Questioning for the Common Good
In this Foundation Seminar, we will consider what it means to think, write, and discuss critically ideas and activities related to issues of social justice.
Thinking critically means questioning the way things are done, in order to improve them. Writing critically is a way to clarify our thinking and communicate it to others. Discussing our ideas and actions helps us all to learn from each other in ways that enrich our thinking, communication, and action. We will discuss a range of social justice issues, including racism, classism, sexism, and ableism.
Movement(s) for Black Lives
This course serves an introduction to the history of black freedom struggles, with particular attention to intellectual currents, organizational formations, and mass political movements. The course will focus on Civil Rights and Black Power movements, African and Caribbean anticolonial movements, and more recent movements for Black lives. Detailed attention will be given to issues of (non)violence, justice, punishment, inequality, redemption, transformation, and transcendence.
Through course readings, discussions, and films students will increase their capacity to analyze, evaluate, and interpret the banality of structural violence so as to create an informed foundation from which to respond, rather than react. The course will engage an ensemble of complex and crucial questions about black life such as, What is freedom? What does it mean to suffer? How have Black people globally thought (and dreamt) about freedom? Is there a dissimilarity between liberation and freedom? How have black thinkers engaged concepts such as justice and human rights?
The Civil Rights Movement on Stage
How should a young person fight injustice? Is it possible to change the hearts and minds of people in power? Is it better to work with the grass-roots, with those who have been denied justice? What's the use of mass mobilization, such as a big march or protest rally? Does social change happen in sudden leaps and bounds? Or does it happen gradually over time, in small, invisible acts of resistance that oppressed people perform every day? Is it really possible to change the system? How?
Many such questions confronted idealistic young African Americans in the 1950s and 60s, a period of fiery political and social movement and immense creativity. Examining the theatre and performance arts of the era, our course will introduce students to the history of the Civil Rights era. We will study how this transformative moment of history appeared from the vantage point of the American stage — a place which had once created ugly racist images, but where such images were now demolished and reconceptualized.