Spring 2008

Alessandra Di Maio

“Contemporary Narratives from the African Diaspora”
Department of Comparative Literature
Many scholars and artists from different regions of the planet locate in the Atlantic Ocean, with its slave trade routes, the foundations of the modern, capitalistic world. However, during the last decades, the Mediterranean Basin has become one of the fulcra of a mass-migration movement that engages a great number of nations. Many of the people involved in these migratory patterns are of African descent. Their diaspora has fundamentally contributed to the development of the global discourse on race and ethnicity. By comparing an array of literary and cultural texts from both the so-called Black Atlantic and the Mediterranean, this course analyzes the polyphonic narration of the African diaspora, while exploring in a comparative perspective issues such as race, class, color, minority, transnationalism, nomadism, hybridity, multiculturalism, sexuality and gender construction. The class meets once a week. Screenings of the films Besieged (B. Bertolucci), Jungle Fever (Spike Lee) and La Haine (Kassovitz) will be scheduled.

Fatima El-Tayeb

“Queer of Color Critique: Queer Activism and Social Justice
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Program
Queer theory was born out of the interaction, and tension, between activism and theory, its groundbreaking deconstruction of naturalized understandings of (sexual) identity inspired as much by French poststructuralist and feminist theories as by black power, gay liberation, and women of color feminism. With the academic implementation of queer studies however, these activist roots have moved further and further to the background. In this class, we will retrace the links of queer theory to social justice movements and explore the consequences of the increased distance to these origins as well as attempts to reconnect to them. Subjects will include: queers of color and the gay mainstream, gender and postcolonial theory, feminism, gay marriage, and the war on terror.

Kris Manjapra

“South Asian Intellectual History in Comparative Perspective”
Department of History
A survey of major themes in South Asian intellectual history from the Mughal Period to Independence using a variety of cultural and literary sources: visual, audio and written.  Emphasis will be placed on translocal networks of thought and political activity in which Indian thinkers were embedded, including connections with South East Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, the United States of America, Britain and Central Europe.

Sonali Pahwa

“Ethnography of Performance”
Department of Theater

This seminar explores anthropological literatures on ritual performance, speech acts and habitual practice, and links them with performance studies to examine embodiment and performativity in contemporary contexts. Revisiting the boundedness of place in classic ethnography, we will situate performance in a world of mass mediation and ask how it incorporates global knowledge in concrete language and practice.

Babli Sinha

“Film and Literature”
Department of English
In this course we will be examining visual culture in literature and film. How has the cinema relied on literary conventions, from subtitles to literary adaptations? How does the pace of editing in the cinema manifest itself in some post-modern literary works? Is the cinema more commodified and corrupted than literature? How do literature and film differ in terms of narration? Does film dull our senses or invigorate our perception of the world? Can cinema render an “inner speech”? We will address these topics by studying a range of literature, film adaptations, and critical texts as well as texts of various media that are preoccupied with both the literary and the visual. Literature will be by Conrad, Maugham, Chandler, Nabokov, and Rushdie, and we will be watching films by Frears, Chaplin, Hawks, and Kubrik. In addition, critical texts by Schlovsky, Eisenstein, Mitchell, Genette, and Bluestone will be assigned.

Sarah Valentine

“Russia and Asia: Cultural Dialogues”
Department of Slavic Languages
Since end of Soviet Union, cultural and political flux within non-Christian lands neighboring Russia has increased dramatically. Given radical rejection of Russian heritage in most former Soviet territories, key distinctions in humanities have become unclear, including fundamental confusion between limits of Slavic and Near Eastern studies. Examination of relation of Russia’s culture to its borders: Caucasus, Central Asia, China, and Japan.