Cane

Richard Wright, Black Boy

Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi

Tayari Jones, Leaving Atlanta

And a sourcebook of shorter readings

 

Upper-division standing required.  Students may not enroll in more than two AMS 370 courses in one semester.

Flag(s): Writing, Cultural Diversity

AMS 355 • Main Curr Of Amer Cul To 1865

30840 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM BUR 136
(also listed as HIS 355N)

In recent years, we Americans have increasingly defined ourselves in terms of our actions and reactions in particular moments of crisis.  Events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina have provoked debates about the substance of our national identity and character and have revealed deep fault lines in the bedrock of our society.  This interdisciplinary course examines a range of cultural and social transformations in what we now call the United States of America from the colonial period until the end of the Civil War.  Each week we will take as our starting point a particular moment of crisis, paying attention to the political, social and cultural forces that gave rise to the crisis as well as the dispersal, transformation and/or entrenchment of these forces in its aftermath.  The critical moments we will focus on will include the Salem Witch Trials; the Election of 1800; the “American Renaissance”; and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry among others.  Our semester will culminate, of course, in the crisis of the Civil War.

We will examine the British, (and to a lesser extent the Spanish and French) colonial legacies in the United States and social formations among the diverse groups of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans both within and on the borders of these colonies.  We will watch these colonies declare independence, fighting and writing the United States into being.  We will explore the attempts of both ordinary and extraordinary Americans as they continued to debate and articulate the meanings of, exceptions to, and shortcomings in the American creed. 

In this course, we will consider many dimensions of American national identity: What is the proper relationship among the nation, the states, and individuals?  How have Americans negotiated the tension between republicanism and democracy or between religious and secular world views?  What would it mean to recognize slavery as one of the founding institutions of the United States?  We will study the formation of American identity around differences of race, class, gender, religion, and region.  We will study these developing identities through literature, political documents, painting, music, newspapers and other media.

 

Requirements

2 in-class exams:                  30% each

In-class final:                        40%

 

Possible Texts

Mary Rowlandson, Sovereignty and Goodness of God

Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer 

James Fennimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

And a course packet of shorter readings

 

Upper-division standing required. Partially fulfills legislative requirement in American History.

Flag(s): Cultural Diversity

AFR 374E • Atlantic Slavery: Hist/Memory

30275 • Fall 2011
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM BUR 228
(also listed as AMS 370)

Description:

What would it mean to consider the emergence of a United States national identity (and other national identities) from the perspective of the intersecting trade routes and shifting imperial projects constituting what scholars have called the Atlantic World? What would it mean to consider the emergence of global capitalism through the particular lens of the transatlantic slave trade and the diversity of labor and production regimes it spawned? This course places the overarching processes of domination and dehumanization arrayed on behalf of European and US empire and against African peoples alongside the various sites of struggle and resistance in which people of African descent articulated and enacted visions of freedom. In doing so, it details how the conditions for a politicized black diasporic identity have emerged from contexts of cultural and linguistic diversity among African-descended populations. This course charts a history of Atlantic slavery by focusing on primary sources detailing crucial events and contexts such as the Zong Massacre (1791); the Haitian Revolution (1804); and Dred Scott v Sandford (1857) among others. It also considers how historians, memoirists, fiction writers, visual and performance artists and filmmakers have come to terms with that history and its implications, especially regarding the moral, political, and economic investments nations and empires have made in the commodification of human beings.

 

Possible Texts:

Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother

Olaudah Equiano, Narrative

Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation

Stephanie Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery

Charles Johnson, Middle Passage

Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies

 

course reader of shorter readings; films, visual art, exhibitions TBD

 

Assignments (include % of grade):

4 response papers (2-3 pages)                            10% each

research paper outline (2 pages):                        5%

oral presentation:                                               10% 

Final paper (8-10 pages):                                    25%

participation and attendance:                              20%

 

Upper-division standing required. Students may not enroll in more than two AMS 370 courses in one semester.

