Black Lives Matter demonstration event

In 2020, the confluence of a devastating global health pandemic and the grotesque killings of Black civilians catalyzed a national movement and resurgent demands to protect Black life.   

Within the School of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Africana Studies has, since 1969, been devoted to close interdisciplinary analysis of black experience to support the work of social justice both nationally and internationally.  Our courses examine the precise issues underpinning these inter-connected manifestations of the ways that the treatment of Black life is an indicator of the ways that inequality and oppression is structured, but they also help us understand the ways those oppressions have been challenged and dismantled.

The world stands poised to make a definitive break with the legacy of oppression, and Africana Studies stands ready to prepare a new generation to usher in that new world.  As we strive together to realize the transformative potential contained within the pain of the present moment, Africana Studies is today more than ever a vital part of education for all people, not just Black people.

We encourage all students to engage with this work.  Africana Studies is offering the following undergraduate courses for Fall 2020. 

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Overviews & Introduction

01:014:140 Intro to American Cultures (1.5 credits)

Through an examination of narratives of American settlement, pluralism, and national dialogue, the goal of this course is to introduce students to the key cultural debates that have informed American society, both historically and during the contemporary moment. The course discusses the process of identity and cultural construction, and the political struggles that have come out of this process.

01:014:202 What Everyone Should Know About Race

What everyone should know about ‘race’ is an introductory course about ‘race’ in the United States. Literally every person in this country is impacted in some way by what we call ‘race’, many on a daily basis. Yet, this complex, all-consuming, multifaceted, bewildering phenomenon is not at all well understood. The goal of this course is to help students understand ‘race’ by paying attention to the historical, biological, political, social, psychological and economic dimensions, by considering the points of view of important segments of our population, and by exploring the insights provided by relevant theoretical frameworks.

01:014:233 Intro to the Methodology of Africana Studies

This course connects the ways that the philosophical underpinnings of Africana Studies influence which questions we ask, and how.  Africana Studies uncovers the hidden stories of black people and histories through critical and innovative thinking that has developed a range of new investigative techniques. In this course, you will learn to develop and apply those skills through multidisciplinary approaches to the study of Africana materials, original research projects, lectures and introduction to major archival resources.  Additionally, you will learn how to conceptualize and write a research proposal.

Black Communities Around the World/International Contexts

01:014:250 African Diaspora Cultural History [CORE AHp]

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Black Lives Matter protests have emerged in countries around the world, revealing the ways global black experience is interconnected. In this course, we explore those interconnections through culture, which can tell as rich a history of a people as a conventional textbook. Through such cultural expressions as food, comedy, dance and music, we learn about key histories of black people from Africa to the US, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. As you travel virtually through global black culture, you will gain deeper understanding of major historical events that have shaped Africana experience in the modern era. You will learn how political movements of the past and today are inscribed in culture. You will also understand how commonalities connect black people across cultures, despite the particularities that makes each individual black culture unique.

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01:014:265 Afro-Brazilian History [CORE - HST]

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The story of the oldest and largest black community of the Americas helps explain the trajectory of black experience in all American and Caribbean nations, beginning with the root causes of slavery and how race became structured into society, politics and economies. Understanding this history also provides a comparative context for African American history, and helps explain why the realities of African descendants in the Americas/Caribbean are interlinked today. As you gain a deeper understanding of how black people challenged enslavement you will create a character based upon historical background readings and submit a written description about that character. You’ll then go on to plot your own slave revolt using the characters you have created. The course continues with an examination of how black Brazilians shaped their place in South America’s largest economy, and how they have connected their struggles for social justice to human rights struggles around the world. The course incorporates elements of Afro-Brazilian culture like music, dance, and films to deepen your understanding in a virtual excursion to Brazil.

