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Race, Space, and Law in the 19th Century U.S.

ENGL 293.301
instructor(s):
MW 3-4:30

This course will explore the relationship in the nineteenth-century between the emergence of discourses of racial identity and national space. How were different populations legally categorized as nonwhite? What role did ideologies of racial difference play in defining the boundaries of the U.S.? How did affected populations recognize and challenge institutionalized racism and imperial policy? How did those defined as racially "other" narrate their own identities and geographies? We will address these questions by focusing on the writings and changing legal status of African Americans, Native Americans, and Mexican Americans, specifically attending to the following: the relation between slavery and American citizenship; indigenous peoples' assertions of sovereignty; and the consequences of the American annexation of Mexican territory. In considering these issues, we will discuss both the particular strategies adopted in texts by members of these groups and the effect of limited literacy in English on the shape and content of oppositional writing. In addition to literary texts such as novels and memoirs, we will be reading relevant case-law, examining and interpreting the structures and workings of legal language, as well as some examples of contemporary critical race theory. Authors may include Harriet Jacobs, Frank L. Webb, Juan Sequ�n, Mar�a Amparo Ru�z de Burton, Antonio Mar�a Osio, Elias Boudinot, William Apess, John Rollin Ridge, Nancy Ward, and Sarah Winnemucca.

Requirements will include two essays and several 1-2 page close readings of legal texts.