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EN2H3/EN3H3 Race, Ethnicity, and Migration in the Americas

Kendrick Lamar, "Humble" (2017) 











This class explores the intersections and divergences that make up the history of race, ethnicity, and migration in the Americas. It is organized on the premise that Enlightenment European knowledge is biased at its core, such that its universal claims about the potential of humanity should be understood as only intended for the few and not everyone. Our readings will incorporate many different genres of writing, from political theory to slave narratives and experimental poetry, and media, including film and music, but they are organized so that we will be able to examine in-depth case studies that complement and challenge broader historical and theoretical works.

Our focus this coming year will be slavery and its legacies in the United States, with a particular focus on the institutions, movements, and aesthetics that shaped (and reshaped) race, ethnicity, and migration. In “provincializing” the U.S., we seek to consider how the modern concept of race was forged in the crucible of Enlightenment knowledge, the transatlantic slave trade and domestic slavery, and the humanitarian/sentimental abolition movement. The second half of the year will consider texts that critique the concept of race, often, as in the case of authors like Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin, by imagining futures and worlds where Black identity is radically reconfigured, reoriented, and revalued.


Some of the texts that we will explore on this module contain racial language that you may find challenging or offensive, and scenes of a graphic, violent, or disturbing nature. Sometimes, the challenge and discomfort these texts provoke is a necessary and important part of engaging with them; but I recognise and respect that this will not be the same for everybody in the class across the module. Please feel free to notify me at any point during the course if there is content with which you are not able to engage - you do not have to disclose a reason why.


Texts are all available in electronic form on Talis Aspire hereLink opens in a new window. You will need to acquire the primary texts below yourself.


  • James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room (Penguin, 2007)
  • Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (Grand Central, 2000).
  • Frederick Douglass. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Oxford World’s Classics, 2009)
  • Harriet Jacobs. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Dover Thrift, 2001)
  • N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (Orbit, 2016)
  • Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories (Penguin Classics, 2016)
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage, 2007)
  • NourbeSe Philip, Zong! (Wesleyan University Press, 2011)

    Please purchase hard copies of these editions unless you can’t afford to do so. Getting on the same page will greatly improve discussion. If you have any concerns about this, please do come and see me or let me know via email.


    • Attendance & Participation: Attendance will be taken and entered on Tabula each week. You can find the handbook policy on attendance here:
      Participation in seminar is strongly encouraged. Please be courteous to other students and give them room in the class as well. Feel free to debate with each other rather than always rout discussion through me! If you do not feel comfortable speaking up, consider coming to talk about texts during my office hours.
    • Electronics: Phones must be turned off in class. Laptops and tablets are only to be used for reading and notetaking in class. Using hard copies is strongly encouraged.
    • Plagiarism: Plagiarism is unacceptable and a serious offence.


    TERM 1

    Week 1: Introduction

    • Charles W. Mills, “Introduction” (1-9) to The Racial Contract (1997)



    Week 2: Life, Labor, Race

    • Hannah Arendt, from “Labor” (79-101) in The Human Condition (1958)
    • Michel Foucault, “Lecture Eleven” (239-64) in Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France 1975-1976
    • Walter Johnson, “Reading Bodies and Marking Race” (135-161) in Soul by Soul: Life Inside an Antebellum Slave Market (1999)


    Recommended Reading

      • Mel Y. Chen, “Introduction: Animating Animacy” (1-20) in Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (2012)
      • Justin E.H. Smith, “From Lineage to Biogeography” (140-59) in Nature, Human Nature, & Human Difference: Race in Early Modern Philosophy (2015)
      • Susan James, “Passion and Error,” (159-182) in Passion and Action: The Emotions in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy (1997)
      • Hagar Kotef, “The Problem of ‘Excessive Movement’” (87-111) in Movement and the Ordering of Freedom: On Liberal Governances of Mobility (2015)
      • Thomas McCarthy, Race, Empire, and the Idea of Human Development (2009)


    Week 3: Visibility and Race

    • Herman Melville, “Benito Cereno” (55-137) in Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories
    • Greg Grandin, “Introduction” (17-35) and “Who Aint A Slave” (203-238) in The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World (2014)


    Recommended Reading

      • Roxann Wheeler, The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture (2000)


    Week 4: Liberation and Abolition

    • David Walker, Walker’s Appeal…To the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829; 86 pp.) (PDF here:
    • Thomas Jefferson, on blackness (from "The plan of the revival was this." on page 83 to "This is attempted on the following scale." on page 87) in Notes on the State of Virginia (1781). The Library has several different electronic copies of this text - if you use a different copy to the one linked on the Talis Aspire reading list, please make sure you're looking at the right section!


