American Studies and Black Feminist Thought
This course takes up a significant area of concern in American Studies, which are the contradictions embedded within liberal notions of the subject, along with the seemingly neutral conditions and domains through which freedom, equality, and property are conferred to him. While some feminist theorists have pointed out how the social category “gender” reveals the contradictions of liberal humanism, this course will consider how women of color and black feminist thought has critiqued the orthodoxy of liberalism by addressing multiple categories of social dispossession. Such a critique considers alternative subjectivities—often expressed through the key analytical term “intersectionality”—and deconstructs the ideologically gendered separation of the “public” (economy, the state) and the “private” (family, the home). We will consider how the rise of “neoliberalism”—which produced an intensified interest in autonomous individuality, personal responsibility, and the neutrality of the law, free markets, and contractual agreements—has prompted black feminist analyses of the governance and cultural politics that rise in the second half of the twentieth century. For subjects who have been deemed to be objects, what are the imagined alternatives to liberalism’s contradictory notions of freedom? We are likely to consider the works of Angela Davis, Grace Hong, Katherine McKittrick, Hortense Spillers, Alexander Weheliye, and Sylvia Wynter.