Flag(s): Writing, Global Cultures

AFR 384 • Methods In Afr Amer Studies

30355 • Fall 2011
Meets T 12:30PM-3:30PM BUR 436B
(also listed as AMS 390)

The course will also explore methods in African-American Studies in the past, present and into the future.  Departments and Centers of African-American Studies (Afro-American Studies, Black Studies, Africana Studies, African Diaspora Studies) have existed in colleges and universities for approaching 35 years.  Moreover, the field of African-American Studies also has roots in independent scholarly pursuit and other kinds of institutional and non-institutional spaces.  These include the work of scholars such as W.E.B. DuBois, Harold Cruise, Zora Neale Hurston, C. L. R. James, and Carter G. Woodson and institutional settings such as the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the Journal of Negro History, the Negro History Bulletin, and the College Language Association (CLA).  These variously located scholars have consistently and effectively critiqued disciplinary forms of knowledge and have articulated alternative epistemologies grounded in the unique experience of modern blackness. This course will trace the transformation of the field over the more formally institutionalized settings of the last 35 years.  It will also place recent African-Americanist scholarship in conversation with previous scholarship that has not enjoyed such a privileged status in colleges and universities. Throughout, we will explore the transdisciplinary practices and methods that have been and continue to be a hallmark of the field.  We will also trace the status of the (United States of) America in a field that has arguably been transnational from its inception. We will consider recent scholarship by theorists of aural, visual, and performance culture as well as recent works of revisionist sociology, cultural geography, political theory, and philosophy. We will pay special attention to the ways in which cultural critique from black feminist and queer studies perspectives has transformed the field of Black Studies.

Readings May Include:

W. E. B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk; Fred Moten, In the Break; Daphne Brooks, Bodies in Dissent; Brent Edwards, Practice of Diaspora; Alexander Weheliye, Phonographies; Leigh Raiford, Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare; Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism; Avery Gordon, Ghostly Matters; Tommie Shelby, We Who Are Dark; Katherine McKittrick, Demonic Grounds; Roderick Ferguson, Aberrations in Black

Assignments and Grading May Include:

20% 30-minute class presentation:                         

10% Write-up of class presentation (5 pages):                  

40% Final paper/project (15-20 pages):                   

10% 15-20 minute class presentation of final paper idea:      

20% Participation/Preparedness/Attendance:                   

AFR 374D • Black American And The South

30540 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM BUR 228
(also listed as AMS 370)

Description

This course traces the post-Reconstruction African-American conversation over the meanings, possibilities and challenges posed by the history and geography of the American South, a discussion shot through with temporality and notions of mobility.  The context of the Great Migration informs the Black construction of the South as a mythic repository of both violent memories and redemptive possibilities.  We will detail the maintenance of the boundary of the South by those who migrate across it and those who choose to stay and “cast down their buckets” where they are.    We will discuss the ways in which the historical processes of the Great migration and the lived experience of Jim Crow combine to delineate “insiders” from “outsiders.”  We will detail what has been at stake—historically, politically, and culturally—in claiming “Blackness” and “Southern-ness” at the same time.  Part of this process will be to recover the ways in which Blacks have been constructed by others within and outside of the South.  We will put Black and white Southerners in conversation with one another around issues of race and place.

We will not view the Black construction of the South as a monolith.  Instead, we will explore the uneven-ness of the Southern terrain.  In their transformations of Southern history, experience and landscape, Black Americans have constructed a place that contains multitudes and that acts as a backdrop for debates about class and gender within Black communities.  We will also draw materials from a range of genres including but not limited to fiction, speeches, newspaper accounts, photographs, paintings, poetry, and popular music including jazz, blues, rock, R&B and hip hop/rap.

 

Requirements

Participation: 15%

10-minute Class Presentation on final paper topic: 15%

Five 2-page response papers: 5% each

One 2-page précis of the final paper: 5%

One final paper 8-10 pages: 30%

Midterm Test: 10%

 

Possible Texts

Jean Toomer, Cane

Richard Wright, Black Boy

Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi

Tayari Jones, Leaving Atlanta

And a sourcebook of shorter readings

 

Upper-division standing required.  Students may not enroll in more than two AMS 370 courses in one semester.

Flag(s): Writing, Cultural Diversity

AMS 355 • Main Curr Of Amer Cul To 1865

29610 • Fall 2010
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 130
(also listed as HIS 355N)

Description

In recent years, we Americans have increasingly defined ourselves in terms of our actions and reactions in particular moments of crisis.  Events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina have provoked debates about the substance of our national identity and character and have revealed deep fault lines in the bedrock of our society.  This interdisciplinary course examines a range of cultural and social transformations in what we now call the United States of America from the colonial period until the end of the Civil War.  Each week we will take as our starting point a particular moment of crisis, paying attention to the political, social and cultural forces that gave rise to the crisis as well as the dispersal, transformation and/or entrenchment of these forces in its aftermath.  The critical moments we will focus on will include the Salem Witch Trials; the Election of 1800; the “American Renaissance”; and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry among others.  Our semester will culminate, of course, in the crisis of the Civil War.

