Program in African American Studies

Faculty

Director

  • Eddie S. Glaude

Director of Undergraduate Studies

  • Naomi Murakawa

Director of Graduate Studies

  • Ruha Benjamin

Associated Faculty

  • Jacob S. Dlamini, History
  • Paul Frymer, Politics
  • Simon E. Gikandi, English
  • William A. Gleason, English
  • J. Nicole Shelton, Psychology
  • Stacey A. Sinclair, Psychology
  • Dara Z. Strolovitch, Gender & Sexuality Studies Pgm
  • Keith A. Wailoo, History
  • Leonard Wantchekon, Politics
  • Judith Weisenfeld, Religion

Sits with Committee

  • Monica Y. Youn
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Program Information

The Department of African American Studies offers an undergraduate certificate that expands and deepens a students’ understanding of race in the United States and in the world. The certificate is equivalent to an academic ‘minor’ in African American Studies. Earning a certificate is straightforward and allows students an enriching course of study which complements any Princeton concentration. Students who opt to pursue a certificate gain access to an extraordinary bibliography that prepares them to think about race and power in sophisticated ways.

The Program in African American Studies was founded on the assumption that the study of African American history and culture, and of the role that race has played in shaping the life and the institutions of the United States, is central to an American liberal education. Given the continuing and evolving centrality of race in American political, economic, social, and cultural life, and indeed, in every region of the world, reflection on race and on the distinctive experiences of black people is indispensable for all Princeton students as global citizens. Drawing on a core of distinguished faculty in areas such as art and archaeology, comparative literature, English, history, philosophy, law and political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, the program promotes teaching and research of race with a focus on the experience of African Americans in the United States.

The program's curriculum reflects the complex interplay between political, economic, and cultural forces that shape our understanding of the historic achievements and struggles of African-descended people in this country and their relation to others around the world. Toward that end, the certificate is organized into three thematic subfields:

African American Culture and Life (AACL):

In the African American Culture and Life subfield, students encounter the theoretical canon and keywords, which shape the contemporary discipline of African American Studies. Accessing a range of interdisciplinary areas, situated primarily in the United States, students will learn to take a critical posture in examining the patterns and practices that order and transform black subjects and black life.

Global Race and Ethnicity (GRE):

In the Global Race and Ethnicity subfield, students use the prevailing analytical tools and critical perspectives of African American studies to consider comparative approaches to groups, broadly defined. Students will examine the intellectual traditions, socio-political contexts, expressive forms, and modes of belonging of people who are understood to share common boundaries/experiences as either:

  1. Africans and the African Diaspora outside of the United States and
  2. non-African-descended people of color within the United States.

Race and Public Policy (RPP):

In the Race and Public Policy subfield, students use and interrogate social science methodologies in examining the condition of the American state and American institutions and practices. With an analysis of race and ethnicity at the center, students will examine the development of institutions and practices, with the growth and formation of racial and ethnic identities, including changing perceptions, measures, and reproduction of inequality.

Admission to the Program

The Program in African American Studies offers students concentrating in another department the opportunity to earn a certificate in African American Studies. Undergraduate students may apply for formal admission to the certificate program at any time once they have taken and achieved a satisfactory standing in any African American Studies (AAS) course.

Program Requirements

  1. Students must complete two AAS core survey courses from the list below:
    • AAS 245 Introduction to 20th Century African American Art
    • AAS 353 African American Literature: Origins to 1910
    • AAS 359 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present
    • AAS 366 African American History to 1863
    • AAS 367 African American History Since Emancipation
  2. Students must take three additional courses in AAS, Cross-Listed by AAS, or from our approved cognates list.  At least one (1) of these must be in the GRE sub-field.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all the requirements of the program will receive a certificate in African American Studies upon graduation.

Please consult the listing for the Program in African American Studies for additional information.

