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AFR 390
Race, Identity, Nature Fall 2020 (also offered Spring 2021)
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed ENVI 430 / AFR 390 / AMST 430

Class Details

From 18th-century claims that climate determined character to the 21st-century proliferation of DNA tests underwriting claims to Indigenous ancestry, race, colonialism, identity, and “nature” operate as interconnected terrains of power. Anchored in the contexts of U.S. colonialisms, racialization, and accumulation, this course aims to expose students to the cultural politics of “nature” as a way of “doing” American Studies. Specifically, this course investigates formations of and struggles against U.S. colonialisms, racialization, and accumulation via the many symbolic and material iterations, negotiations, and contestations of the contingent relations between and among human and non-human natures. Organized around a significant research paper and weekly written responses, this course ultimately aims to foster students’ critical writing, reading, analytical thinking, and comparative inquiry skills across such contexts and sites of contestation, and across texts of different genres and media. We will work with a wide range of primary sources, including published fiction and poetry, legal documents, newspaper articles, speeches, recorded songs, and films, photos, paintings and other visual culture. By the end of this course, students should be able to describe the historical foundations of dominant ideas, attitudes, and practices toward non-human natures, as well as analyze how ideas of “nature” mediate the ways in which colonial, racial, gender, and sexual categories and structures inform and are (re)produced by U.S. institutions and in public areas such as the law, public policy, and property. Finally, students should be able to interpret how racialized and colonized peoples’ visions, representations, and practices of liberation with regard to relations with non-human natures and the materiality of land precede, contend with, and exceed normative political, economic, and social categories of governance and systems of dispossession and exploitation.
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#: 1970
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Evaluation will be based upon the following: Class Participation: 25%; Weekly Responses (350-500 words): 25%; Final Research Essay: 50%, broken down by Research Proposal (2-3 pgs, 10%), Peer Review and Feedback (2 pgs, 10%), Presentation (10%); Essay (15 pgs): 20%. Class will meet twice per week. Tu. meetings will be synchronous and Th. meetings will be asynchronous. 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.
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: American Studies majors will be given preference; secondary preference given to students specializing in Native American and Indigenous Studies, as well as Africana and Environmental Studies majors.
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENVI 430 Division II AFR 390 Division II AMST 430 Division II
WS Notes: Emphasis on revision and writing process includes: One thesis paper at 15 pages (receiving critical feedback from professor and peers); one thesis paper revision with critical feedback from professor and peers, including one letter of revision explaining the student's revision process; one research proposal (including thesis outline and annotated bibliography of primary texts) with critical feedback from professor; student presentations and roundtable discussion based on the final paper.
DPE Notes: By the end of this course, students should be able to interpret how racialized and colonized peoples' visions, representations, and practices of liberation with regard to relations with non-human natures and the materiality of land precede, contend with, and exceed normative political, economic, and social categories of governance and systems of dispossession and exploitation. In order to addresses such issues of difference, power, and equity, this course provides students with the necessary th

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