[Blackstudies-l] Black Humanities -- new course in the Fall -- please share information with your advisees

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Fri Apr 5 06:17:27 EDT 2019


The course will be taught as HUMN 288 in the Fall, but it has been approved
for GenEd by the core committee as HUMN 222 --and now there are three  ❤.

HUMN 288: Black Humanities

Maria Helena Lima

Fall 2019



“The metaphor of racism as a kind of global political struggle for
territory has often been far more than a mere metaphor.  European
modernity, and the colonial projects that informed and supported it (both
intellectually and materially), can be understood as the effort to purify
the world for whiteness.  The “geography of reason” has always been
understood in racial terms, and colonialism was an effort to establish
Europe and North America at the center of a globe whose organizing
principle was this racialised understanding of rationality.”

            --Michael Monahan, *The Creolising Subject* (2011).

*Course Description:*

HUMN 222 explores the history of Africans and people of African descent
against what Patrick Manning calls the European “tale of modernity” (xv).
Rather than offering a chronological history of specific regions, we will
focus on the interconnections of peoples and belief systems throughout
Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Interdisciplinary at the core, Black
Humanities is the study of moral, social, and political alternatives and
meanings embodied in cultures, epistemologies, and literatures globally.
The course will explore how African diasporic ideas have not only resisted
and/or re-imagined more familiar narratives of Western Civilization but
oftentimes they can also be identified in them.

*Course Requirements:*

A midterm exam                15%

Two analytical essays        35%

Class participation             25%

A final exam                      25%

*Students will*

·         demonstrate knowledge of the contributions of significant Western
thinkers to ongoing intellectual debate about moral, social, and political
alternatives;

·         demonstrate knowledge of the major trends and movements that have
shaped and responded to this debate: e.g., monotheism, humanism, etc.

·         explore the role of African diasporic ideas to the development of
these debates.

·         demonstrate the ability to think critically about moral, social,
and political arguments in the Western intellectual tradition, evaluating
the logic of these arguments and relating them to the historical and
cultural context;

·         consider moral, social, and political issues from an
interdisciplinary perspective.

·         relate the development of Western civilization to that of other
regions of the world.

*    Week One:*

Precisely in order to tell a different story of beginnings, Black
Humanities will start with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s personal journey
through two hundred thousand years of history on the African continent.  A
six-hour documentary, *Africa’s Great Civilizations *tells that history
from a firmly African perspective, a history most people do not know (I
know I didn’t).  Out of the continent on which humanity first emerged have
come repeated bursts of migration.  Even as the great early civilizations
emerged on each of the continents, Africa remained a region of innovation
and interaction.  For example, the Kingdom of Kush, which existed for many
centuries in the Nile Valley, had conquered and ruled Egypt for half a
century (712-664 BCE).  After Alexander and then the Romans gained control
of Egypt, Kush maintained trade and diplomatic relations with Mediterranean
powers.  In the fourth century CE, the Aksum Empire conquered Meroe, the
Kush capital in what is now Sudan, and traded actively with India, Persia,
Egypt and other African regions.  By watching the documentary, we learn
that it was through these trading contacts that Christianity grew in Aksum
(much before European colonization).  Even the term “Africa” was applied by
the Romans to the area now known as Tunisia.  They apparently borrowed it
from the Phoenician term “Afryqah,” meaning “colony.” The Arabic term
“Ifriqiya” indicated the same region.  Gradually the term “Africa” spread,
in various European languages, to encompass the whole continent, ignoring
the multiplicity of histories, ethnicities, languages, and cultures
inhabiting it.



     *Week Two:*

In order to make transparent the epistemologies governing Black Humanities,
we’ll read Sylvia Wynter’s “Unsettling the Coloniality of
Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, after   Man, Its
Over-representation, an Argument” very closely.  Wynter offers a critique
of the European invention of the human by reminding us that colonial
differences were established within Europe (against Muslims and Jews) and
outside of Europe (Africa and the Americas).  The outward colonial
difference projected on enslaved Africans had its own history, for enslaved
Africans were not colonized.  They were enslaved and brought into European
imperial projects (by Portugal, Spain, Holland, France, and England), as
they were already cast out of Christian cosmology. [The justification for
Apartheid in South Africa, you will remember, was that Africans were the
descendants of Ham, Noah’s cursed son, but that’s another story, or is it?].



*Week Three: *

The Modern World and the Triangle Trade

Aphra Behn. *Oroonoko or, the Royal Slave* (1688) -- the first work in the
British literary tradition to grasp the global interactions of the modern
world.



*Week Four*

Seventeenth-century England displayed little political stability.  It
executed one king, experienced a bloody civil war, experimented with
military dictatorship, and finally, after a bloodless revolution,
established constitutional monarchy.  Political stability of sorts came
only in the 1690s.  Locke’s *Second Treatise of Government* can be used to
explain such tumultuous century and how England laid the foundations for
constitutional monarchy in Europe.