    Recommended Reading

      • Marcy Dinius, “Look!! Look!!! At This!!!!” The Radical Typography of David Walker,” PMLA (2011): 55-72
      • Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, “Introduction” (1-7) and “Chapter 7: A Motley Crew in the American Revolution” (211-247) in The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (2013)



    Week 5: Humanitarianism

    • Frederick Douglass, The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself (1845)
    • Theodore Weld, from American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses (1838)
      • Introduction (16 - 22)
      • Sarah Grimké (55 - 61)
      • Angelina Grimké Weld (137 - 149)
    • Karen Halttunen, “Humanitarianism and the Pornography of Pain in Anglo-American Culture,” The American Historical Review 100, no. 2 (1995): 303-334


    Week 6:  READING WEEK


    Week 7: Fugitivity

    In-Class: Glenn Ligon, The Runaways (1993)

    • William Wells Brown, Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself (1847; 98 pp.)
      (Download PDF via Google Books:
    • Edward E. Baptist, “Introduction: The Heart” (15-38) in The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (2016)

    Recommended Reading

      • Kyla Schuller, “Introduction: Sentimental Biopower” (1-34) in The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century (2018)
      • Text of the the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850


    Week 8: Black Authorship & The Female Slave Narrative I

    • Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself (2001 [1861])
    • Lindon Barrett, “African-American Slave Narratives: Literacy, the Body, Authority,” in Conditions of the Present: Selected Essays (2018), 92-118

    Week 9: Black Authorship & The Female Slave Narrative II


    Week 10: Impossible Testimony

    • NourbeSe Philip, selections from Zong! (2008)
    • J.M.W. Turner, Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On) (1840)


    Recommended Reading

      • Ian Baucom, Spectres of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History (2005)



    TERM 2


    Week 11 The Memory of Slavery

    • Toni Morrison, Beloved (1988)


    Week 12: On Whiteness

    • James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room ([1956]; 156 pp.)
    • Matthew Frye Jacobson, “Becoming Caucasian, 1924-1965” (91-136) in Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (1998)


    Recommended Reading

      • Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks ([1952]; 1-60)


    Week 13: On Whiteness

    • American Psycho (dir. Mary Harron, 102 min., 2000) OR a text/film of your choice.
    • Charles W. Mills, “Revisionist Ontologies: Theorizing White Supremacy” (97-118) in Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race (1998)


    Week 14: Intersections I

    Screening: Paris is Burning (dir. Jennie Livingston, 1990, 78 min.)

    [Note: Screening and class meeting in OC0.05, 19:30, Monday 31st January 2022]

    • “The Combahee River Collective Statement” (1974; ~5 pp.)
    • Judith Butler, “Gender is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion” (381-395) in Dangerous Crossings: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives (1997)



    Week 15: The Neo-Slave Narrative I

    • Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (read up till "2026")
    • Ashraf Rushdy, “Introduction” (3-22) in Neo-Slave Narratives: Studies in the Social Logic of a Literary Form (2001)


    Week 16:  READING WEEK


    Week 17: The Neo-Slave Narrative II

    • Finish Parable of the Sower
    • Wendy Brown, “Waning Sovereignty, Walled Democracy” (7-42) in Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010)


    Week 18: Futures I

    • N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (2016)
    • Alondra Nelson, “Afrofuturism,” Social Text (2002): 1-15


    Recommended Reading

      • Ytasha Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture (2013)


    Week 19: Futures II

    • The Fifth Season (finish)
    • Samuel R. Delany, “Racism and Science Fiction” in Darkmatter (1999)


    Week 20: Diaspora and Belonging

    Before Class: watch music videos for “Alright,” “For Sale?” and “King Kunta”

    • Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
    • Robert Hayden, “Middle Passage” and “O Daedalus, Fly Away Home”


    Module Convenor: Dr Fiona Farnsworth
    fiona dot farnsworth at warwick dot ac dot uk

    Office Hours:

    Tuesday 12 - 1 in H5.43

    Thursday 2 - 3 in H5.07