History | Women of the African Diaspora
H650 | 10068 | A. Myers

A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class open to graduates only

Over the last decade, the concept of a “Black Atlantic” or “African
Diaspora” has become a powerful theoretical and ideological
construct in the academic world. What, however, makes scholars
believe that residents of vastly differing nations, who speak a
multitude of languages and practice oft-conflicting faith systems,
are members of a global community? What common factors draw such
disparate peoples together, and what unique local experiences
prevent scholars from entirely subsuming those they study into one
common category? Is it color, enduring institutions of family or
food-ways, the specter of slavery, or something else altogether that
binds together black people worldwide? Or is it perhaps nothing more
than our own yearning for community that makes us see connections
where there are none?

Using these questions as our backdrop, we will spend the semester
analyzing classic and current historical scholarship on black women
from various regions of the Diaspora. Our readings will take us from
Canada and the United States to Mexico and the Caribbean, from
Spanish-speaking Latin America to Brazil, and from England to the
African Continent. The literature, both theoretical and topical,
will encompass a lengthy span of time, challenging us to compare and
contrast black women’s lives from before the era of African and
European contact, through the creation of an Atlantic World, to the
revolutions and rebellions of the 19th century, and then the
struggles of the post-colonial age. The goal will be to consider
both the similar and the unique historical conditions under which
black women labored for self-definition and autonomy in these
disparate yet often connected regions of the world. By placing black
women at the center of our examination, we will strive to better
understand the ways in which raced and gendered identities have been
invented and reinvented in a global context, and then articulate and
appreciate the ways in which black women’s lives both connect and
diverge across time, space and place.