On December 19th I attended a panel called Teaching #BlackLivesMatter: Countering the Pedagogies of Anti-Black Racism at the Graduate Center, co-sponsored by Revolutionizing American Studies and the Advanced Research Collaborative. Several faculty members at the Graduate Center and from the area spoke (Kandice Chuh, Eric Lott, Nicole R. Fleetwood, Anthony Alessandrini) and a few GC doctoral students shared their thoughts as well (Laurel Mei Turbin, Kristina Huang, and Sean Kennedy). The GoogleDoc Collaborative Syllabus that started in anticipation of the event provides many ideas/links, including “The Ferguson Theatre Syllabus” from the American Theatre site. Attendees added to both the syllabus and the Live Notes from the session. It is clearly – as the authors of the “Ferguson Theatre Syllabus” point out – a “teaching moment about race and justice.”
Last semester in my composition class we focused on Muslim identity post-9/11, in conjunction with the Beyond Sacred: Unthinking Muslim Identity program at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center. I am the research fellow for the Beyond Sacred grant: students from my fall composition class were recruited for one of the study cohorts, attending performances and panels about Muslim and Arab American identity throughout the semester. We read essays by Moustafa Bayoumi and Falguni Sheth (among others) discussing Islamophobia and how race “works” (drawing on Sheth’s Toward a Political Philosophy of Race), along with plays by Rajiv Joseph, Betty Shamieh, Ayad Akhtar, and Yussef El Guindi. Much of Falguni Sheth’s work – wherein she discusses race as a technology wielded by the sovereign state – can be used as a basis to discuss both African American and Arab American exclusion.
As I’m thinking about my spring composition courses, I want to explore modes of exclusion in the US, speaking to #BlackLivesMatter and tying into Beyond Sacred as well, so that students can link course materials to current protests and LPAC’s program. There are many other texts, topics, and racial/ethnic/cultural groups that could be included, some of which came up during the GC panel – but as I’m working within the confines of a single composition class, I need to be realistic about what we can handle. My favorite forms to teach at the moment are graphic narratives and plays, so they make up the bulk of the reading/viewing/listening list right now. The Teaching #BlackLivesMatter panel and the “Ferguson Theatre Syllabus” were both highly influential, of course.
I hope colleagues will share suggestions/criticisms: I will incorporate any changes made (with shout-outs, naturally) as I continue to develop the course.
Reading/Viewing/Listening List in Development:
Race & Exclusion in the US
Falguni Sheth, excerpts from “Chapter 1: The Technology of Race and the Logics of Exclusion” in Toward a Political Philosophy of Race (SUNY Press, 2009).
Mat Johnson, Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery (Vertigo, 2008). This will provide a bit more historical context.
Michelle Alexander, “Chapter 5: The New Jim Crow” in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New Press, 2010).
Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen, The Exonerated: A Play (Faber & Faber, 2003).
Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations”.
Sheth, “Chapter 4: The Newest Unruly Threat: Muslim Men and Women,” in Toward a Political Philosophy of Race.
Toufic El Rassi, Arab in America (Last Gasp, 2007).
Moustafa Bayoumi, Interview by David Parsons/The Nostalgia Trap, “Who’s Afraid of Islam?”
Yussef El Guindi, Back of the Throat (Dramatist’s Play Service, 2006).