University of Utah
Spring 2002
 Audrey Thompson
off. 308C MBH, mailbox 307 MBH
African-American Epistemologies and Pedagogies
off. email:
voicemail: 587-7803
ECS 6623-001 and 7623-001
 home email:
fax: 587-7801
Class meets in 236 OSH, Mondays 4:35-7:35 p.m.
Off. Hrs: M 1:00-4:30 & Th 1:00-5:30
http://www.pauahtun.org/audrey.html
for appt. call 587-7814 (recept.)

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to explore distinctively African-American approaches to knowledge, learning, and teaching. Rather than attempt to address African-American epistemologies and pedagogies comprehensively, the course focuses on some of the ideas and arguments that have received the most attention in philosophy and education. Because the course is designed to address conditions as well as conceptions of knowledge-making, to some extent we will take up African-American history, sociology, and the arts, as well as philosophy and educational theory.

Required Texts:

Molefi Kete Asante, Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1990).

Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990). Or: Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2000).

Lewis R. Gordon, ed., Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy (New York: Routledge, 1997).

Mwalimu J. Shujaa, ed., Too Much Schooling, Too Little Education: A Paradox of Black Life in White Societies (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1994).

Carter Godwin Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1933/1990).

also: Individual Articles on Electronic Reserve (see schedule of readings, below)

Optional Texts:

Jonathon Earle, The Routledge Atlas of African American History (New York: Routledge, 2000).

Copies of the books are on reserve at the University Library and are available for purchase at the University Bookstore. The articles not contained in the books are on electronic reserve.

Course Requirements

Requirements for the course are regular attendance and participation (15%); a project/journal (25%); one medium-length paper (5-7 pages) (25%), and a longer final paper (12-15 pages) (35%). Students enrolled at the 7000 level will be held to a higher standard of performance on the written assignments and will have additional reading assignments (see syllabus).

For the project/journal, students will be asked to focus on some aspect of African-American culture with which they are at present relatively unfamiliar (examples might include novels, poetry, drama, or popular magazines, children’s or YA fiction or poetry, adult or children’s biographies, photography, sculpture, quilts, paintings, dance, historically black religions, blues, jazz, gospel, rap, movies, or television shows). As much as possible, I would like you to immerse yourself in that area to the exclusion of other (especially mainstream) versions of the cultural or art form. For example, if you are concentrating on African-American movies, you should try to avoid other kinds of movies for the time being. My purpose in asking for this exclusivity is to promote the kind of fluency that comes with immersion rather than sampling, comparison, or “translation” approaches. You should choose an area that will engage you and that will not interfere with your other courses. (Don’t choose novels if you’re taking courses that require you to read non-African-American novels, for example.) You will be asked to keep a typed journal in which you record responses to this material and connections with the readings. The journal is to be turned in every two weeks. About fifteen minutes of each class meeting will be set aside to have students talk about their projects (depending on the class size, students will be divided into groups of three or four, with different groups talking about their projects each time). Your final paper may draw upon the journal entries and project materials, but is not required to do so.

A working assumption of the course is that knowledge is embodied, relational, contextual, and structural, political, and abstract. The project is intended to address one dimension of knowledge (embodied and contextual), while the assigned readings are intended to address the abstract, structural, and political dimensions. The course introduces a variety of conceptions of and approaches to knowledge: it is not assumed that one approach is more reliable than others. Each of these approaches relies upon coded practices, traditions, methods and arguments; students will be expected to become familiar with these and to analyze them. Because the relational dimension of knowledge-making will emerge to some extent in classroom interactions, there will be some discussion of fruitful educational working relationships as well as of the readings and projects.

The first paper should focus on a theme that takes up at least three of the readings from the first half of the course, in depth; the paper should discuss the implications of the analyses given for that theme in relation to knowledge or education. For example, you might choose to focus on the implications of standpoint theory for literacy education, or on issues of authenticity in relation to pedagogy or the curriculum. While I encourage you to practice using whichever citation style you expect to be using in your master’s or doctoral thesis (e.g., Chicago or APA), I do not require any formal system of citation. Your written work (including the journal entries) should specify source and page, but as long as these are clear, it is fine with me if you simply indicate the page in a footnote, endnote, or parentheses. For example: “In his critique of Washington, Du Bois argues that ... (40).” Here, it is clear from the context which article by Du Bois is meant. Otherwise, you would need to give a short title or date, unless only one article by that author appears in the syllabus.