We will examine the British, (and to a lesser extent the Spanish and French) colonial legacies in the United States and social formations among the diverse groups of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans both within and on the borders of these colonies.  We will watch these colonies declare independence, fighting and writing the United States into being.  We will explore the attempts of both ordinary and extraordinary Americans as they continued to debate and articulate the meanings of, exceptions to, and shortcomings in the American creed. 

In this course, we will consider many dimensions of American national identity: What is the proper relationship among the nation, the states, and individuals?  How have Americans negotiated the tension between republicanism and democracy or between religious and secular world views?  What would it mean to recognize slavery as one of the founding institutions of the United States?  We will study the formation of American identity around differences of race, class, gender, religion, and region.  We will study these developing identities through literature, political documents, painting, music, newspapers and other media.

 

Requirements

2 in-class exams:  30% each

In-class final:  40%

 

Possible Texts

Mary Rowlandson, Sovereignty and Goodness of God

Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer

James Fennimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

And a course packet of shorter readings

 

Flag(s): Cultural Diversity

Upper-division standing required. Partially fulfills legislative requirement in American History.

AMS 398T • Supv Teaching In American Stds

29925 • Spring 2010
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM BUR 436B

Graduate standing required. Permission from instructor required.

AMS 385 • Cultural History Of Us To 1865

30015 • Fall 2009
Meets W 10:00AM-1:00PM BUR 436B

AMS 385

Cultural History of the United States to 1865

Fall 2009

Seminar: Wednesdays 10-1   BUR 436B

Lectures: Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:30-2   BUR 116

 

Instructor:

Shirley Thompson                                                            email: s.thompson@mail.utexas.edu

Office Hours: Tuesdays 2-3, Wednesdays 1-3, Thursdays 2-3

Office: BUR 452

                                                           

Description:

 

This graduate seminar will introduce students to a range of primary literature and scholarly debates relevant to the cultural history of the United States from the colonial period through the Civil War. In addition to our own weekly seminar, students will attend the lectures given in the corresponding undergraduate course, “Main Currents of American Culture” which explores the theme: “America in Crisis.”  In recent years, we Americans have increasingly defined ourselves in terms of our actions and reactions in particular moments of crisis.  Events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina have provoked debates about the substance of our national identity and character and have revealed deep fault lines in the bedrock of our society.  Each week we will take as our starting point a particular moment of crisis, paying attention to the political, social and cultural forces that gave rise to the crisis as well as the dispersal, transformation and/or entrenchment of these forces in its aftermath.  The critical moments we will focus on will include the King Philip’s War; The Trail of Tears; the “American Renaissance”; and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry among others.  Our semester will culminate, of course, in the crisis of disunion and the Civil War.

 

In this course, we will examine the British, (and to a lesser extent the Spanish and French) colonial legacies in the United States and social formations among the diverse groups of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans both within and on the borders of these colonies. We will consider many dimensions of American national identity: What is the proper relationship among the nation, the states, and individuals?  How have Americans negotiated the tension between republicanism and democracy or between religious and secular world views?  What would it mean to recognize slavery as one of the founding institutions of the United States?  We will study the formation of American identity around differences of race, class, gender, religion, and region.  We will study these developing identities through literature, political documents, painting, music, newspapers and other media.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texts available for purchase:

 

University Co-op bookstore:

 

Jill Lepore, The Name of War

Mark M. Smith, Stono

Joanna Brooks, American Lazarus

Woody Holton, Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves…

Alan Gibson, Interpreting the Founding

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale

Paul Johnson and Sean Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias

Johnson, A Shopkeeper’s Millennium

Tiya Miles, Ties that Bind

Walter Johnson, Soul By Soul

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Benjamin Reiss, Theaters of Madness

Russ Castronovo, Necro Citizenship

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

 

And an optional course packet of shorter readings available at

 

Abel’s Copies:            University Towers

                                    715-D W. 23rd St

                                    Austin, TX 78705

                                    Ph: 472-5353

 

Assignments and Grading:

 

Grades will be assessed on the following basis:

 

1.            Early National Period Bibliography, September 30                                                10%

2.            Natchez Trace Collection Archival project (2pgs) October 28:                        10%

3.            Weekly Reading Presentation/ Bibliography:                                                 15%

4.            Final Paper (15-20 pages)  December 9:                                                            40%

5.            Class Participation:                                                                                                25%

 

Final grades will be assigned on a plus/minus scale.