 

 

Courses

AAS 201 African American Studies and the Philosophy of Race (also
PHI 291
) Fall CDEC

This course introduces students to the field of African American Studies through an examination of the complex experiences, both past and present, of Americans of African descent. Through a multidisciplinary perspective, it reveals the complicated ways we come to know and live race in the United States. Students engage classic texts in the field, all of which are framed by a concern with epistemologies of resistance and of ignorance that offer insight into African American thought and practice. Instructed by: E. Glaude Jr., I. Perry

AAS 202 Introductory Research Methods in African American Studies (also
SOC 202
) Not offered this year SA

The purposes of this course are to assist the student in developing the ability to critically evaluate social science research on the black experience and to do research in African studies. To accomplish these goals, the course will acquaint students with the processes of conceptualization and basic research techniques, and some of the unique issues in conducting research on the black experience. A variety of appropriate studies will be utilized. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 208 Media, Sex, and the Racialized Body (See GSS 208)

AAS 211 The American Experience and Dance Practices of the African Diaspora (See DAN 211)

AAS 213 The Lucid Black and Proud Musicology of Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka (See LCA 213)

AAS 214 Projects in Vocal Performance (See MPP 214)

AAS 221 Inequality: Class, Race, and Gender (See SOC 221)

AAS 222 Introduction to Hip-Hop Dance (See DAN 222)

AAS 223 An Introduction to the Radical Imagination (See DAN 223)

AAS 230 Topics in African American Studies Not offered this year HA

This topics course explores the complex interplay between political, economic, and cultural forces that shape our understanding of the historic achievements and struggles of African-descended people in the United States and their relation to others around the world. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 235 Race Is Socially Constructed: Now What? (also
SOC 236
) Spring SA

The truism that "race is socially constructed" hides more than it reveals. Have Irish Americans always been white? Are people of African descent all black? Is calling Asian Americans a "model minority" a compliment? Does race impact who we date or marry? In this course, students develop a sophisticated conceptual toolkit to make sense of such contentious cases of racial vision and division as the uprising in Ferguson. We learn to connect contemporary events to historical processes, and individual experiences to institutional policies, exercising a sociological imagination with the potential to not only analyze, but transform the status quo. Instructed by: R. Benjamin

AAS 239 Introduction to African Literature and Film (See COM 239)

AAS 241 The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages (See COM 241)

AAS 245 Introduction to 20th-Century African American Art (also
ART 245
) Not offered this year LA

This surveys history of African American art during the long 20th-century, from the individual striving of late 19th century to the unprecedented efflorescence of art and culture in 1920s Harlem; from the retrenchment in black artistic production during the era of Great Depression, to the rise of racially conscious art inspired by the Civil Rights Movement; from the black feminist art in the 1970s, to the age of American multiculturalism in the 1980s and 1990s; and finally to the turn of the present century when ambitious "postblack" artists challenge received notions of black art and racial subjectivity. Instructed by: C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 250 Religion and the African American Political Imagination (See REL 250)

AAS 256 African American Religious History (See REL 256)

AAS 260 Introduction to African Art (See ART 260)

AAS 261 Art and Politics in Postcolonial Africa (See ART 261)

AAS 262 Jazz History: Many Sounds, Many Voices (See MUS 262)

AAS 263 Bondage and Slaving in Global History (See CLA 225)

AAS 300 Junior Seminar: Research and Writing in African American Studies Fall SA

As a required course for AAS concentrators, this junior seminar introduces students to theories and methods of research design in African American Studies. Drawing on a wide-ranging methodological toolkit from the humanities and social sciences, students will learn to reflect on the ethical and political dimensions of original research in order to produce knowledge that is intellectually and socially engaged. This is a writing-intensive seminar with weekly essay assignments. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 302 Political Bodies: The Social Anatomy of Power & Difference (also
SOC 303
/
ANT 378
/
GHP 302
) Spring CDSA

