WesMaps - Wesleyan University Catalog 2023-2024       Summer Session       Winter Session       Home       Archive       Search
Social Science, Black Life: Wells-Barnett, Du Bois, and Hurston's Empirical Experiments

FGSS 354
Spring 2024
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: SOC 318, AFAM 354
Course Cluster and Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory Certificate

This class has two interrelated areas of focus: first, the racist habits of imag(in)ing blackness's presumed racial-sexual difference that preoccupied social science in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and second, the formative role that social scientific research and methods played in black people's quests for institutional inclusion during this same period. In their early years, canonical sociology and anthropology consistently proved unable to capture the beauty and complexity in black life, instead lending empirical authority to cultural ways of seeing blackness as inherently pathological. A counter-discourse of black expression took shape, attempting to overcome the negative impact that dominant empirical thought might have on black peoples' struggle for normative citizenship. Focusing particularly on the careers of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Zora Neale Hurston, we will explore the contradictory relationship that subsequently emerged between blackness and institutional power--discernible in empiricism's primacy during the long era of postbellum black inclusion. Rather than seeking evidence of black intellectuals' departure from empiricism and its attendant violences, we will explore the messiness of their efforts to experiment with and imagine beyond their misrepresentation and erasure in dominant empirical discourses. Indeed, black artists and intellectuals sometimes recapitulated the violence of empiricist paradigms and their enabling truth claims despite their sound political intentions. In considering the nexus of social science and black life in this period, then, we will also consider the intramural politics of racialized gender, the myriad costs of institutional incorporation, and the stubborn durability of epistemological authority. Secondary texts include works by Hazel Carby, Roderick Ferguson, Kevin Gaines, Julian Go, Avery Gordon, Saidiya Hartman, Katherine McKittrick, Reiland Rabaka, Michel-Rolph Truillot, Autumn Womack, Alexander Weheliye, Sylvia Wynter, and others.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: SBS FGSS
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (CSCT)
Past Enrollment Probability: 90% or above

Last Updated on JUN-13-2024
Contact wesmaps@wesleyan.edu to submit comments or suggestions. Please include a url, course title, faculty name or other page reference in your email ? Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, 06459