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The Black Charismatic

AFAM 314
Spring 2025
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: FGSS 313, RELI 323
Course Cluster and Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory Certificate

In this course we will explore the interplay between black politics and popular culture in the post-civil rights era. More specifically, we will examine the aesthetics of affective (commonly called "charismatic") black political leadership by attending to Tavis Smiley's yearly "State of the Black Union" address, 2000-2010. We will rely almost entirely on film, video, and digital archives in order to trace the eleven-year-long evolution of Smiley's annual event, while focusing our hermeneutic attention on the racialized and gendered performances of Louis Farrakhan, Michael Eric Dyson, Cornel West, and others. Through close readings of their televised performances, then, this course will require students to think and write about the practice and rhetoric of the black charismatic. How might the black charismatic threaten to undermine the political opportunities afforded by the success of the modern civil rights movement? How did Smiley's yearly event create the illusion of a black public sphere? What are the unintended consequences of substituting affect for political action? Similarly, what are the potential perils of a politics that results in ephemeral catharsis without dangerous political consequences? While participating in the general discussion across the semester, students will be searching out specific research topics of their own, topics relating the seminar conversation to original research questions about: the new liberalism of black politics; the crisis of the black public intellectual; the importance of technology (particularly the ways in which new media have changed, even upended the political habitus itself); and the relationship between gender (particularly black masculinity), charismatic leadership, and respectability politics. Authors will include (in no particular order): Adolph Reed, Richard Iton, Hazel Carby, Hortense Spillers, Houston Baker, Erica Edwards, Melissa Harris-Perry, and others.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA CHUM
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (AFAM-MN)(AFAM)(RELI-MN)
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on JUL-22-2024
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