 

ADA Compliance Statement

 

Special Needs: The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities.  Please contact the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 471-6259. I will work with you to make appropriate arrangements.

 

 

Reading/Seminar/Lecture Schedule

(Seminar meetings and assignments indicated in bold and set apart with asterisks)

 

 

****August 26            Introduction

 

August 27                        Undergraduate Lecture: Introduction

 

The Antinomian Crisis

 

September 1            Anne Hutchinson’s Trial and the Political and Spiritual World of

the Puritans

           

Reading:              Readings from Puritans in America (CP)

 

 

The Murder of John Sassamon

 

****September 2            Seminar Reading: Jill Lepore, Name of War

 

September   3                        A Crisis of Gender and Race in the Backcountry

           

September   8                        Indian Wars and Spiritual Declension

 

Reading:             Rowlandson, Sovereignty and Goodness of God

 

The Stono Rebellion

 

****September 9            Seminar Reading: Mark Smith, ed. Stono; Joanna Brooks,

American Lazarus

 

September 10                        From a Society with Slaves to a Slave Society

            Reading:             Stono Documents (CP)

September 15                        Colonial Slavery in the Wake of Stono           

Reading:             John Marrant (as told to Rev. Aldridge), “The Lord’s Wonderful Dealings…” (CP)

 

Declaring Independence

 

****September 16            Seminar Reading: Holton, Forced Founders; Gibson,

Interpreting the Founding

 

September 17                        Colonial Dissent and the Birth of an American Identity

Reading:             Benjamin Franklin, “The Way to Wealth” and excerpts from The Autobiography (CP); Jefferson, et al “Declaration of Independence” (CP)

 

September 22                        Declaring and Maintaining Independence

            Reading:             Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer

 

 

The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798

 

****September 23            Seminar Reading: Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale

 

September 24                        Establishing the Republic/ Transferring Power

            Reading:             Hamilton and Madison (Publius), Federalist 9, 10, and 51 (CP)

 

September 29                        Balancing Tensions in the New Republic

 

****September 30:   Early National Period Bibliography

 

October 1                        No Lecture: Undergraduate Exam

 

The Morgan Affair and the Rise of Anti-Masonry

 

October 6                        Civic Values in the Expanding Republic

 

****October 7            Seminar Reading: Johnson, A Shopkeeper’s Millenium;

Johnson and Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias

 

October 8                        Religious Revivalism and Democratic Politics

            Reading:             Cooper, Last of the Mohicans

 

The Trail of Tears

 

October 13                        Indian Removal and American National Character

            Reading:            from Binder/Reimers, Cherokee removal documents (CP)

 

****October 14            Seminar Reading: Tiya Miles, Ties that Bind

 

Nat Turner’s Rebellion

 

October 15                         American Slavery/ American Freedom

Reading:            Turner (as told to Gray) “The Confession of Nat Turner” (CP); Walker, excerpt from David Walker’s Appeal (CP)

 

October 20                        The Entrenchment of the Slaveocracy

            Reading:             Garrison, “To the Public” from The Liberator (CP)

 

****October 21            Seminar Reading: Walter Johnson, Soul By Soul

 

 

Gender: a Domestic Crisis

 

October 22                        Women’s Rights and the Cult of Domesticity

            Reading:            from Binder/ Reimers, “Seneca Falls Declaration” (CP);

Temperance songs (CP)

 

October 27                        Antebellum Reform Movements and Women in Public

 

****October 28            Seminar Reading: Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

                                    ***Meet in Center for American History***

                                    Natchez Trace Collection Project Due           

 

October 29:                         No Lecture: Undergraduate Exam

 

 

November 3                        TA Day

 

1848

 

****November 4            Seminar Reading: Reiss, Theaters of Madness

 

