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HUMA Y 1300
Cultures of Resistance in the Americas

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bullet HUMA W 3315
Black Literatures and Cultures in Canada
bullet HUMA F 3316
Black Women's Writing in the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States
bullet HUMA F 6129
Black Women's Writing in the African Diaspora
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Course Description Term 1
Organization of the Course Term 2
Course Learning Objectives PowerPoint Slides
Required Readings Evaluation
Grading Scheme, Assignment Submissions and Lateness Penalty


Wednesday 12:30-2:30 pm
TEL 0001

Tutorial 1: Wednesday 2:30-4:30, Vanier College 102
Tutorial 2: Monday 10:30-12:30, Vanier College 115
Tutorial 3: Wenesday 4:30-6:30, McLaughlin College 212

Tutorial 4: Wednesday 8:30-10:30, McLaughlin College 212

Tutorial 5: Friday 12:30-2:30, McLaughlin 214
Tutorial 6: Friday 10:30-12:30, Calumet College 109


Dr. Andrea Davis
824 York Research Tower
736-2100 ext. 33320


Saron Gebresellassi

Sailaja Krishnamurti

Reva Marin

Susan Sutherland

Sharifa Wright

Ms. Sharon Boatswain
207 Vanier College
736-2100 ext. 77014

2009-2010 Course Description
This course addresses the ways in which diasporic black peoples have responded to and resisted their enslaved and subordinated status in the Americas. Resistance is first addressed in relationship to slavery, but later in the course resistance is seen in a much broader context: in response to post-colonial and post-civil rights, as an engagement of national, economic, cultural and social forces. Thus, resistance might be understood as a continuing legacy of black peoples' existence in the Americas. Resistance might, first, be read in relationship to European domination in the Americas and, second, to national and other post-emancipation forms of domination which force us to think of resistance in increasingly more complex ways. The "anatomy of prejudices"—sexism, homophobia, class oppression, racism—come under scrutiny as the course attempts to articulate the libratory project.

The course focuses on the cultural experiences of black diasporic peoples, examining the issues raised through a close study of black cultures in the Caribbean, the United States and Canada. It critically engages the ways in which cultural practices and traditions have survived and been transformed in the context of black subordination. It addresses the aesthetic, religious and ethical practices that enable black people to survive and build "communities of resistance" and allow them both to carve out a space in the Americas they can call home and to contribute variously to the cultures of the region.

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Organization of the Course

The course comprises one two-hour lecture and one two-hour tutorial each week. You are expected to attend both lectures and tutorials. Your participation grade will be evaluated on both attendance and participation.


Formal lectures are delivered by the course director, and teaching assistants are responsible for one tutorial group of about 25 students each. Lectures may also be delivered by invited guests or other members of the teaching team. The lectures will be supplemented by films and videos. 


Tutorial meetings will be the main locus for discussion of required and recommended readings and assignments in the course.  The required readings are central to the course.  The lectures and tutorials will serve to enrich, clarify, and illustrate crucial issues from the assigned readings.

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Course Learning Objectives

(1)   Brief statement of the purpose:

The purpose of this course is to assist students in theorizing concepts of blackness, as they relate to the African Diaspora in the Americas, from a wide critical framework. By combining history, sociology, political thought, literature, popular culture, and diaspora and cultural studies, the course offers students a critical introduction to the social, cultural, economic and political contexts of three geographic areas: the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. Students will be able to chart a trajectory of blackness in the Americas and will be introduced to some of the most important theorists of the twentieth century. They will be able to compare and contrast different theoretical frameworks and identify and apply key concepts. Critical to this course is also the desire to help students recognize the engagement between a historical sense of self and a larger project of human possibilities.