In this seminar students will learn about the human body in its social, cultural, and political contexts. The framing is sociological rather than biomedical, attentive to cultural meanings, institutional practices, politics, and social problems. The course explicitly discusses bodies in relation to race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age, health, geography, and citizenship status, carefully examining how social differences come to appear natural. From clinics to prisons to borders to virtual realities, students develop a conceptual toolkit to analyze how society "gets under the skin", producing differential exposure to premature death. Instructed by: R. Benjamin

AAS 303 Topics in Global Race and Ethnicity (also
HUM 306
/
GSS 406
) Fall/Spring HA

This seminar uses the prevailing analytical tools and critical perspectives of African American Studies to consider comparative approaches to groups, broadly defined. Students will examine the intellectual traditions, socio-political contexts, expressive forms, and modes of belonging of people who are understood to share common boundaries/experiences as either (1) Africans and the African Diaspora outside of the United States; and/or (2) non-African-descended people of color within the United States. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 306 Topics in Race and Public Policy (also
AMS 305
) CDHA

This seminar uses and interrogates social science methodologies in examining the condition of the American state and American institutions and practices. With an analysis of race and ethnicity at the center, students will examine the development of institutions and practices, with the growth and formation of racial and ethnic identities, including changing perceptions, measures, and reproduction of inequality. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 308 The Politics of Hip-Hop Dance (See DAN 323)

AAS 310 American Pentecostalism (See REL 310)

AAS 311 Citizenships Ancient and Modern (See CLA 310)

AAS 312 Special Topics In Urban Dance (See DAN 322)

AAS 313 Modern Caribbean History (also
HIS 213
/
LAS 377
) Spring HA

This course will explore the major issues that have shaped the Caribbean since 1791, including: colonialism and revolution, slavery and abolition, migration and diaspora, economic inequality, and racial hierarchy. We will examine the Caribbean through a comparative approach--thinking across national and linguistic boundaries--with a focus on Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. While our readings and discussions will foreground the islands of the Greater Antilles, we will also consider relevant examples from the circum-Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora as points of comparison. Instructed by: R. Goldthree, R. Karl

AAS 317 Race and Public Policy (See SPI 331)

AAS 321 Black Rage and Black Power (also
REL 321
) Not offered this year HA

This course examines the various pieties of the Black Power era. We chart the explicit and implicit utopian visions of the politics of the period that, at once, criticized established black religious institutions and articulated alternative ways of imagining salvation. We also explore the attempt by black theologians to translate the prophetic black church tradition into the idiom of black power. Our aim is to keep in view the significance of the Black Power era for understanding the changing role and place of black religion in black public life. Instructed by: E. Glaude Jr.

AAS 322 Afro-Diasporic Dialogues: Black Activism in Latin America and the United States (also
LAS 301
/
LAO 322
/
AMS 323
) Spring HA

This course investigates how people of African descent in the Americas have forged social, political, and cultural ties across geopolitical and linguistic boundaries. We will interrogate the transnational dialogue between African Americans and Afro-Latin Americans using case studies from Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, and Puerto Rico. We will explore how black activists and artists from the US have partnered with people of color in Latin America and the Caribbean to challenge racism and economic inequality, while also considering why efforts to mobilize Afro-descendants across the Americas have often been undermined by mutual misunderstandings. Instructed by: R. Goldthree

AAS 324 Muslims, Jews and Christians in North Africa: Interactions, Conflicts and Memory (See NES 316)

AAS 325 African American Autobiography (also
ENG 393
/
REL 366
) Not offered this year LA

Highlights the autobiographical tradition of African Americans from the antebellum period to the present as symbolic representations of African American material, social, and intellectual history and as narrative quests of self-development. Students will be introduced to basic methods of literary analysis and criticism, specifically focusing on cultural criticism and psychoanalytic theory on the constructed self. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 327 20th Century Masters (also
GSS 368
) Not offered this year LA