     Locke, *Second Treatise of Government *(1690)—read Introduction, “Of
Slavery” and “Of Property”



*Week Five: *The Enlightenment and the American Revolution

      Locke, Chapters IX-XIV and XIX

      American History Documents: Read the Declaration, the Bill of Rights,
and Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

*Africans in the Americas: The Terrible Transformation           *



     *Week Six: *The Enlightenment and the Haitian Revolution

 Selections from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s *Discourse on Inequality
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse_on_Inequality>** (*1754)

 Rousseau and Locke comparison: who decided that property is the mark of
civilization?

 The *Code Noir* (France, 1685)

 We will spend as much time on the Haitian Revolution as on the American
(independence struggles in European colonies) to contrast their outcomes.

 We will read excerpts from C.L.R James’ *The Black Jacobins* (1938), his
history of the Haitian Revolution, to begin to understand the plantation
economy as intrinsically a modern system.  The       transatlantic slave
trade brought about the first mass migrations driven by capitalist
development and the need for a workforce, long before there was a
proletariat or even a working class in Europe.

*Midterm Exam*



*Week Seven: *African Survivals in Slave/African-American Culture in the
U.S.

 Mandingo People’s Praise Song from Sundiata

Griot’s Sermon from Seydou Camara’s Kambili

Griot’s Chant from Rurede’s The Mwindo Epic

Phyllis Wheatley (1753?-1784) – “On Being Brought from Africa to America”
and “To the University of Cambridge, in New England”

     Olaudah Equiano, excerpts from *The Interesting Narrative *(1789)



*Week Nine: *Mid-19th-Century Capitalism and its Consequences

From* The Marx-Engels Reader: “Alienated Labor” (70-81);  “Communist
Manifesto”* (469-500); “Wage, Labor and Capital” (203-17), “Speech at the
Graveside of Karl Marx” (681-2), and “The Origin of the Family” (734-59)

*     A Black Woman’s Odyssey through Russia and Jamaica: the Narrative of
Nancy Prince *(1850)



     *Week 10: *Imperialism as an advanced stage of Capitalism

     Joseph Conrad. *Heart of Darkness *(1902)



     *Week 11: **Négritude*

      Aime Cesaire. *Discourse on Colonialism* (1955) (excerpts)

      Frantz Fanon. *Black Skin, White Masks *(1952) (excerpts)

*Essay I DUE this Week*



     *Week 12*

     W.E.B. DuBois. *The Souls of Black Folk* (1903) (excerpts to
understand double consciousness)

      Langston Hughes. "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"



     *Week 13*

      Joan Anim-Addo. *Imoinda: or She Who Will Lose Her Name *(2001)

*(*The SOA production dvd)



      *Week 14*

       Fred D’Aguiar. “The Last Essay about Slavery.”



* Week 15*

      The Movement for Black Lives: Platform

  https://policy.m4bl.org/platform/

      *Essay II DUE this week*



*      Week 16*

*      Final EXAM*



*Course Rationale:*

The history of Africans and people of African descent lies at the center of
the history of all humanity.  For this reason, the tale of modernity cannot
be told without full attention to their presence and global
interconnections.  Our course focuses on Modernity and the constitution of
the modern ego – the European—that organizes the initial world-system and
places itself at the center of history over and against a periphery that,
we will argue, is equally constitutive of modernity.  The forgetting of
this periphery, which took place from the end of the fifteenth,
Hispanic-Lusitanian century to the beginning of the seventeenth century,
has led great thinkers of the center to commit what decolonial theorists
call the Eurocentric fallacy in understanding modernity.  According to
Enrique Dussel, Kant ("Answering the Question: "What is Enlightenment?"
[1784]) would not have been able to conceptualize the "exit of humanity
...from a state of self-caused immaturity" without the "encounter."  As the
first to leave Europe with official authorization (since, unlike earlier
voyages, his was in no way clandestine), Columbus initiated modernity.
Later with Cortés, the "I-conquistador" forms the proto-history of the
Cartesian ego cogito and constitutes its own subjectivity as
will-to-power.  As to who the "lazy and the cowards" Kant refers to may be,
the "causes which bind the great part of humanity" in what he characterizes
as "this frivolous state of immaturity," Dussel offers the indigenous
peoples in the Americas (and later in Africa).  Latin America, we must not
forget, was the first colony of modern Europe since Europe constituted it
as its first periphery, before Africa and Asia.