The final paper is to be synthetic, bringing to bear interpretive skills from the course (and perhaps from the project) to describe a particular African-American epistemological orientation. You do not need to include any additional readings beyond those assigned in the syllabus; you may, if you choose, refer to readings from outside the course, but the course readings must be foregrounded in the paper. Address at least four of the readings from the latter part of the course in depth, as well as (if pertinent) the material from your project. No set framework is expected. You might choose to undertake a comparison/contrast, for example, or to offer either a critique or an appreciation of some epistemological orientation; you might use a given framework (e.g., Black Nationalism) to better understand the cultural readings/listenings/viewings you have been doing, or vice versa; or you might argue for the political, philosophical or other strengths and limitations of one particular pedagogical approach. Whichever format you choose, your paper should demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the different positions and traditions addressed in the course.
 
 

READING SCHEDULE

Week 1: Mon. 7 Jan.     Introduction

Handouts:
Henry, “Better a Maroon than a Mammy”
Hughes, “Theme for English B”

Week 2: Mon. 14 Jan.     Frederick Douglass on Slavery

Readings:
Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, 34-59
Boxill, “The Fight with Covey,” in Gordon, 273-90
Willett, “A Slave Narrative of Freedom”

Ph. D. students also need to read:
Mills, “Alternative Epistemologies”

Mon. 21 Jan.     Martin Luther King Holiday NO CLASS

Week 3: Mon. 28 Jan.     Education for Freedom

Readings:
Washington, “The Atlanta Exposition Address”
Du Bois, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others”
Wyatt-Brown, “Black Schooling during Reconstruction”
McCluskey, “‘We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible’: Black Women School Founders and Their Mission”
Harris, “Historic Readers for African-American Children (1868-1944): Uncovering and Reclaiming a Tradition of Opposition,” in Shujaa, 143-75

Ph. D. students also need to read:
Anderson, “The Hampton Model of Normal School Industrial Education”

Mon. 4, Mon. 11, Mon. 18, and Mon. 25 Feb.     NO CLASSES  (Olympics break)

Week 4: Mon. 4 March     Mis-Education: The Question of Authenticity

Readings:
Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro (entire book)
Birt, “Existence, Identity, and Liberation,” in Gordon, 205-13

Handout: Pragmatism

Week 5: Mon. 11 March     African-American Pragmatism

Readings:
Locke, “Art or Propaganda?”
Du Bois, “Criteria of Negro Art”
West, “The Limits of Neopragmatism”
West, “Horace Pippin’s Challenge to Art Criticism”
Johnson, “Cornel West as Pragmatist and Existentialist,” in Gordon, 243-61

Electronic handout:  Thompson, “Tips for Writing Scholarly Papers”
This is an Adobe Acrobat file.  Get the Free Acrobat Reader at  Get Acrobat Adobe.

Week 6: Mon. 18 March     Equal Education?

Readings:
Du Bois, “Does the Negro Need Separate Schools?”
Ratteray, “The Search for Access and Content in the Education of African-Americans,” in Shujaa, 123-41
Foster, “Educating for Competence in Community and Culture: Exploring the Views of Exemplary African-American Teachers,” in Shujaa, 221-44

Week 7: Mon. 25 March    Revolutionary and Black Nationalist Approaches

Readings:
Garvey, Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, Pt. I, Ch. 4
Malcolm X, “The Black Revolution”
Akoto, “Notes on an Afrikan-Centered Pedagogy,” in Shujaa, 319-37

Thurs. 28 March

First paper due at 4:30 p.m.