This special topics course will focus on artists and intellectuals whose corpus reflects and illuminates 20th century African American life. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 329 Creating Your Biomythography Workshop (See DAN 350)

AAS 335 Modern Brazilian History (See HIS 333)

AAS 339 Black Mirror: Race, Technology, and Justice (also
EGR 339
) Fall CDSA

Are robots racist? Is software sexist? Are neural networks neutral? From everyday apps to complex algorithms, technology has the potential to hide, speed up, and even deepen discrimination. Using the Black Mirror TV series as a starting point, we will explore a range of emerging technologies that encode inequity in digital platforms and automated decisions systems, and develop a conceptual toolkit to decode tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. Students will apply design justice principles in a collaborative project and learn to communicate course insights to tech practitioners, policy makers, and the broader public. Instructed by: R. Benjamin

AAS 340 Christians and Incarceration (See REL 308)

AAS 342 Sisters' Voices: African Women Writers (also
COM 394
/
AFS 342
) Spring LA

In this class, we study the richness and diversity of poetry, novels, and memoirs written by African women. The course expands students' understanding of the long history of women's writing across Africa and a range of languages. It focuses on their achievements while foregrounding questions of aesthetics and style. As an antidote to misconceptions of African women as silent, students analyze African women's self-representations and how they theorize social relations within and across ethnic groups, generations, classes, and genders. The course increase students' ability to think, speak, and write critically about gender. Instructed by: W. Belcher

AAS 346 The American Jeremiad and Social Criticism in the United States (also
REL 367
) Not offered this year HA

An examination of the religious and philosophical roots of prophecy as a form of social criticism in American intellectual and religious history. Particular attention is given to what is called the American Jeremiad, a mode of public exhortation that joins social criticism to spiritual renewal. Michael Walzer, Sacvan Bercovitch, and Edward Said serve as key points of departure in assessing prophetic criticism's insights and limitations. Attention is also given to the role of black prophetic critics, such as James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Cornel West. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 350 Rats, Riots, and Revolution: Housing in the Metropolitan United States (also
SOC 362
) Spring HA

This class examines the history of urban and suburban housing in the twentieth century US. We will examine the relationship between postwar suburban development as a corollary to the "underdevelopment" of American cities contributing to what scholars have described as the "urban crisis" of the 1960s. Housing choice and location were largely shaped by discriminatory practices in the real estate market, thus, the course explores the consequences of the relationship between public policy and private institutions in shaping the metropolitan area including after the passage of federal anti-housing discrimination legislation in the late 1960s. Instructed by: K. Taylor

AAS 351 Law, Social Policy, and African American Women (also
GSS 351
) Not offered this year SA

Journeying from enslavement and Jim Crow to the post-civil rights era, this course will learn how law and social policy have shaped, constrained, and been resisted by black women's experience and thought. Using a wide breadth of materials including legal scholarship, social science research, visual arts, and literature, we will also develop an understanding of how property, the body, and the structure and interpretation of domestic relations have been frameworks through which black female subjectivity in the United States was and is mediated. Instructed by: I. Perry

AAS 352 Topics in the Politics of Writing and Difference (See SPA 352)

AAS 353 African American Literature: Origins to 1910 (also
ENG 352
) Fall LA

This introductory course focuses on African American literature and literary production from the mid-18th century to the early 20th. In readings, assignments, and discussions, we will explore the unique cultural contexts, aesthetic debates, and socio-political forces surrounding the production of an early African American literary tradition. Over the course of the semester, we will investigate the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and Paul L. Dunbar, the political oratory of Sojourner Truth and David Walker, slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Wilson, and non-fiction writing by W.E.B. DuBois, and fiction by Frances Harper. Instructed by: A. Womack

AAS 354 Black Dramatists in the English-Speaking World (See ENG 354)

AAS 355 Pleasure, Power and Profit: Race and Sexualities in a Global Era (See GSS 345)