(2) Brief list of specific learning objectives of the course:

The specific objectives of the course are that students will be able to

  • explore key theories of blackness in order to develop new critical understandings

          of “race,” “gender,” “culture,” and “identity”;

  • use an interdisciplinary approach to identify and describe the social, economic,

          political and cultural impact of race relations in the African Diaspora in the Americas;                  

  • compare and contrast different theoretical frameworks as they apply to the

          United States, Canada and the Caribbean;

  • critically examine and dismantle stereotypes of blackness;
  • realize important macro and micro areas of learning and enhance their

          understanding and appreciation of a wide variety of written and visual texts;

  • complete a variety of assignments as they learn to write more clearly and effectively,

           identify themes, analyze texts, conceptualize arguments, write drafts and develop good citation


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Required Readings:

The following texts are required for the course:

  • Edwidge Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory       
  • Henry Louis Gates, ed., The Classic Slave Narratives
  • Earl Lovelace, The Dragon Can’t Dance
  • Gloria Naylor, Mama Day
  • Ann Raimes and Sarah Norton, Keys for Writers 4th ed.
  • AP/HUMA 1300 course kits (fall and winter)

All books and the two course kits of duplicated readings (fall and winter) required for the course are available at the York University Bookstore, York Lanes.

Readings marked with an asterik in the course outline are available electronically through the e-resources link of the Scott Library webpage.

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Week 01. September 9
Introduction to the Course

Week 02. September 16
Contesting “Race,” “Culture” and “Identity”
Manning Marable, “Beyond Racial Identity Politics: Toward a Liberation Theory for Multicultural Democracy” (kit)
Frantz Fanon, "The Fact of Blackness" (kit)

Week 03. September 23    
African Slavery in the “New World”
“The Life of Olaudah Equiano” in Classic Slave Narratives (chaps. 1-4)

"History of Mary Prince" in Classic Slave Narratives
Barbara Bush, “ ‘The Eye of the Beholder’: Contemporary European Images of Black Women” (kit)

Week 04. September 30 [Media Review due]

Forms of Resistance in Slavery

"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas" in Classic Slave Narratives
G.K. Lewis, “The Anti-Slavery Ideology” (kit)
Brenda E. Stevenson, “Gender Convention, Ideals, and Identity Among Antebellum Virginia Slave Women” (kit)

Week 05. October 7

Slave Narratives as Protest Writing
“History of Mary Prince,” “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas,” and “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” in Classic Slave Narratives

Week 06. October 14   

Fall Reading Week: No Classes

Week 07. October 21

Black Twentieth-Century Thought
Film: Awakenings: 1954-1956 (1986)
Booker T. Washington, “Boyhood Days” and “The Atlanta Exposition Address” (kit)
W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others,” “The Talented Tenth,” and “Of our Spiritual Strivings” (kit)
Marcus Garvey, “The Negro’s Greatest Enemy,” “Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World,” and “Speech by Marcus Garvey” (kit)

Week 08. October 28
The Civil Rights Movement and Black Power
Film: Fighting Back: 1957-1962 (1986)
Martin Luther King, Jr., “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” (kit)
Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet” (kit)

Walter Rodney, "Black Power--its Relevance to the West Indies" (kit)

Week 09. November 4

Post-Civil Rights: Barack Obama and the Politics of Change

*Terence Samuel, “Young, Black and post-Civil Rights.” American Prospect 18:9 (Sept. 2007) 23-25 (E-Journal access via eResources on Scott Library webpage)

*Barack Obama, “Speech on Race.” New York Times March 18, 2008

(access via


Week 10. November 11  [Essay One Due]

Black Speech and the Traditions of Storytelling

Robert O’Meally, “The Vernacular Tradition” (kit)

Geneva Smitherman, “How I got Ovuh” (kit)

M. Nourbese Philip, “Managing the Unmanageable” (kit)

Week 11. November 18
Religion as Protest
Gloria Naylor, Mama Day

Diane J. Austin-Broos, “Pentecostals and Rastafarians: Cultural, Political and Gender Relations of Two Religious Movements” (kit)

*Curtis, Edward E, “Islamizing the Black Body: Ritual and Power in Elijah Mohammad’s Nation of Islam” in Religion and American Culture 12:2 (Summer 2002) 167-196 (E-Journal access via eResources on Scott Library webpage)

Week 12. November 25   
Spirituality and Community
Gloria Naylor, Mama Day

* Fairley, Nancy.  “Dreaming Ancestors in Eastern Carolina” Journal of Black Studies 33:5 (May 2003) 545-561 (E-Journal access via eResources on Scott Library webpage)