November 5                        Guadeloupe Hidalgo and the Politics of National Expansion

 

November 10                         Slavery as a National Issue

            Reading:             Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

                       

A Crisis of Culture: An American Renaissance

 

****November 11            Seminar Reading: Whitman, Leaves of Grass

 

November 12                        High and Low Culture in Antebellum America

            Reading:             Emerson, “The American Scholar” (CP)

 

November 17                        Nature and the American Poet

            Reading:             Whitman, Leaves of Grass 1855 edition

 

John Brown’s Raid

 

****November 18            Seminar Reading: Castronovo, Necro Citizenship

 

November 19                        The Harper’s Ferry Raid and Sectional Tensions

            Reading:             Thoreau, “A Plea for Captain John Brown” (CP)

 

November 24                        John Brown’s Body and the Impending Crisis

 

****November 25            No Seminar…Work on Final Paper

 

November 26                        NO CLASS: THANKSGIVING

 

1863

 

December 1            The Civil War as Turning Point: Technology/Nation/ Emancipation

            Reading:            Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address”

            Reading:             Lincoln, “The Emancipation Proclamation”

 

****December 2            Paper presentations

 

 

December 3:                         No Lecture (Undergraduate Exam)

 

 

 

December 9                        Final Paper DUE

 

AFR 374D • Slavery Across Genres-W

36015 • Fall 2008
Meets MW 3:00PM-4:30PM BUR 228

Please check back for updates.

AMS 390 • Property In American Culture

30140 • Fall 2008
Meets W 10:00AM-1:00PM BUR 436B

Graduate standing required. Permission from instructor required.

AFR 374D • Property In American Culture-W

35785 • Spring 2008
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 228

Please check back for updates.

AMS 390 • Smnr: Race, Law, & Us Society

29902 • Spring 2008
Meets T 9:00AM-12:00PM TNH 3.114

Graduate standing required. Permission from instructor required.

AFR 374D • Slavery Across Genres-W

35275 • Spring 2007
Meets MW 3:00PM-4:30PM CAL 419

Please check back for updates.

AFR 374D • Black Americans & The South-W

34253 • Spring 2006
Meets T 3:30PM-6:30PM UTC 4.120

Please check back for updates.

AMS 390 • Practice Of History

28195 • Fall 2005
Meets W 9:00AM-12:00PM GAR 301

Graduate standing required. Permission from instructor required.

AMS 390 • Paradigms: African Amer Stds

26315 • Spring 2004
Meets M 10:00AM-1:00PM GAR 301

Graduate standing required. Permission from instructor required.

AFR 374E • Amer/France/Prob Of Race-W

32280 • Fall 2003
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM GAR 3

Please check back for updates.

AMS 390 • Paradigms: African Amer Stds

25695 • Spring 2003
Meets M 10:00AM-1:00PM GAR 301

Graduate standing required. Permission from instructor required.

HIS 306N • Intro To American Studies

35155 • Spring 2002
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM UTC 1.132

 

 

Publications


Articles

“Remembering Plessy,” New Orleans: What Can’t Be Lost: 88 Stories and Traditions from the Sacred City, ed. Lee Sophia Barclay (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2010). 

“The Hard Work of Black Play: Charles Chesnutt‟s Conjure Tales and a Counterculture of Incorporation” in “Rethinking Labour and Leisure,” a special issue of Leisure Studies, Vol. 27 No. 4 (October 2008), pp. 411-426. 

“New Orleans,” American History through Literature, 1820-1870: Vol. 2—Harper‟s Ferry to Quakers, edited by Janet Gabler-Hover and Robert Sattelmeyer, pp. 810-814. Detroit:Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006. 

“The Black Press,” Blackwell Companion to African American History ed. Alton Hornsby, pp. 332-345 Cambridge, England: Blackwell, 2005. 

Ah, Toucoutou, Ye Conin Vous: History and Memory in Creole New Orleans,” American  Quarterly, June 2001, Vol. 53 Issue 2, pp 232-366. 

“Past and Present on a Louisiana Landscape,” Race, Poverty, and the Environment,  Winter/Spring 1996, Vol 6, Nos. 2&3, pp.40-42. 

“Black Women in Film,” Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, ed. Darlene Clark Hine, pp. 428-433. Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing Co., 1993. 

Curriculum Vitae


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