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AFR 209
Introduction to Racial Capitalism Fall 2020 (also offered Spring 2021)
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed AMST 202 / AFR 209

Class Details

The historical relationship between race and capitalism is one of the most enduring debates in U.S. historiography, shaping modes of inquiry and analysis across history, law, economics, sociology, anthropology, and other fields. This course seeks to introduce students to the concept of “racial capitalism”–which rejects treatments of race (and racism) as external to the so-called real workings of capitalism–as a way to understand this relationship and as an activist hermeneutic through which to identify and respond to the conditions that American Studies must reckon with. Students will gain familiarity with the global history of racial capitalism and the power of the concept itself through secondary sources and a wide range of primary sources, and through engaged discussion and short essays. Throughout the course, we will pay special attention to the cultural politics, political geographies, and historical development of racial capitalism, thus attending to how the social relations of racial capitalism have been known, lived, and resisted across time and space. The course is organized around three key themes: the land question; race, capitalism, and nation; and the banalities of racial capitalism. Across these themes, the course will address such issues and topics as North American settler colonialism, circum-Caribbean plantation slave and “Coolie” labor, mass incarceration, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the War on Terror. The course will do so through and against a history of racial capitalism that privileges the U.S. nation-state in particular. By the end of this course, students should be able to: detail and analyze the historical development of and resistance to racial capitalism, doing so in relation to the global itineraries of racial slavery, settler colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy; trace the history of the concept of racial capitalism itself; and identify how the concept continues to shape the field of American Studies.
The Class: Format: seminar; This course is designated as remote. However, international students who want to take this course but need it to be designated as a hybrid course in order to do so may instead register for an independent study with Prof. Ayazi. As a hybrid course, this independent study will have the same requirements as the listed course, with the exception of a limited number of face-to-face meetings in Williamstown or Boston. Please contact Prof. Ayazi at [email protected] to discuss such an arrangement.
Limit: 12
Expected: 12
Class#: 1957
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Evaluation will be based on the following requirements: Class Participation: 25%; Weekly Responses (350-500 words): 25%; Essay 1--First submission (5 pgs): 10%; Essay--Revision (5 pgs): 10%; Essay 2 (5 pgs): 15%; Essay 3 (5 pgs): 15%. Class will meet twice per week. Tu. meetings will be asynchronous and Th. meetings will be synchronous. Asynchronous components of the course include pre-recorded lectures, discussion boards, and other exercises that promote as much connection as possible within the constraints of remote education. Toward this end, synchronous meetings will center engaged discussion in small groups and as a class.
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: American Studies majors, students specializing in Native American and Indigenous Studies, Africana majors, History majors
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
AMST 202 Division II AFR 209 Division II
WS Notes: Emphasis on writing process and revision: Three thesis papers at 5 pages each (each receiving critical feedback from professor and peers); one keyword glossary where students develop rigorous definitions of course key terms; one roundtable discussion based on the final paper.
DPE Notes: Throughout, the course addresses the issues of difference, power, and equity amongst groups and the nature of the theoretical tools or perspectives used to understand these issues. It does so familiarizing students with "racial capitalism" as both a way of understanding the historical relationship between race and capitalism, and as an activist hermeneutic to respond to the conditions that American Studies and other fields must reckon with in the present.

Class Grid

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