       In Dussel's formulation, European Renaissance explorers invented the
Asiatic being of the American continent to leave the three parts of the
world—Europe, Africa, and Asia—intact.  The Asiatic being of these islands
and peoples existed only in the aesthetic and contemplative fantasy of the
"great navigator" and of those who followed him.  As a result, according to
Dussel, the Amerindian disappeared to be replaced by an Asiatic shadow
(Dussel 32).  Whereas canonical modernity gestated in the free, creative
medieval European cities, in Dussel's revisioning it came to birth in
Europe's confrontation with the Other.  By controlling, conquering, and
violating the Other, Europe defined itself as discoverer, conquistador, and
colonizer of an alterity likewise constitutive of modernity.  Modernity is
the result, not the cause, of this occurrence, although the managerial
position of Europe permits it to think of itself as the reflexive
consciousness of world history, and to exult in its values, inventions,
discoveries, technology, and political institutions as its exclusive
achievement.  Even capitalism is the fruit, not the cause, of Europe's
world extension and its centrality in the world-system.  Modernization
initiates an ambiguous course by touting a rationality opposed to
primitive, a process which, according to Dussel, culminates in Descartes'
presentation of the ego cogito.

         By placing Europe at the center of narratives of progress and
civilization and European man as its highest achievement, the Enlightenment
managed to leave Africans outside analytical history, forever requiring
European rescue.  Hegel’s introduction to his *Philosophy of History*
indeed posits an inferior species that, in Michelle Wright’s words, “just
happened to be in need of Western influence when the West just happened to
need that African’s exploited labor, land, and natural resources” the most
(30).  When Hegel explains that the world is ruled by reason, which
functions as the “Infinite Power,” its own “Infinite Material” and
consequently the “Substance” and “Infinite Energy” of the “Universe,”
locating the origins of philosophical thought in ancient Greece, he
determines Europe to be both the birthplace of this method and the only
region capable of producing it.  Reason is produced as synonymous with
European values and standards and, consequently, that which he determines
as irrational is simultaneously characterized as non-European.  As Hegel
writes, “Universal history goes from East to West.  Europe is absolutely
the *end of universal history*.  Asia is the beginning.  Universal history
is the discipline of the indomitable natural will directed toward
universality and subjective liberty” (Hegel 138).  The whole “science” of
the 19th century indeed characterized Africans as “less capable of reason.”
 As Walter Mignolo explains further,

Since the Renaissance the *rhetoric of modernity was and continues to be
built on the logic of coloniality: the denial and disavowal of non-European
local times and spaces and non-European ways of life. * The rhetoric of
modernity was built on the opposition between Christian and non-Christians,
masculine and feminine, white and nonwhite, progress and stagnation,
developed and underdeveloped, First and Second/Third World. […]

When Christians encountered lands and people they did not know and baptized
the people Indians and the land Indies, and when later on in the sixteenth
century the trade of enslaved    Africans  began, it was necessary to
situate the human and humanity in relation to people whom the Bible did not
account for, and in relation to the massive contingents of enslaved
Africans displaced to Indias Occidentales.  If the inhabitants of Indias
Occidentales became *Indians*, enslaved Africans became *Black* and,
therefore, lesser beings in relation to the prototype of the (*White*)
human. (155-56, emphases in the original)





Works Cited



*Africa’s Great Civilizations*, a six-hour documentary with Henry Louis
Gates, Jr.

               *Africans in the Americas: The Terrible Transformation *(PBS
Documentary).

Buck-Morss, Susan. “Hegel and Haiti.” *Critical Inquiry*. Vol 26. No. 4
(Summer 2000): 821-65.

Dussel, Enrique. *The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of 'the Other' and
the Myth of Modernity*. New York: Continuum, 1995

Fischer, Sibylle. Modernity Disavowed: *Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery
in the Age of Revolution*. Duke UP, 2004.

               Hegel, Georg. *Lectures on the Philosophy of World History.
Introduction: Reason in History*. H.B. Nisbet, trans. Cambridge, London:
Cambridge University Press, 1975.

Kant, Immanuel. "What Is Enlightenment? [1784]" *The Philosophy of Kant*.
Ed. with an introduction by Carl J. Friedrich.  New York: The Modern
Library, 1993. 145-53

  Manning, Patrick. *The African Diaspora: A History through Culture*.
Columbia UP, 2009.

  Mignolo, Walter D. & Catherine E. Walsh. *On Decoloniality: Concepts.
Analytics. Praxis*. Duke UP, 2018.

  Monahan, Michael J. *The Creolizing Subject: Race, Reason, and the
Politics of Purity*. New York: New York: Fordham UP, 2011.

    Wright, Michelle M. *Becoming Black: Creating Identity in the African
Diaspora.* Durham & London: Duke UP, 2004.


Maria Helena Lima
Professor
Department of English
Comparative Literature Director
James and Julia Lockhart Professor, 2014-2017
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