Week 8: Mon. 1 April    Afrocentricity

Readings:
Asante, Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge, pp. 3-40, 43-57, 80-89, 96-98, 102-112, 136-142, [152-158,] 161-163
Shujaa, “Education and Schooling: You Can Have One Without the Other,” in Shujaa, 13-36

Guest lecturer: Dr. William Smith

Week 9: Mon. 8 April     Black Feminist Standpoint Theory

Readings:
Collins, Black Feminist Thought, Preface-Ch. 5
hooks, “Homeplace: A Site of Resistance”
hooks, “Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness”

Ph. D. students also need to read:
James, “Black Feminism: Liberation Limbos and Existence in Gray,” in Gordon, 215-24

Week 10: Mon. 15 April     Black Feminisms

Readings:
Collins, Black Feminist Thought, Ch. 6-Ch. 11
Davis, “Rape, Racism and the Myth of the Black Rapist”

Ph. D. students also need to read:
Huntington, “Fragmentation, Race, and Gender: Building Solidarity in the Postmodern Era,” in Gordon, 185-202

Provisional thesis statement, list of readings to be used in final paper, and brief sentence outline or abstract for final paper are due today, to be discussed in class. Bring four copies.

Week 11: Mon. 22 April     Black Existential Philosophies

Readings:
Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings”
Allen, “On the Reading of Riddles: Rethinking Du Boisian ‘Double Consciousness’,” in Gordon, 49-68
Gonzalez, “Of Property: On ‘Captive’ ‘Bodies,’ Hidden ‘Flesh,’ and Colonization,” in Gordon, 129-33

Good draft of final paper is due Wednesday 24 April (hard copy or email attachment).

Week 12: Mon. 29 April     Epistemology and Education

Readings:
Carew, “Liberalism and the Politics of Emancipation: The Black Experience,” in Gordon, 225-41
Gordon, “Existential Dynamics of Theorizing Black Invisibility,” in Gordon, 69-79
Gordon, “The Necessity of African-American Epistemology for Educational Theory and Practice”

Week 13: Tues. 7 May Final Papers due 5:30 p.m.
 
 

African-American Epistemology and Pedagogy:

De-centering

This course accepts the argument of postmodernists, standpoint theorists, pragmatists, and others that knowledge claims are identifiably “centered” in particular discourses, material forms of experience, and/or structural locations. For example, knowledge claims may be Eurocentric (rooted in European and European-American traditions and values) or Afrocentric (grounded in pan-African traditions and culture), and/or androcentric (referenced to male interests and worldviews) or gynocentric (woman-identified, referenced to female relationships and values); they may assume heteroreality, middle-class culture, and/or written, oral, or deaf culture. The course focuses on de-centering dominant discourses, politics, and culture in order to put distinctively African-American epistemological approaches at the center. Thus, the focus of most of the epistemologies and pedagogies discussed is political rather than multicultural, in that African-American epistemology usually is not treated as simply a parallel approach to knowledge but as potentially challenging dominant epistemologies. While epistemology does not reduce to politics, knowledge claims are regarded as coordered with power relations, rather than simply as relative to situations.

Accordingly, one of the aims of the course is to de-center participants’ cultural and/or embodied experience as well as methods of inquiry. This applies to all participants, regardless of expertise, experience, racial identity, or relationships, since, in a racialized and racist society, all of us participate in the dominant patterns of race-centering, as well as related forms of “centrism,” such as equating blackness with black-maleness. In other words, women are not innocent of androcentricism, African-Americans are not untouched by Eurocentrism, and gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are not automatically immune to heteronormativity or homophobia. The aim of the class is not to achieve “pure” de-centering, of course, but to create a space for specific re-centerings.

One of the requirements of the course, therefore, is that each participant seek to familiarize her- or himself with an area of African-American culture with which s/he is not already closely acquainted. As much as possible, this should mean focusing exclusively on African-American practices and achievements in that area. Some choices may be difficult to focus on in depth either because of a paucity of material (e.g., science fiction by Black authors) or because of the difficulty of local access (e.g., Black plays). In such cases, you may wish to group together 2 or 3 compatible areas under some thematic grouping (e.g., utopian ideals, Harlem Renaissance, or Black women authors). You are welcome to work together on projects, whether that means reading the same novels, for example, or concentrating on different aspects of the Harlem Renaissance. (Journal entries should be individually written, however.) Joint projects may involve pairs or small groups.

A cautionary note: if your project involves spending time in historically Black churches, political organizations, clubs, stores, or other community locales, check to make sure that your presence will not be an intrusion. Many groups welcome sympathetic newcomers/outsiders (including several of the Black churches and the NAACP, for example), but some groups may rely on intimate, community-based involvement and may prefer to restrict outsider access.