Week 13. December 2

First-Term Recap and Review

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Week 01. January 06    

Re-establishing the Theoretical Framework

Film: Ethnic Notions (1986)

bell hooks, “Representing Whiteness in the Black Imagination” (kit)

Lawrence Hill, “Forty-eight Parts White” (kit)

Tommy L. Lott, “Racist Discourse and the Negro-ape Metaphor” (kit)

Week 02. Janaury 13   [Textual Analysis Due]    
Representations of Blackness in Popular Culture: Music and Dance
Film: Biggie and Tupac (2002)

*Phillips, Layli, et al, “Oppositional Consciousness within an Oppositional Realm: The Case of Feminism and Womanism in Rap and Hip Hop, 1976-2004” The Journal of African American History 90:3 (Summer 2005) 253-277 (E-Journal access via eResources on Scott Library webpage)

*Butts, Tracey R. “ ‘You Shall See’: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas as a Guide for Forging Black Masculinity in Hip Hop” Langston Hughes Review 21 (Fall 2007) 54-67, 71

(E-Journal access via eResources on Scott Library webpage)

*Donna Hope, “ ‘Dons’ and ‘Shottas’: Performing Violent Masculinity in Dancehall Culture.” Social and Economic Studies 55:1-2 (March-June 2006) 115-131 (E-Journal access via eResources on Scott Library webpage)

Week 03. January 20
Representations of Blackness in Popular Culture: Film
Feature Film: Bamboozled (2000)
Tommy L. Lott, "A No-Theory Theory of Contemporary Black Cinema" (kit)
bell hooks, “The Oppositional Gaze” (kit)

Week 04. January 27
Gender and Identity: Deconstructing the Myth of the Strong Black Woman
Trudier Harris, “This Disease Called Strength” (kit)
bell hooks, “Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory” (kit)
Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference” (kit)

Week 05. February 3
Gender and Identity: Black Masculinity Revisited

Film: Hardwood (2004)
David Marriott, "Father Stories" (kit)

Richard Wright, Extract from Black Boy (kit)

Ron Simmons, "Some Thoughts on the Challenges Facing Black Gay Intellectuals" (kit)

Week 06. February 10
In-Class Lecture on Library Research Strategies

(This lecture is linked to the online tutorials you will complete as part of your research assignment due on March 3)

Week 07. February 17

Winter Reading Week: No Classes


Week 08. Febraury 24
Caribbean Pluralism
Earl Lovelace, The Dragon Can’t Dance

Week 09. March 3    [Research Essay Due]

Caribbean Diasporic Communities in the United States

Edwidge Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory
Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” (kit)

Philip Kasinitz, “The Three West Indian Immigrations” (kit)

Week 10. March 10

Haiti in the Americas

Edwidge Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory

Alex Stepick, “The Refugees Nobody Wants: Haitians in Miami” (kit)

Canada and Diaspora

Week 11. March 17

Canada and Diaspora
Anver Saloojee, "Social Cohesion and the Limits of Multiculturalism in Canada" (kit)
Cecil Foster, “What the Present has Brought Us” and “The Rum” (kit)

Week 12. March 24

(Re)Examining Questions of National Identity
Henry A. Giroux, "The Milk Ain't Clean: National Identity and Multiculturalism" (kit)

Week 13. March 31

[Good Friday--no Friday Tutorials; Friday classes will be held on Monday, April 5]
Course Summary and Exam Review

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Course Evaluation

Media Review


September 30, 2009

Essay 1


November 11, 2009

Textual Analysis


Janaury 13, 2010

Research Essay


March 3 , 2010

Oral Report






Final Exam



The Media Review is a short diagnostic essay required by the Department of Humanities. It asks you to critically analyze within the context of the course a newspaper article or advertisement taken from mainstream North American media. In addition to helping the teaching team assess your writing skills upfront, the assignment also encourages you to begin to look critically at the world around you and relate the ideas discussed in the course to a broader context. Although this assignment's grade does not count toward the final grade in the course, it is mandatory. The assignment is 2-3 pages in length (500-750 words).

