AFR 145
Black Mathematics: The Power of Revolutionary Numbers Spring 2024
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed STS 145 / AFR 145

Class Details

The power of numbers is undeniable. Numbers can be used to illuminate, obscure or oppress. Numbers are not only symbols in the strictest sense, but are powerful representations that have considerable impact on institutions, policy, the real world and our lives. Data are said to be the “Black gold” of the 21st century. By use of human, economic, political and social indicators and metrics Western scientists, statisticians, governments and powerful actors have promoted liberalism, militarism and capitalism, which often dehumanized the racialized ‘Other’. Various techniques in social sciences like forecasting, statistics, quantification, predicting, modeling all rely heavily on numbers or their manipulation/interpretation. But what social and economic goals and who do statistics serve? What ideologies underpin these numbers about Black people/communities? What is the significance of numbers to Black life? To what purpose have numbers been put in the furtherance of Black liberation? This course addresses these questions and the different uses to which numbers have been put by Black revolutionaries and communities. Black activists, scholars and communities have questioned how statistics are formulated, used and their Eurocentric basis as well as their limited ability to accurately reflect the Black world. We delve an alternative Black philosophy, specifically how Black people have historically used/defied/circumvented the numbers game. We will study and historically trace the invention of statistics, and how Black people, organizations and communities have utilized numbers to resist oppression, shape movements and direct emancipatory efforts. From Ida B Wells, to W. E. B. du Bois, Claudia Jones and Eric Williams, using numbers differently, has pushed back against oppression, reinterpreted history and spurred social and political change.
The Class: Format: seminar/laboratory
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3586
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Attendance and Participation (20%); Themed visual infographic/design (25%); Critical numbers/data analysis paper (30%); Case study/peer review exercise (25%)
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: If over-enrolled, preference to AFR majors/concentrators.
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
STS 145 Division II AFR 145 Division II
DPE Notes: Students will be guided through the history and alternative use of numbers to understand how they came to constitute powerful tools that have brought about systemic inequality and liberation. They will gain an appreciation of how these tools have been used and manipulated both by powerful historical actors, and oppressed groups and emerging figures acting towards emancipatory purposes.
Attributes: AFR Theories, Methods, and Poetics

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