Possible Topics for Projects

You should plan on spending between one-and-a-half and three hours a week on actual reading, watching, listening, or participating in connection with your project, and about another hour every two weeks, writing up the journal entry. Since the readings already focus on theoretical questions, your project topic should involve you in cultural, political, and/or historical aspects of African-American experience.

Possible areas of focus include photography, painting and other graphic work (sculpture, folk art, quilts, architecture), music (rap, R & B, gospel, spirituals, blues, jazz, a cappella, or folk music), stage drama, and folk stories. Biography, autobiography, histories, and published diaries are other possibilities (especially in connection with a particular time period or theme, like teaching). Also consider reading current black newspapers and magazines; watching black movies or sitcoms or documentaries; reading African-American literature (novels, plays, short stories, poetry); reading non-fiction written for black children and adolescents; reading black children’s literature (picture books, poetry, and/or novels); focusing on a particular cultural event or period, such as the Harlem Renaissance or the Black Aesthetic movement; focusing on a particular historical period such as Reconstruction or the Civil Rights movement; reading popular genres by black authors (because some genres — such as science fiction and fantasy — may be hard to find many examples of, you may want to combine these with mysteries, romances, and/or bestseller-type novels); participating in historically African-American churches; studying black spirituality in the context of other religious organizations, such as the Quakers, the LDS church, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism; attending local black political events and meetings; studying political discussions as reported in the black newspapers in connection with certain historical events; watching documentaries about particular historical or contemporary figures; watching black dance or performance art; studying African American Vernacular English; listening to and reading African-American comedians; and familiarizing yourself with an area of black popular culture (comics, fashion, dance).

You may also want to consult secondary sources regarding the topic or area you choose, but as much as possible you should gain visceral and preferably firsthand experience of the area you are studying. For example, you should not simply read about African American Vernacular English, but should listen to video and audio tapes that will familiarize you with AAVE, and should try to find contexts in which you are more likely to be exposed to the ordinary use of AAVE. Similarly, you should not simply read commentaries about jazz or gospel but should gain a firsthand acquaintance with the music, at least through listening to recordings and if possible through attending live performances.
 
 

References

Agyei Akoto, “Notes on an Afrikan-Centered Pedagogy,” in Too Much Schooling, Too Little Education: A Paradox of Black Life in White Societies, ed. Mwalimu J. Shujaa (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1994), 319-37.

Ernest Allen, Jr., “On the Reading of Riddles: Rethinking Du Boisian ‘Double Consciousness’,” in Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy, ed. Lewis R. Gordon (New York: Routledge, 1997), 49-68.

James D. Anderson, “The Hampton Model of Normal School Industrial Education,” in The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 33-78.

Molefi Kete Asante, Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1990), 3-40, 43-57, 80-89, 96-98, 102-12, 136-42, [152-58,] 161-63.

Robert Birt, “Existence, Identity, and Liberation,” in Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy, ed. Lewis R. Gordon (New York: Routledge, 1997), 205-14.

Bernard R. Boxill, “The Fight with Covey,” in Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy, ed. Lewis R. Gordon (New York: Routledge, 1997), 273-90.

George Carew, “Liberalism and the Politics of Emancipation: The Black Experience,” in Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy, ed. Lewis R. Gordon (New York: Routledge, 1997), 225-41.

Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990). Or: Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2000).

Angela Y. Davis, “Rape, Racism and the Myth of the Black Rapist,” in Women, Race and Class (New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 1983), 172-201.

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (New York: Dover Publications, 1845/1995), 34-59.

W. E. B. Du Bois, “Criteria of Negro Art,” in W. E. B. Du Bois: A Reader, ed. David Levering Lewis (New York: Henry Holt, 1995), 509-15. (Originally published 1926.)

W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, “Does the Negro Need Separate Schools?” Journal of Negro Education 4, no. 3 (July, 1935): 328-35.

W. E. B. Du Bois, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others,” in The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Vintage/Library of America, 1903/1990), 36-48.

W. E. B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” in The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Vintage/Library of America, 1903/1990), 7-15.

Jonathon Earle, The Routledge Atlas of African American History (New York: Routledge, 2000).

Michele Foster, “Educating for Competence in Community and Culture: Exploring the Views of Exemplary African-American Teachers,” in Too Much Schooling, Too Little Education: A Paradox of Black Life in White Societies, ed. Mwalimu J. Shujaa (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1994), 221-44.