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01:014:301:02 Topics in Africana Studies, Section 2: Race, International Law, and Empire

This seminar critically examines how international law helped establish racial regimes in a global order using an approach known as TWAIL (Third World Approaches to International Law). Topics to be covered include how legal cases involving indigenous peoples laid the foundations for global racial exclusion; the evolution of the principle of self-determination from the League of Nations to the 1970s; abolition and imperialism using Haiti as a primary case study; repressive inclusion in the international order using Ethiopia and Liberia as case studies; Third World revolt featuring the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the American Indian Movement, and the US-based Black Power movement; the neoliberal underbelly of human rights; and laws of war for irregular combat tracing how guerrillas became combatants in the language of law. The class will meet once a week for 3 hours. Grades will be assessed based on class participation, a midterm, and a final paper.

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Black Sociology, Economics & Politics

01:014:207 The Black Male Identity in the US [CORE-CCD]

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Examines historical, sociological, psychological and political factors that influence the identity of black men in the United States.

01:014:306 Black Women in Political Context

Black women have been critical political actors from the time of their ancient roots in Africa to their leadership in the contemporary black lives matter movement. This course explores ancient female leaders in Africa, women's collective resistance in slave communities, and the transformation of black women's political traditions into a powerful organizational ethos in freedom. In this course, you will learn about how survival, resistance, and faith shaped the ways black women redefined power.

01:014:355 Blacks and Economic Structures

This course focuses on the scope and organization of economic activity in the black community. Special attention is given to investments, ownership of capital, and such dynamics as exploitation of the consumer and wage earner.

01:014:362 Black Identity, Religion and Politics

The meshing of black identity, religion and politics has contoured the cultural experience of African Americans in the United States as well as shaped their protest politics. Together, these elements move black political struggle toward spiritual redemption at times, and at other times toward political and social change. This course will analyze the various ways that black leadership -- electoral, religious, and grassroots -- utilize these elements as instruments of empowerment.

01:014:481 The Black Family

Prerequisite: Junior, senior, or graduate standing. Recommended: Previous seminar course work. Consideration of the black family in historical and contemporary contexts: nuclear versus extended families; two-parent and female-headed households; rural and urban environmental effects.

The Black Experience Through Culture

01:014:132 Black Experience and Film Medium

This course analyzes African American achievement in the genre of film, from the earliest days of the silent film to the contemporary moment. We will pay close attention to the political, historical, and artistic contexts of African American representation, participation and creative agency in the motion picture industry. This course provides an opportunity to study some of the most significant films, actors, and directors in African American cultural history.

01:014:301:01 Topics in Africana Studies, section 1: Director Spike Lee

This course will survey the work of Spike Lee through screenings, lectures and group discussions. Students will expand their understanding of the narrative film genre as well as that of storytelling. This course will also examine the use of film as a medium and conduit for change, conversation and understanding. Spike Lee's films, both narrative and non-narrative will be compared and contrasted for their similarities and differences. In addition, students will gain first-hand experience with the film industry thru guest lecturers including actors, filmmakers, casting directors and set designers.

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01:014:304 Afromusicology

Afromusicology explores the evolution of Black music in America beginning with the Ring Shouts and Work Songs of enslaved blacks circa 1619 to the current Hip Hop Era of the 21st Century. This course will examine Africanisms that shaped African American music, culture and oral tradition. Students will recognize the evolution of the Blues, Jazz, R&B, Soul, Funk and Hip-Hop as art forms and their impact as a vehicle and voice for social equality and protest against discrimination and oppression in American society past and present. Within this context, their relevance and impact will be viewed relative to the African American experience, and how Black music has helped to shape and define African American culture in particular and American culture in general.

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01:014:317 Black Profiles in Humor and Entertainment

This course explores the historical role that humor and comedy have played in African American political resistance, cultural history, and creative expression, from the era of Slavery to the contemporary moment. We will examine works from a wide array of genres - including folktales, essays, short stories, Spoken Word poetry, stand-up routines, sketchshows, sitcoms, and films - to understand how comedy can serve as a vehicle for social and political commentary and change. We will study the comedic profiles and works of key Black artists who have distinguished themselves in the fields of humor and entertainment, including: Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Dick Gregory, Moms Mabley, Ishmael Reed, Chester Himes, Isabel Sanford, Sherman Hemsley, Eddie Murphy, Will Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, Wanda Sykes, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Kevin Hart, Mo’Nique, Boots Riley, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Anthony Anderson, to name a few.

