Christopher K Githiora
Topics in which students and faculty have developed an interest as a result of work done in other classes or as a result of the need to investigate in greater depth Afro-American Studies issues. Topics vary.
Africa in the Western Eyes - Decolonizing the Gaze University of Washington American Ethnic Studies Department AFRAM 498 – Special Topics, Section E Kuria Gìthiora (PhD.) Spring 2009, Tuesday & Thursdays – 10:30AM -12:20PM, Friday – 10:30- 11:20 AM Office: Padelford Hall, B504 Office Hours at B504 Padelford Hall: Mondays 9:30 to 12:30 and by appointment. Phone: 206-543-4495 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Africans and the African Continent have regularly encountered dramatic disrespect in their treatment in American and western film and literary history. As seen in some of these films and literatures, western scholars and filmmakers have employed racial distortions, caricatures, and stereotypes to represent Africans in demeaning ways. This course serves as an alternative vision by examining these literary and film representations along with those made and disseminated by African directors themselves. We will start with contemporary African literary and film classics such as the novel Things Fall Apart (1958) by Chinua Achebe and A Grain of Wheat (1967) by Ngúgi wa Thiong’o and two films, Sarafina (1992) by Mbongeni Ngema and Sankofa by Haile Gerime (1993). We will also briefly examine Xala (1975) by Sembene Ousmane as well as Bongoland I (2003) and Bongoland II (2007) by Josiah Kibira. We will then consider some of the classic African films in western history, Tarzan of the Apes (1918) by Scott Sidney, The African Queen (1951) by John Huston, and Out of Africa (1985), by Sidney Pollack, Lion King (1994) by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff along with Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness (1899) and King Solomon’s Mines (1885) by Sir H. Rider Haggard. The latter novel has been interpreted by Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 movie Apocalypse through a psychological reading.
Student learning goals
What is this course about? This is a course on the revision of the various mis-representations about Africa in western films and scholarship. The course will encourage students to rethink many of the damaging caricatures and stereotypes about Africa they might have gathered in schools, films and literature.
What information do I want it to convey? The course will encourage critical viewing and reading of material related to images of Africa in films and literature.
How does that information “naturally” divide into sections? We shall read and view various books and films on Africa. Naturally there will be different perspectives and interpretations of these varied materials. Students are encouraged to agree to disagree amicably and from both scholarly and informed viewpoints. Vigorous debates based on the class texts and assigned readings are encouraged.
Where are the most difficult concepts in the course? While the class will not engage students in either the technical study of both film and literature, it will enncourage students to read, debate and understand a few and pertinent literary technics in order to decode the various literary and film centered discourses needed to read and analyse works in both film and literature.
How will students benefit from this course? Students in this course gain an appreciation for the new information about Africa's image through balanced viewing and interpretation of various films and literary texts.
So what do I get from this course as a student? You will gain a better understanding of both literary and film interpretation and summarization, and have fun doing it! You will of course also learn to write great papers and to present your ideas in logical and creative ways before your peers!
General method of instruction
Lecture and discussion. Students are encouraged to read and to participate actively in class discussions. They'll also prepare and present papers based on the various texts and films assigned for this class.
Previous Africa-related courses including those in Anthropology, Communications, English, Film, Geography, History, Literature in English, and Sociology, will be helpful.
Class assignments and grading
COURSE REQUIREMENTS: Readings and films are drawn from a multitude of sources including older classics and newer pieces. Required Texts will be made available through the University Bookstore. There will also be some reserved room readings in the Oldegaard library. The instructor will also prepare a number of articles in Pdf and email them for students to read. Students are vigorously encouraged to take an active role in class discussions. Except for a few examples, students must see the course films outside regular course meetings on Tuesdays Thursdays and Fridays. Students are expected to attend ALL class sessions and to be on time. Please turn off cell phones before class sessions start.
Analytical papers: You will write four papers 1000-1300 words long (3-4 pages) analyzing various films and texts we will have discussed in class. For each paper your analysis will focus on the theme of the section, and you will elucidate how the film or text deals with the theme both in content and in the form of the film (how the film is edited, lighted, costumed, designed, etc.). These papers will be graded on the depth and originality of your analysis (How much textual evidence do you give, and how well do you integrate that evidence into your argument?) and on the organization of your argument (Does your paper have a clear thesis? Does it flow logically?) Paper grades will be reduced 1/3 grade per day if turned in late.
Presentation: In consultation with the course instructor, you will prepare a 10-15 minute presentation using PowerPoint, outline handouts, cue cards, etc. on one of the writers, directors or African countries. You will be graded on the level of detail, organization and professionalism in your presentation. Plagiarism or any other form of academic dishonesty is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Final exam: The exam will be composed of four sections. The first section will ask you to identify African countries on a map of the continent. The second section will focus on identifying various writers, filmmakers, films, characters, and/or other important elements we have discussed in class. You will need to clearly state who or what the element is, and why it is important to the course. In the third section of the exam you will identify various excerpts and clips of novels and films we have seen over the course of the semester. Finally, there will be an essay section that will allow you to reflect upon the readings, viewings and discussions from the semester.
