HIST 159
Crossing the Color Line: A History of Passing Fall 2022
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed AFR 159 / HIST 159
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

In June 2015, Rachel Dolezal emerged as a media spectacle and the subject of national scrutiny after her white parents stated publicly that Dolezal is a white woman passing as black. Their insistence that Dolezal is white came in the wake of her reports to local news media and police that she had been the victim of several hate crimes. To critics, Dolezal is a fraud who has committed cultural appropriation. Yet, for her supporters, Dolezal’s racial identification as a black woman is authentic and indisputable, since race is not based on biology but rather is a social construction. For both groups as well as impartial observers, many wondered curiously why a white woman had chosen to pass as black, especially given that historically it has been African Americans who opted to become white. Inspired by the controversy surrounding Dolezal, this tutorial will explore the history of passing in the United States. Whereas our attention will primarily be focused on black-to-white passing, we will expand our understandings of passing by emphasizing the variety of ways that identities have been shaped through the crossing of boundaries–class, ethnic, gender, intellectual, political, religious, and sexual. To accomplish our goals, we will read and cross-examine fictional and nonfictional as well as primary and secondary historical accounts of boundary-crossers. We will also screen several films that engage the theme of passing.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1377
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Weekly formal response papers and written critiques.
Prerequisites: None.
Enrollment Preferences: First and second-year students will be prioritized, followed by history majors. Should the course be overenrolled, students will be asked to complete an enrollment questionnaire.
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
AFR 159 Division II HIST 159 Division II
WS Notes: Students will be required to complete formal writing assignments each week, alternating between response papers (4 pages) and written critiques (2-pages) of their peers' work. Students will receive substantial feedback on their writing skills, with verbal and written suggestions for improvement. Students also will receive feedback from their tutorial partners.
DPE Notes: Narratives of racial passing provocatively raise questions about the construction, logics, reinforcement, and subversion of racial categories and identities. Tutorial students will have the opportunity to deconstruct the meanings of race and identity in addition to thinking culturally, historically, and ontologically about the implications and value of these constructs. In essence, we will theorize racial identity, reconsidering, if not challenging, its stable notions of identic intelligibility.
Attributes: HIST Group F Electives - U.S. + Canada

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