Essay 1 (15%) is a 5-6 page (1250-1500 words) formal essay with references cited in an appropriate scholarly format. This essay will cover the course material discussed in the first nine weeks of classes. This assignment is designed to help you read critically, make original analysis and identify different points of view.

The Textual Analysis (15%) asks you to critically engage an assigned passage from the novel used in the first term, identifying the passage’s importance to the themes raised in the novel as a whole, as well as to other material used and broader issues discussed in the course. This assignment will require limited external research and should be 5-6 pages in length (1250-1500 words).

The Research Essay (20%) is a 7-8 page (1750-2000) that will require you to define your own research topic with your tutorial leader’s approval. This essay will ask you to examine the material and themes discussed in the second term within a wide frame of reference. You will receive this assignment early in the second term.

You are required to hand in before or with your research essay two online library tutorials: the library research roadmap and the academic integrity tutorial. These are designed to help you develop your research topic and are linked to the in-class lecture on library research strategies. The quizzes are available at To take the quizzes, you'll need to log in using your Passport York ID and password. When you have successfully completed the quizzes, print two copies--one for your records and one for your tutorial leader.

Your research essay will not receive a grade if the online library tutorials are not completed and handed in before or with the essay.

Your Oral Report (15%) will be based on the assigned readings of a week of your choice. Please refer carefully to the guidelines set out in the oral report sheet you will receive in the first week of classes. The oral report is designed to strengthen your analytical skills, improve your oral communication skills and build your confidence.

Participation (10%)
Your participation will be based on attendance in tutorials, contribution to tutorial discussions and ability to relate tutorial discussions to the broader concerns of the course. Your tutorial leader will assign your participation grade at the end of the year based on a subjective assessment of these three factors.

Final Examination (25%) will take place during the regularly scheduled examination period following the end of the second term. It will be divided into three main sections requiring you to define key concepts and terms, identify sight passages from course material and answer essay questions. The examination will last three hours.

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Grading Scheme, Assignment Submissions and Lateness Penalty

Grading: The grading scheme for the course conforms to the 9-point grading system used in undergraduate programs at York (e.g., A+ = 9, A = 8, B+ - 7, C+ = 5, etc.).  Assignments and tests* will bear either a letter grade designation or a corresponding number grade (e.g.  A+ = 90 to 100, A = 80 to 90, B+ = 75 to 79, etc.). (For a full description of York grading system see the university’s Undergraduate Calendar -

Assignment Submission: Your successful academic performance will depend on your ability to not only engage ideas thoughtfully and carefully, but complete assignments on time.  Accordingly, instructors in this course must receive assignments on the due dates specified. Assignments may be handed in directly to instructors during class time or left in the essay drop box in the Division of Humanities. Please do not e-mail assignments to instructors or leave assignments with the Humanities staff.

Lateness Penalty: Assignments received later than the due date will be penalized one-half letter grade each day they are late. The course director will consider exceptions to the lateness penalty for valid reasons such as illness and on other compassionate grounds, only when supported by written documentation (e.g., a doctor’s note). 


Missed Tests:  Students with a documented reason for missing a course test, such as illness, which is confirmed by supporting documentation (e.g., doctor’s letter), may request accommodation from the Course Instructor. Make-up tests will be scheduled within one week of the missed exam. Further extensions or accommodation will require students to submit a formal petition to the Faculty of Arts.


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Enrolment and Drop Deadlines and Term Work Submission Deadlines

Last date to enrol without permission of the instructor: September 24, 2009

Last date to enrol with permission of the instructor: October 23, 2009

Last date to submit fall term work: December 8, 2009

Last date to drop course without receiving a grade: February 6, 2010

Last date to submit winter term work: April 5, 2010

Other Important Course Information

All students should familiarize themselves with the following information available on the

Committee on Curriculum and Academic Standards webpage:

  • York's Academic Honesty Policy and Procedures/Academic Integrity Website
  • Ethics Review Process for research involving human participants
  • Course Requirement Accommodation for students with disabilities, including physical, medical, systemic, learning and psychiatric disabilities
  • Student Conduct Standards
  • Religious Observance Accommodation

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