Miscellaneous assignments: From time to time there will be quizzes, assignments to hand in, etc.
After two absences over the course of the semester, your final grade will be reduced 1/3 for each subsequent absence.
BECAUSE UNIVERSITY EDUCATION GOES FAR BEYOND COURSE CONTENT ALONE, STUDENTS ARE ENCOURAGED TO DROP BY EVEN WITHOUT ANY SPECIFIC ACADEMIC AGENDA.
COURSE READINGS: 1. Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. [First published 1958.] Expanded edition with notes. 1996. London: Heinemann, 2000. ISBN: 8170232155. 2. Barlet, Olivier. African Cinemas: decolonizing the gaze. Zed Books, London, 2001. ISBN 2-7475-7971-9. 3. Conrad, Joseph (1998-01-05). Heart of Darkness & Other Stories. Wordsworth Editions Ltd. ISBN 1853262404. 4. Diawara, Manthia. African Cinema: Politics & Culture (Blacks in the Diaspora). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992. ISBN-13: 9780253207074. 5. Haggard, H. Rider. King Solomon's Mines. Oxford: Oxford World Classics, OUP, 1998. ISBN: 0192834851. 6. Landau, Paul and Deborah Kaspin (Eds.). Images and Empires: Visuality in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2002. ISBN: 0520229126. 7. Ngugi wa Thiong’o. A Grain of Wheat. London: Heinemann, 1967. ISBN: 0435900366 and 0-435-90036-6 . 8. Ngugi wa Thiongo, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, 1986. ISBN: 0-85255-501-6 and 978-0-85255-501-9.
[The instructor will also prepare a number of articles in Pdf and email them as attachments for students to read].
Four Short Essays (Available online and from instructor who will email them to students as attachments):
1. Diawara, Manthia “Reading Africa through Foucault: V.Y. Mudimbe’s Reaffirmation of the Subject.” In Dangerous Liaisons. Gender, Nation, & Postcolonial Perspectives. McClintock, Mufti, A. & Shohat E. (Eds.), 1997. pp. 456-467. ISBN: 0816626480 and ISBN: 0816626499 (paperback). 2. Franz Fanon. “Concerning Violence” and “Conclusion.” In The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington. New York: Grove, 1963. ISBN0802150837. 3. Lindfors, Bernth (Ed.). Africans on Stage: Studies in Ethnological Show Business. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. ISBN10: 0253212456. ISBN13: 9780253212450. 4. Said, Edward. Orientalism, pp. 1-91; pp. 285-328. New York:Vintage Books, 1978. ISBN: ISBN 0-394-74067-X .
These readings are also valuable for individual research projects.
OTHER RECOMMENDED READINGS(not required): 1. Coombes, Annie E. Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture and Popular Imagination in Late Victorian and Edwardian England. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1997. ISBN: 0300068905. 3. Khapoya, Vincent B. The African Experience: An Introduction. 2nd Edition. Prentice Hall, 1998. ISBN-13: 9780137458523 and ISBN: 0137458525. 4. Mudimbe, Vincent Y. The Idea of Africa. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1994. 5. African images: recent studies and text in cinema. Edited by Maureen Eke, Kenneth W. Harrow, Emmanuel Yewah. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, c2000. 6. Bandura, A. “Social cognitive theory of mass communication”. In J. Bryant and D. Zillman (Eds.) Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994. 7. Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. New York: Noonday Press, 1973. ISBN: 0374521506. 8. Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994 9. Borroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan of the Apes. New York: Ballantine Books; Reissue edition, 1993. ISBN: 034531977X. 10. Fanon, Frantz Black Skin, White Masks, transl. Charles Lam Markmann (1967 translation of the 1952 .book: New York. Grove Press, 1952. 11. Gates, Henry Louis. “Critical Fanonism.” Critical Inquiry (17) 1992: 457-470. 12. Kelefa Sanneh, “After the Beginning Again: The Afrocentric Ordeal.” Transition 2001, 10:3 (read online at JSTOR). 13. Memmi, Albert. “The Impossible Life of Frantz Fanon.” Massachusetts Review (Winter) 1973: 9-39. 14. Mwangi, Meja. The Big Chiefs. Columbus, Ohio: HM Books, 2007. 15. Olaniyan, Tejumola. “Return of the Native Son”, Transition, 72: 1996. (read online at JSTOR). 16. Retamar, Roberto Fernandez. “Caliban Speaks Five Hundred Years Later.” In Dangerous Liaisons. Gender, Nation, & Postcolonial Perspectives. McClintock, Mufti, A. & Shohat E. (Eds.), 1997. pp. 163-172. ISBN 0816626480 and ISBN 0-8166-2649-9 (paperback).
Grade Calculation and Distribution 4 Papers (15% each):60% Presentation 15% Final Exam 15% Miscellaneous 10%
94-100 = A 77-79 = C+ 90-93 = A- 74-76 = C 87-89 = B+ 70-73 = C- 84-86 = B 67-69 = D+ 80-83 = B- 64-66 = D 0-63 = F