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360° Cluster: Poetics and Politics of Race (Fall 2016)

Anne Dalke's picture


 A cluster of three courses in a 360° aiming to unpack how meaning is made from representations of race—from artifacts in an anthropological context, to representations in literature, to how people teach and learn. We will interrogate racial constructions – including the black-white binary – through an investigation of how different cultural practices play out and play into one another.

How do anthropological exhibitions both reify and resist conventional racial categories?  How do classical American literary texts represent racial intersection?  How might contemporary educators recognize and work with issues of race, difference, and power in what and how we teach? Building on these understandings, how might we create constructive and critical new contemporary meanings of difference?   We will try answering these questions by working together to curate alternative articulations in and for the city of Philadelphia and the Bryn Mawr campus.

To be considered for this 360°, students must have preregistered and submitted a questionnaire.


  • EDUC 208: Race-ing Education (Jody Cohen, Tuesday/Thursday, 12:55-2:15 p.m.) This course investigates education as part of processes of racialization and marginalization and also as a space for challenging these processes. How do race and schooling intersect and interact?  With a focus on the U.S., we look at ways in which race as a way of creating power is embedded in earlier iterations of schooling, and how race is taken up in the work of such thinkers/educators as James Baldwin and Paulo Freire.  We consider how such issues play out in the contemporary moment through affirmative action, critical race theory, and decolonizing education, and in movements such as Black Lives Matter. We also consider Bryn Mawr’s own history, in light of how to move forward through critically engaged education.

  • ENGL 208: Big Books of American Literature: Revising Racial Fictions (Anne Dalke, Tuesday/Thursday, 2:25-3:45 p.m.) In this course, we will re-view the canon of American literature through the lenses of contemporary theory and culture, considering American literature as an institutional apparatus, under debate and by no means settled. This will involve a certain amount of anti-disciplinary work: interrogating books as naturalized objects, asking how they reproduce conventional categories, and how we might re-imagine the cultural work they perform. We will look at the problems of exceptionalism as we examine traditional texts relationally, comparatively, and interactively.

  • HART 279: Exhibiting Africa: Art, Artifact, and New Articulations (Monique Scott, classes Wednesday 2:00-4:00 p.m.; field work Friday 1:00-3:00 p.m.) Both museum exhibits and “living” world’s fair exhibitions have long been deeply embedded in politics, including the persistent “othering” of African people as savages or primitives. At the turn of the 20th century, the Victorian natural history museum and its anthropological science played an important role in disseminating and authorizing images of Africa to the Western public. While paying attention to stereotypical tropes about Africa, we will also consider how museum representations are changing and how some new works are creating complex, challenging ways of understanding African identities.

    Field component:
    Each Friday during the first half of the semester, we will travel to visit a museum collection:
    9/2 Bryn Mawr Special Collections, guided by Carrie Robbins, Curator and Academic Liaison for the Art and Artifact Collections
    9/9 "Creative Africa," Philadelphia Museum of Art
    9/16 University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
    9/23 "Creative Africa," redux
    9/30 Museum of African American History and Culture (in Washington, D.C.)
    10/7 Barnes Foundation
    Drawing on these learning experiences, students will spend Friday afternoons during the second half of the semester curating their own exhibition of art and artifacts from the Bryn Mawr Special Collections, which will go on display in Canaday Library at the semester's end.


khinchey's picture

I wish I could take this!! Awesome!