AAS 358 Sexuality and Religion in America (also
REL 379
/
GSS 359
) Fall CDHA

Sexuality has long been a contested and contentious issue within American religions, yet only recently have scholars begun to address it forthrightly. This course will explore the emerging literature on sexuality and religion as a way to understand how approaches to sex and sexuality within "sacred spaces" have shaped private behavior and public opinion. We will give particular attention to African American religious traditions and American evangelicalism and Catholicism more broadly for the way they have been especially influential in framing (and inhibiting) sexual discourse and practices in the United States. Instructed by: W. Best

AAS 359 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present (also
ENG 366
) Spring LA

A survey of 20th- and 21st century African American literature, including the tradition's key aesthetic manifestos. Special attention to how modern African American literature is periodized and why certain innovations in genre and style emerged when they did. Poetry, essays, novels, popular fiction, a stage production or two, and related visual texts. Instructed by: K. Nishikawa

AAS 362 Race and the American Legal Process: Emancipation to the Voting Rights Act (also
SPI 386
/
POL 338
) Not offered this year SA

This course examines the dynamic and often conflicted relationships between African American struggles for inclusion, and the legislative, administrative, and judicial decision-making responding to or rejecting those struggles, from Reconstruction to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In tracing these relationships we will cover issues such as property, criminal law, suffrage, education, and immigration, with a focus on the following theoretical frameworks: equal protection, due process, civic participation and engagement, and political recognition. Instructed by: I. Perry

AAS 365 Migration and the Literary Imagination (also
REL 362
) Spring LA

This course will explore the various meanings of migration and mobility found in 20th-century African American literature. Through careful historical and literary analysis, we will examine the significant impact migration has had on African American writers and the ways it has framed their literary representations of modern black life. Instructed by: W. Best

AAS 366 African American History to 1863 (also
HIS 386
) Spring HA

This course explores African American history from the Atlantic slave trade up to the Civil War. It is centrally concerned with the rise of and overthrow of human bondage and how they shaped the modern world. Africans were central to the largest and most profitable forced migration in world history. They shaped new identities and influenced the contours of American politics, law, economics, culture, and society. The course considers the diversity of experiences in this formative period of nation-making. Race, class, gender, region, religion, labor, and resistance animate important themes in the course. Instructed by: T. Hunter, K. Taylor

AAS 367 African American History Since Emancipation (also
HIS 387
) Fall CDHA

This course offers an introduction to the major themes, critical questions, and pivotal moments in post emancipation African American history. Traces the social, political, cultural, intellectual, and legal contours of the black experience in the United States from Reconstruction to the rise of Jim Crow, through the World Wars, Depression, and the Great Migrations, to the long civil rights era and the contemporary period of racial politics. Using a wide variety of texts, images, and creative works, the course situates African American history within broader national and international contexts. Instructed by: J. Guild, K. Taylor

AAS 368 Topics in African American Religion (also
REL 368
) Not offered this year LA

Assesses the value of religion and its impartations of the historical, ethical, and political in African American life. Courses will also critique African American religion from a broader contextual basis by establishing commonalities and differences across historical and cultural boundaries. Instructed by: W. Best

AAS 371 Crafting Freedom: Women and Liberation in the Americas (1960s to the present) (See COM 376)

AAS 372 Postblack - Contemporary African American Art (also
ART 374
/
AMS 372
) Spring LA

As articulated by Thelma Golden, postblack refers to the work of African American artists who emerged in the 1990s with ambitious, irreverent, and sassy work. Postblack suggests the emergence of a generation of artists removed from the long tradition of black affirmation of the Harlem Renaissance, black empowerment of the Black Arts movement, and identity politics of the 1980s and early 90s. This seminar involves critical and theoretical readings on multiculturalism, race, identity, and contemporary art, and will provide an opportunity for a deep engagement with the work of African American artists of the past decade. Instructed by: C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 373 What is Black Art: Art History and the Black Diaspora (See ART 373)