Marcus Garvey, The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, Or, Africa for the Africans, 2nd ed. (2 vols. in 1), compiled by Amy Jacques Garvey (London: Frank Cass & Co., 1967), Pt. I, Ch. 4.

G. M. James Gonzalez, “Of Property: On ‘Captive’ ‘Bodies,’ Hidden ‘Flesh,’ and Colonization,” in Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy, ed. Lewis R. Gordon (New York: Routledge, 1997), 129-33.

Beverly M. Gordon, “The Necessity of African-American Epistemology for Educational Theory and Practice,” Journal of Education 172, no. 3 (1990): 88-106, 190.

Lewis R. Gordon, “Existential Dynamics of Theorizing Black Invisibility,” in Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy, ed. Lewis R. Gordon (New York: Routledge, 1997), 69-79.

Violet J. Harris, “Historic Readers for African-American Children (1868-1944): Uncovering and Reclaiming a Tradition of Opposition,” in Too Much Schooling, Too Little Education: A Paradox of Black Life in White Societies, ed. Mwalimu J. Shujaa (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1994), 143-75.

Annette Henry, “Introduction Revisited: Better a Maroon than a Mammy,” in Gender In/forms Curriculum: From Enrichment to Transformation, ed. Jane Gaskell and John Willinsky (New York: Teachers College Press/OISE Press, 1995), 15-19.

bell hooks, “Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness,” in Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (Boston: South End Press, 1990), 145-53.

bell hooks, “Homeplace: A Site of Resistance,” in Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (Boston: South End Press, 1990), 41-49

Langston Hughes, “Theme for English B,” in The Block, illus. Romare Bearden, ed. Lowery S. Sims and Daisy Murray Voight (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Viking, 1995).

Patricia Huntington, “Fragmentation, Race, and Gender: Building Solidarity in the Postmodern Era,” in Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy, ed. Lewis R. Gordon (New York: Routledge, 1997), 185-202.

Joy Ann James, “Black Feminism: Liberation Limbos and Existence in Gray,” in Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy, ed. Lewis R. Gordon (New York: Routledge, 1997), 215-24.

Clarence Sholé Johnson, “Cornel West as Pragmatist and Existentialist,” in Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy, ed. Lewis R. Gordon (New York: Routledge, 1997), 243-61.

Alain Locke, “Art or Propaganda?” in Voices from the Harlem Renaissance, ed. Nathan Irvin Huggins (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), 312-13.

Audrey Thomas McCluskey, “‘We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible’: Black Women School Founders and Their Mission,” Signs 22, no. 2 (Winter 1997): 403-26.

Charles W. Mills, “Alternative Epistemologies,” in Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), 21-40.

Joan Davis Ratteray, “The Search for Access and Content in the Education of African-Americans,” in Too Much Schooling, Too Little Education: A Paradox of Black Life in White Societies, ed. Mwalimu J. Shujaa (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1994), 123-41.

Mwalimu J. Shujaa, “Education and Schooling: You Can Have One without the Other,” in Too Much Schooling, Too Little Education: A Paradox of Black Life in White Societies, ed. Mwalimu J. Shujaa (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1994), 13-36.

Booker T. Washington, “Atlanta Exposition Address,” in Negro Social and Political Thought, 1850-1920: Representative Texts, ed. Howard Brotz (New York: Basic Books, 1966), 356-59. Originally delivered at the opening of the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, GA (September 18, 1865).

Cornel West, “Horace Pippin’s Challenge to Art Criticism,” in Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America (New York: Routledge, 1993), 55-66.

Cornel West, “The Limits of Neopragmatism,” in Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America (New York: Routledge, 1993), 135-41.

Cynthia Willett, “A Slave Narrative of Freedom,” in Maternal Ethics and Other Slave Moralities (New York: Routledge, 1995), 129-56.

Carter Godwin Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1933/1990).

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, “Black Schooling during Reconstruction,” in The Web of Southern Social Relations: Women, Family, and Education, ed. Walter J. Fraser, Jr., R. Frank Saunders, Jr., and Jon L. Wakelyn (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985), 146-65.

Malcolm X, “The Black Revolution,” in The End of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches by Malcolm X, ed. Benjamin Goodman (New York: Merlin House/Monthly Review Press, 1971), 67-80.


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