Brown, Black, and Blue: Queer of Color Critiques of Policing and Prisons (GSS 435)
The United States incarcerates its citizens at a higher rate than any country on earth. Although it comprises only 5% of the world’s population, it is home to 25% of the world’s prisoners-a population that is disproportionately black, Latino, transgender, and queer. This course begins by asking why and how racial, sexual, and gender minorities have historically been criminalized and targeted for state surveillance. We will explore the social framing of crime and criminality through examples like COINTELPRO, police raids on gay bars, the War on Drugs, the school-to-prison pipeline, the birth of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the prohibition of sex work, and the militarization of police forces. Finally, we will examine the burgeoning prison abolition movement led by queer and trans people of color and investigate alternatives to the carceral state such as restorative justice and community anti-violence projects. This course will be conducted entirely online with synchronous and asynchronous components and will feature regular guest visits from scholars, formerly incarcerated people, and community activists.
The Deep South (SOC 235)
In the late ninetieth and early twentieth century, sociologists of the south produced important politically relevant research about life in the region. These include Anna Julia Cooper’s A Voice From the South, W. E. B. DuBois’ Atlanta University Studies, Howard Odum’s Southern Regions of the United States, Hortense Powdermaker’s After Freedom, and Charles Johnson’s Shadow of the Plantation. Sociology about the south has not completely disappeared, but the region has not captured much attention in recent works. As southern sociologist Larry J. Griffin describes, “Under the guise of research on collective action and social movements, social inequality, violence and criminality, social conflict, and race relations, sociology in the South flourishes, while sociology of the South … has withered for almost fifty years” (Griffin 2001:53). Often, the few sociologies in the south are historical ones more concerned with understanding Jim Crow and Civil Right eras than with contemporary life. In this class, we read these early sociological works about the region and compare them with a new but growing body of works about the contemporary south.
Bodies at Risk in American Drama (ENG 262)
In the first two decades of the 21st century, human existence has been made more precarious by racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia; war and conflict; global warming; health inequities; and widening social and economic disparities. Contemporary American playwrights have held up a powerful mirror to such inequities, and deployed the real bodies of actors to bring to light the stories of those whose very existence has been placed at risk. In so doing, they do not simply reify simplistic stories of either victimhood or inspirational overcoming. Rather, they assert these stories as a fundamental part of American identity, taking a more complex, nuanced look at what it means to navigate systemic inequity while asserting identity, integrity, and dignity. In this course, we will look at plays from the last two decades of American drama that take inequity and its aftereffects as their main concern. The plays we read take up issues including gender transition; the school-to-prison pipeline; bullying; the institutionalization of disabled people; the immigrant experience, especially that of women; the erasure of people of color; the effects of the loss of heavy industry in rural America; and the lack of universal health care. How does the stage invite us to debate the ethical questions at the heart of such inequities? How does drama not only invite our empathy, but spur us toward the deeper understanding of experiences different from our own that might result in meaningful systemic change?
#MeToo: Speaking Sexual Violence (Writing 101)
This course examines the rhetoric of #MeToo, the most recent iteration of the movement against gender-based violence, in the context of earlier representations of sexual harassment and assault. We will begin by studying recent historical flashpoints in the national dialogue about sexual abuse, including the Anita Hill hearings (1991); David Mamet’s controversial play Oleanna (1992); President Bill Clinton’s impeachment (1998); the Boston Globe’s exposé on the Catholic Church (2002). Approaching #MeToo as a genre of storytelling still taking shape, we will uncover emerging tropes and patterns in the narration of experiences of sexual abuse, in media portrayals thereof, and in the critical backlash. Based on our investigations, we will attempt to answer the questions, “Whose and what kinds of stories of sexual violence are likeliest to capture a national audience? Whose and what kinds are likeliest to be silenced or ignored, and why?” Our rhetorical analyses will follow the method advanced in David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen’s Writing Analytically. The first assignment asks students to analyze the organizing themes and contrasts of a popularly circulated #MeToo story of their choosing. In the second, we will uncover assumptions about who and what constitutes an “ideal victim” in our class readings. The third assignment asks students to use a theoretical text on narratives of sexual abuse as a lens through which to interpret characters’ actions and motivations in a fictional work on the topic. For their final project, students will perform close textual analyses of interviews with women faculty about their experiences of workplace sexual harassment and situate them with respect to the narrative priorities, possibilities, and limitations we have identified as shaping the broader movement.