Black Perspectives: From Theory to Praxis
This course aims to introduce students to a range of black perspectives on some of the most pressing issues of our time. By black perspectives we do not mean perspectives based solely on identity or community belonging, though many of the authors we will consider identify as black. Rather, we will consider how black history, narratives of black cultural difference, persisting social inequalities, black movements for social justice, and the everyday experiences of black people have shaped, countered, and sometimes transformed mainstream ideologies about issues such as policing and incarceration, education, climate issues, reproductive rights, science and technology, political economy, healthcare, government and politics, among other issues. Conversely, we aim to demonstrate how varying perspectives within black communities have transformed the meaning of blackness.
Given the course’s focus on praxis, we also will explore how black perspectives have been aimed towards actions that improve not only the lives of black people, but also society as a whole. Based on group interests students will choose to expand on the perspectives offered in the course around a particular issue, or they may research a range of black perspectives on an issue of their choosing. Based on these perspectives, students will develop an action plan that will be the basis of their group projects.
Since projects that focus on black communities always involve questions of ethics, the second half of the course will focus on historical and contemporary case studies that require them to reflect on their positions and approaches to various issues in black communities. We will discuss as a group how we might best approach ethical and practical issues that arise in each project, and how to assess the successes and failures of our approaches.
Final presentations and reports will include a synthetic analysis of: 1) how various black perspectives shaped your group’s thinking 2) how your group translated black perspectives into action 3) group reflections on the ethics of their praxis 4) a description of and implementation plan for the group project 5) an assessment of the project outcomes.
Darius Bost (he/him) is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and co-editor of Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. His research focuses in the areas of black cultural studies; feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; and medical humanities. Bost is the author of the award-winning book, Evidence of Being: The Black Gay Cultural Renaissance and the Politics of Violence (University of Chicago Press, 2019). Related research has been published or is forthcoming in Criticism, Frontiers, Journal of American History, Journal of West Indian Literature, Occasion, Palimpsest, Souls, The Black Scholar, and several edited collections. His research has been supported by the Hutchins Center for African And African American Research at Harvard University, the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Social Sciences at Duke University, the President's Office and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at San Francisco State University, the Martin Duberman Visiting Scholars Program at the New York Public Library, and the Provost’s Office at the University of Pennsylvania. Bost’s current book project is an interdisciplinary study of queer photographic practices across the Anglophone black diaspora from the 1970s to the present.
Meligha Garfield (he/him) is the inaugural director for the Black Cultural Center (BCC) at the University of Utah—a center that works to holistically enrich, educate, and advocate for students, faculty, staff and the broader community through Black centered programming, culturally affirming educational initiatives, and retention strategies. Hailing from Rochester, New York, Garfield holds a B.A. in Government, with a minor in colonial Latin American history and Africana studies and a Master of Public Administration from New Mexico State University (NMSU) where he was previously the Programs Coordinator for the Black Programs Department. He has implemented outreach and retention services, served as coordinator and advisor in Black programs, and managed numerous departmental programming and events while at NMSU – many of which he hopes to start at the U. He is also a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated.