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Raced Space

ENGL 770.401
instructor(s):

This seminar is concerned with spatial and racial constructions.  Experience occurs within a place, yet social theory has often lacked the inclusion of space.  In the last decades of the twentieth century, however, new geographers advocated strongly for integrating space into the formulation of social theories because to separate spatial processes from social processes defies the logic of understanding that phenomena occur in a specified or given place.  Currently, spatial parameters or boundaries of experience are increasingly mapped by scholars whose theoretical concerns range from postmodernism and global feminism to the body and prisons. Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, David Harvey, Doreen Massey, Edward Soja, Daphne Spain, Yi-Fu Tuan, and Linda McDowell, for example, form a partial list of those who have argued for a spatial hermeneutic.  The feminist geographers writing in Nancy Duncan’s Bodyspace, for instance, have insisted on including the human body as the subject of geographical knowledge, and the body has become one of the key spaces in postmodern readings of place.

But what of race?  How do we interrogate the relationships between race, racial conditions and space (whether bodily, global, or textual)?  Focusing on the social geography that makes exclusion and containment acceptable, we will examine the normalizing of restrictive legal practices and social controls that produced a specific system of race-based identity and social relations in the United States, in particular in the American South.   How do regulatory boundaries delimit not merely access to space, but also subject formation and agency?  Are geographical claims implicit in the transgression of legal attempts at racial exclusion and similar practices of power and privilege? 

Readings include social geographers, legal cases, the Black Public Sphere Collective; and literary and social theorists.  Primary texts selected from Toni Morrison, A Mercy; William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!; Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition; Langston Hughes, Scottsboro Limited;  Ernest Gaines, A Lesson before Dying;Aishah Rahman, Unfinished Woman Cry in No Man’s Land While a Bird Dies in a Gilded Cage; Amiri Baraka, Dutchman; Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog;Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist; Edwidge Danticat, The Farming of Bones; Natasha Trethewey, Bellocq’s Ophelia; Fannie Hurst, Imitation of Life;Nella Larsen, Passing;Olympia Vernon, Eden;Richard Wright, Eight Men; Randall Kenan, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead; Yusef Kumunyakaa, Magic City.

Undergraduates are not permitted to take 700-level courses.