Jonathan E Murr
Examines different subjects or problems from an interdisciplinary framework.
This course is intended to introduce you to some of the ways "cultural studies" is practiced (and contested) as an interdisciplinary form of knowledge production. Rather than attempting to nail down a fixed definition of this notoriously complex field, we will familiarize ourselves with some key theories, methods and practices that emerge from thinkers associated with the "Birmingham School" (such as Stuart Hall and Raymond Williams) and from some anti-racist, marxist and feminist practitioners working in the US. These thinkers will give us a working set of terms for talking about culture, race and racism, and a framework for engaging with the politics of racial violence in the past and present of the United States. Instead of just focusing on the violence we encounter every day in popular culture—in films, music, TV, video games, etc.—we will try to think critically about forms of "systemic" violence. Specifically, we will focus on specific, ongoing histories of anti-black violence (and related forms of racialized and gendered violence) in the US, and we will ask what it means in our allegedly "post-racial" or "colorblind" moment that peoples' basic life chances continue to be produced along the lines of race, gender, sexuality and class.
We will understand "culture" as the site in which violences are lived (or experienced), represented and always struggled over, so our primary task will be to explore the work of cultural texts and cultural politics in helping to create and contest the violences of our present. This will involve focusing on cultural texts themselves and cultural studies scholarship from a variety of disciplines, including History, Anthropology, Sociology, Geography and Ethnic Studies. It will also involve interacting with local cultural workers, such as hip hop artist Sol, each of whom will visit our class for a week, presenting and discussing their own work and talking with us about course readings and themes. These cultural workers will provide perspectives from Seattle communities expressed through cultural work and reflective of many of the larger concerns of our course.
Assessment will be based on thoughtful, active and daily participation in class discussions, weekly study assignments, reading quizzes and two take-home exams.
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