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01:014:386 African Americans and Sports

Sports touch our lives unlike almost anything else. Apart from perhaps music, nothing reaches all segments of society simultaneously to the degree that sports do. Both the custodial staff and the board of directors of America’s top companies stop their lives to watch the same Super Bowl. Countries at war order cease-fires during international sports competitions so that their nations can devote complete attention to sports. In 2006, for example, the civil war that had been waged in the Ivory Coast for four years took a hiatus as both sides of the conflict paused to celebrate and support the nation’s national soccer team in World Cup play. The widespread penetration of sports into our lives, regardless of our station, makes sports a unique tool to examine people’s racial, economic, political, and social interactions.

In this course, we will look at the role that sports have played in African Americans ’quest for freedom, equality, and full recognition as human beings in America. We will examine the notion that African Americans ’success on fields of play translates into success in the larger American society. Perhaps most importantly, we will also examine the role race plays in sports and the relationship between capital and labor within the $71 billion American sports industry.

Africana Experience in Science and Technology

01:014:347 Health Issues in the African American Community

Health Issues in the African American Community focuses on the combination of sciences, skills, and beliefs that are directed to the maintenance and improvement of the health of an entire population. This course examines critical health issues impacting the African American Community, which has often suffered from disparities in health care. In addition, it presents the basic knowledge needed to comprehend and interact with the information that continues to be published in this field.  The course exposes the student to the interaction between the citizen, the problems as related to healthcare, and the solution. Attention to practical solutions is an integral part of the process. Students will have the opportunity to shadow ODASIS alumni who are currently practicing physicians, and to teach what they have learned within the class setting.

01:014:380 Blacks in Science

Pre-or corequisite: 01:014:274 or 321.

This course is a broad survey of the contributions of Africans (past and present) to science and technology, and of the roles of science and technology in African communities in the African continent and in the African diaspora. There will be discussions on scientific thinking, the general history of science, the sociology of science, the rise of civilizations, the roles played by Africans in discoveries and technologies, and the influence of science on human values.

Hands-On/Africana in Action

014:286 Mentoring as Public Service

Introduces students to the Rutgers Future Scholars (RFS) program and the basic skills, practices, and ethics of mentoring high school scholars from economically and educationally challenged backgrounds within the New Brunswick and Piscataway community. This course examines contemporary inequalities and barriers to access higher education and initiatives to address educational access. Students will be assigned a group of scholars to mentor throughout the semester on a weekly basis. For more information visit @RFSMentoring on Instagram and visit Prerequisite: By special permission.

014:341 Supervised Community Placement

Supervised study and experience in a black community of the United States, the Caribbean, South America, or Africa.

Seminars, Honors & Original Projects

01:014:490 Seminar in Africana Studies [CORE WCr or WCd]

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This seminar is designed for advanced students of Africana Studies, and is a required course for majors and minors. After having completed most of your coursework in the discipline, the Seminar is your opportunity to explore some of the history and issues you have studied in greater depth, and to develop a research project using the conceptual and methodological tools of the discipline. The semester begins with a review of the core issues of the discipline of Africana Studies.

Seminars are a special kind of course, organized around a theme. The entire class reads about and discusses the theme, and each student will select a topic to write a 20-page research paper that allows you to explore that theme in a specific context. For the Fall 2020 semester students will conduct original research in the field of Africana Studies, exploring the theme of “Black Liberation in a Black Feminist Context” which will explore scholarship by Black women on Black liberation and freedom movements. We will briefly examine the history of resistance movements as well as the contributions of Black women writers, activists and scholars on what resistance and liberation look like. We will be examining the works of scholars such as Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Brittney Cooper, and Kimberlé Crenshaw, among others.

Since this is a certified core course covering the cognitive skills Writing and Communication, in which the culminating assignment in this course is a 20-page research paper, we will also spend time working through the multi-step process of writing a well-researched and well-written paper through assignments and in-class (online) workshops/exercises.

01:014:497 Africana Scholars Project

Twelve-credit departmental honors program in which student develop original interdisciplinary scholarship in Africana Studies. See department website for requirements