AAS 376 Race and Religion in America (See REL 377)

AAS 379 Black Aesthetics: Art, Literature, and Politics in the African Diaspora (See ENG 379)

AAS 380 Law and Public Policy in African American History (also
AMS 382
) Fall CDHA

This course explores how ideas and discourses about race shape how public policy is debated, adopted, and implemented. Black social movements and geopolitical considerations prompted multiple public policy responses to racial discrimination throughout the twentieth century. Despite these policy responses, discrimination persists, raising theoretical concerns about the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, political representation, the role of the state (meaning government or law) in promoting social justice, and the role of social movements and civil society in democratizing policymaking and addressing group oppression. Instructed by: N. Murakawa, K. Taylor

AAS 382 Race, Religion, and the Harlem Renaissance (See REL 372)

AAS 384 Prejudice: Its Causes, Consequences, and Cures (See SPI 345)

AAS 387 Puerto Ricans Under U.S. Empire: Memory, Diaspora, and Resistance (See SPA 387)

AAS 388 Unrest and Renewal in Urban America (See HIS 388)

AAS 391 Experimenting in Dark Times: 19th C African American Literature and Culture (See ENG 391A)

AAS 392 Topics in African American Literature (also
ENG 392
/
GSS 341
) Fall LA

A historical overview of black literary expression from the 19th century to present day. Will emphasize a critical and analytical approach to considering the social, cultural, and political dimensions of African American literature. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 393 Race, Drugs, and Drug Policy in America (See HIS 393)

AAS 394 African American Women's History (See HIS 390)

AAS 397 New Diasporas (See ENG 397)

AAS 402 Princeton and Slavery (See HIS 402)

AAS 403 Race and Medicine (See ANT 403)

AAS 410 Mortality at the Margins: Race, Inequality and Health Policy in the United States (See GHP 409)

AAS 411 Art, Apartheid, and South Africa (also
ART 471
/
AFS 411
) Fall CDLA

Apartheid, the political doctrine of separation of races in South Africa (1948-1990), dominated the (South) African political discourse in the second half of the 20th century. While it lasted, art and visual cultures were marshaled in the defense and contestation of its ideologies. Since the end of Apartheid, artists, filmmakers, dramatists, and scholars continue to reexamine the legacies of Apartheid, and the social, philosophical, and political conditions of non-racialized South Africa. Course readings examine issues of race, nationalism and politics, art and visual culture, and social memory in South Africa. Instructed by: C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 412 Human Trafficking and its Demise: African and European Slaves in Modern Islam (16th-21st century) (See NES 395)

AAS 413 Major Author(s) (See ENG 411)

AAS 423 Africa: Revolutionary Movements and Liberation Struggles (See HIS 423)

AAS 434 Gender and Sexuality in African History (See COM 434)

AAS 443 Black Worldmaking: Freedom Movements Then and Now (See HIS 443)

AAS 455 Major Author(s) (See ENG 414)

AAS 456 New Orleans at 300: Invention & Reinvention in an American City (See HIS 456)

AAS 472 Igbo and Yoruba Art (See ART 472)

AAS 474 Art and Politics in Postcolonial Africa (See ART 474)

AAS 477 The Civil Rights Movement (also
HIS 477
) Spring HA

This interdisciplinary course examines the evolution of African American social and political mobilization from World War II through the 1970s. Through an analysis of historical scholarship, oral history, sermons, works of literature, film and music, it explores the various ways that African Americans articulated their political demands and affirmed their citizenship using the church, grassroots organizations, workers' rights, feminism, education, war, the federal bureaucracy, and the law as tools for political action. The course also considers the ways these movements have been remembered, memorialized, and appropriated in more recent times. Instructed by: J. Guild, I. Perry, K. Taylor

AAS 483 Race in the American Empire (See HIS 483)

AAS 488 Law, Social Difference, and the Sustenance of Health (See HIS 488)