Selected Courses

“City Futures: Migration, Citizenship and Planetary Change”

An interdisciplinary course which thinks with the city of Bristol (UK) to ask students to explore how urban ecologies are related to issues of communal belonging, diasporic movement and environmental change. Lectures are filmed on location in Bristol and housed online, and students are asked to produce visual fieldnotes based on their experiences of the city. Final projects include a student-produced film, many of which become material for future runnings of the course. Students learn about urban geography and climate and environmental change, as well as practical skills related to basic film making while contributing content to the course itself.

“African Anthropocene: Writing Apocalypse from Africa”, Advanced Humanities Seminar.

This course reads texts across a variety of disciplines and discursive fields, from fiction to geology, in order to work towards a set of questions around the current geological era of the Earth, named the Anthropocene. In this course we will engage with the scientific discourse surrounding the periodization of the Anthropocene itself, which debates whether we place this epochal shift 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent or more recently as a result of the Industrial Revolutions in the Anglo-American North Atlantic. We will discuss how these various starting points for an earth age in which humans have become the most impactful geological agents determine certain historical and ideological narratives of “modernity” and “civilization.” Moreover, the course will engage with discourses of the Anthropocene from the perspective of African cultural production in order to consider what it means to think climate change and race together. Because the underlying assumption of most climate literature is that global climate change is experienced…well, globally, as a homogenous and singularly unfolding event across the planet, this course will engage with work from the African continent and the Diaspora in order to demonstrate how the unfolding of environmental and climate crisis happens within and according to a socially and economically articulated world, where race becomes an important factor for thinking about how climate change is experienced. Much of the literary and filmic works we will look at in this course display what might be described as an ‘apocalyptic imaginary’, that is an imagining of the end of the world usually through environmental crisis or collapse, and especially through the trope of water. One of the fundamental questions driving the course will be to ask, ‘What are the narrative components attendant upon an ontological turn towards apocalypse?’ Also, ‘What does climate change have to do with the category of the human, as well as the post-human?’ Looking at how environmental collapse is imagined to play out in various African and Diaspora contexts, asks for a rethinking of the universalist assumptions underlying much of the discourse on the shared precariousness attendant upon global climate change.

Selected Texts and Films:

Pumzi, Wanuri Kahiu (Film).
Beast of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin (Film).
Hasaki ya suda, Cedric Ido (Film).
Heart of Redness, Zakes Mda.
Oil on Water, Helon Habila.
Zoo City, Lauren Beukes.
Water: New Short Story Fiction from Africa, an Anthology, Karina Szczurek and Nick Mulgrew.
Different Shades of Green: African Literature, Environmental Justice, and Political Ecology, Byron Caminero-Santangelo.
The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Amitav Ghosh.
Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Rob Nixon (selections).
Cannibal Metaphysics, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro (selections).
How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human, Eduardo Kohn (selections).
The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, Anna Tsing (selections).
“The Climate of History: Four Theses”, Dipesh Chakrabarty.
“Defining the Anthropocene”, Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin.

“Anthropocene Storytelling”and “Science Fiction as Method”, Interdisciplinary Workshops

At Penn State, 2019:  https://sites.psu.edu/anthropocenestorytelling/

At USC “Vision and Voices”, 2021: https://visionsandvoices.usc.edu/eventdetails/?event_id=33733594583787&s_type=&s_genre=

“African Enlightenments”, Advanced Literature Seminar.

Focusing on a group of works from the African continent as well as the Diaspora that span roughly six centuries, this course maps an ‘outside’ to the geographies of the Western European Enlightenment. Reading across literary genres, from epic, to myth, to cultural and political manifesto, we will deconstruct and decenter the term ‘Enlightenment,’ by chronicling the contributions and engagements of African and Diasporic thinkers. A series of questions will be guiding our course philosophy: What is the nature of this term ‘Enlightenment?’ Is it a category or a practice? A goal to be achieved or a thing to be applied? What were/are the geographies of the Enlightenment? Where was it thought to have existed, and what places were thought to have been beyond its scope? Relatedly, if this historical formulation called ‘The Enlightenment’ functions as something of a ‘master-narrative’, then how can we read the myriad stories and voices that this construction has potentially silenced? That is, as a ‘grand-narrative’ of progress and the advancement of an equally problematic vision of civilization, the European Enlightenment was based on certain assumptions about peoples, places, and practices; many of the globe’s inhabitants fell outside of the narrative/space of Enlightenment? What are their stories? Are we able to read for their voices within the archive of the Enlightenment itself? We will read both for various African and Diasporic engagements with the European Enlightenment as well as tracing unique intellectual genealogies of various African Enlightenments. We will be positing the idea of African Enlightenments in order to interrogate narratives of modernity, racial origins, and development discourses which in their mapping of the continent and its cultures continue to form the intellectual and popular imagining of Africa. Ultimately, we will ask what new approaches to literature might be offered by exploring the concept of African Enlightenments.

Sunjata, Bamba Suso

The ‘Un-Chained’ Atlantic: Slavery and the Genealogies of Humanism
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Olaudah Equiano

Other Courses – Abstracts coming soon!

“Global Apartheid in World Literatures”, Advanced Literature Seminar.

“Race Across the Water: Oceans in African Literature and Film”, Literature Survey.

“Anglophone World Literatures from ‘Conquest’ to the Present”, Literature Survey.

“The Global Epic: Myth, History and World Literatures”, Literature Survey.