Pedantic @ Penn

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Scan through any college catalogue and you will find courses that are painfully obvious, at best, and trivial, at least. See how you would rate the following classes at Penn:

084. (ENGL084) Theories of Race and Ethnicity. (M) Staff. The idea of “race” — broadly defined as the signification of biological and socio-cultural differences as an index of human superiority or inferiority — has played a crucial role in the literary imagination and is fundamental to studying most literatures in English. This course will examine representations of race in literary practices, and in particular the centrality of such representations to the historical unfolding of communities and nations. How do ideas of race inform and engage with literary forms and genres in a given historical moment, and how does literature in turn address the histories and legacies of racist practices? We will also analyze the connections between questions of race and questions of “ethnicity”: what, for instance, is the history of this concept, and what does it mean to designate a body of imaginative writing as an “ethnic literature?” See the Africana Studies Program’s website at for a description of the current offerings.

L/R 087. (SAST063) East&West: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Cultural History of the Modern World. (C)Humanities & Social Science Sector. Class of 2010 & beyond. Mitchell. Sugar and Spices. Tea and Coffee. Opium and Cocaine. Hop aboard the Indian Ocean dhows, Chinese junks, Dutch schooners, and British and American clipper ships that made possible the rise of global capitalism, new colonial relationships, and the intensified forms of cultural change. How have the desires to possess and consume particular commodities shaped cultures and the course of modern history? This class introduces students to the cultural history of the modern world through an interdisciplinary analysis of connections between East and West, South and North. Following the circulation of commodities and the development of modern capitalism, the course examines the impact of global exchange on interactions and relationships between regions, nations, cultures, and peoples and the influences on cultural practices and meanings. The role of slavery and labor migrations, colonial and imperial relations, and struggles for economic and political independence are also considered. Recitation will not meet every week. Lecture sessions will be shortened those weeks that recitations are held.

SM 150. (AFRC153, ANTH150) Black Queer Studies: A Diasporic Approach. (M) Staff. Black Queer Studies. This interdisciplinary course explores over two decades of work produced by and about black queer subjects throughout the circum-Atlantic world. While providing an introduction to various artists and intellectuals of the black queer diaspora, this seminar examines the distinct socio-cultural, historical and geographical contexts in which “black queerness” as a concept is embraced or contested. We will interrogate the transnational and transcultural mobility of specific aesthetics as well as racial and sexual identity categories more broadly using ethnography, poetry, painting, film, photography and literature. Our aim is to use the prism of artistry to highlight the dynamic relationship between African Diaspora Studies and Queer Studies.

SM 434. (ANTH434) The Politics of Ugly. (M) Carelock. Venus was the God of Beauty and Love yet she was married to Hephaestus, the mangled, grumpy and for all intents and purposes, ugly god. Why juxtapose such distinct figures? Are they doing the same job? The course discusses the interplay between ugliness and politics with focus on a number of central concepts such as race, social conflict, nationalism, ideology, dictatorship, propaganda and autonomy. Emphasis is put on the double role of the deployment of ugliness, as reinforcement of ideological and political ideas and as a force of social criticism. How does the state justify its own existence by the use of aesthetic narratives? How does the State identify undesirables? This class highlights how groups who feel somatically alike behave, and how their boundaries form and change over time. The focus will be interdisciplinary and multi-national, with case studies from past and present. The class will have a digital media focus as we will delve into issues of representation particularly with respect to race. For example, we will delve into the aesthetic discussion of northern and southern Sudanese as well as Hitler’s Germany.


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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