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Race, Nation, and Narrative

Semester and Year SP 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG1307
Section 001
Instructor George Shulman
Days R
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SOC


Open to sophomores and juniors only.


This course uses social analysis, political speeches, and fiction to explore the relation of race-making, nation-building, and story-telling in the case of the United States. Our broadest premise is that collective subjects (nations, peoples, classes, religions, races) are formed and reformed thorugh narratives and collective action. Our specific premise is that "American" nationhood has been formed by racial domination and opposition to it, as represented in contesting narratives. Our goal is two-fold: to assess racialized nationalism in its historic and recent iterations, but also to assess how it is contested differently by scholarly treatises, political speeches, and works of literary and cinematic invention. Part one uses social analysis to explore the intersections entwining settler colonialism, chattel slavery, and immigration restriction, in forming American society and an imagined ("American") national community. the practice and meaning of democracy has been set by white supremacy in each regard, but democracy has also been enlarged and remade by social movements and counter-narratives that re-conceive the meaning of both race and nation. Part Two thus uses speeches by activists to clarify the debates in the civil rights era about the goals, means and stories that define effective social change. Part Three compares how fictions in literature and film represent the relation of race, nation, and democratic possibility. Authors include James Baldwin, Toni Morrisoon, Colson Whitehead, Claudia Rankine. Theorists include Michael Rogin, Audra Simpson, Mae Ngai, Hortense Spillers, Saidiyah Hartman, Frank Wilderson, Fred Moten. Films include Bamboozled, GET OUT, and Black Panther.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)