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Melissa Harris-Perry Syllabi

Current Courses: Spring 2016

POL 210: Black Lives Matter: Perspectives on Blackness, State Violence, and Resistance

How has the meaning of racial justice transformed over the course of the 20th and early 21st century in America? What political changes, forms of resistance and societal shifts have contributed to and produced these variations? In polarizing political times, how can we more closely approximate a more racially just world? This course is an effort to understand the contemporary web of social, political, economic, and direct actions operating under the broad theme of Black Lives Matter. Drawing on broad, interdisciplinary approaches, this class will contextualize the long history of racial justice, non-violent, and anti-racist political movements within academic historical, social scientific, and legal frameworks. The course also seeks to develop the critical questioning, writing, and engagement skills of students.

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Past Courses

POL 210: Race, Class, and Social Justice

This course explores answers to the questions: What is social justice? How are identities, experiences, and structures of race, ethnicity, and class intertwined with social justice in the American context? Why does social justice matter? What can individuals and communities do to develop socially justice outcomes? Students closely read a number of texts drawn from a wide variety of disciplines and contemporary popular writings. In addition to traditional classroom practices of lecture, discussion, and writing, this course moves decidedly beyond the classroom by requiring students to engage in a number of social justice activities on campus and in the Winston-Salem community. Students work collaboratively to build a toolkit for social justice as the final project for the class.

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Politics of Motherhood

This course examines the intersection of motherhood and politics in the United States with a focus on contemporary politics. There will be some grounding in 19th and 20th century women’s political history. We will consider the politics of motherhood in various forms: the relevance of parental identity in the political choices of women; the cultural and political battles surrounding reproductive justice and the ability of women to choose motherhood; the complicated ways that motherhood is represented in popular culture; and the intersections of race, class and sexual orientation with the politics of motherhood.

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Hip-Hop & Feminism

For more than 30 years, hip-hop has been the most pronounced cultural identifier for young Americans. This course seeks to address, analyze, explore and contest the political aspects of hip-hop music and culture through a close examination of feminism. This course is an analytic space for debate and discussion about the impact of hip-hop culture on the sexual, gender and political understandings of Americans and others around the world.

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Politics of Environmental Justice

This course will explore the intersection of social justice and environmental stewardship, with particular attention to issues of environmental justice. Students will learn the history of environmental justice and its relationship to the larger environmental movement. Students will also explore the political and ethical issues underpinning environmental justice work and develop the ability to reason about issues of environmental justice. This class will assist students in becoming familiar with the literature on and methods used to study environmental justice, understanding how studying the social sciences can help one become a more effective citizen, and learning how to apply the theories learned in class to real-world events.

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Black Religion and Black Political Thought

Scholars of the African American experience have located the black church as the cultural, social, and political womb of the black community. This research tends to think of the church as a structure that brings actors into contact with one another; it has paid less attention to the church as a place that brings actors into contact with ideas. This course will use a variety of classic and contemporary texts about black political thought as an entry into investigating the connections between black religious ideas and political activism. The class links the work on religion to an intensive introduction to black political thought. This course focuses on the various 20th century ideologies and strategies, which have informed the African American quest for human fulfillment, self-actualization, and equity in the United States of America.

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Black Women’s Political Activism

This course uses the history of African American women’s political activism to illuminate questions of participation in American politics. Examining the intersection and interaction of gender, race, sexuality, and class with politics in the United States, this course reconceptualizes both politics and political science. By moving black women from their historically marginal position in the curriculum to the center of our attention, we will begin to explore ways of transforming knowledge about American politics. Specific readings, discussion, and writing will explore topics such as feminism, labor activism, the Civil Rights Movement, black power, and contemporary cultural politics.

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Introduction to African American Politics

This course provides an introduction to the political experience of African Americans. The course is contemporary in focus. Topics include African American political thought, voting and participation, urban politics, race and elected office, and issues of gender, class, age and sexual identity at the intersections of black politics.

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America’s First Ladies

This seminar explores American first ladies as political and social actors. Our primary question is: what does American history and politics look like when told through the stories of women with great access to power but with little formal power of their own? We will both trace the evolution of the role of first lady and explore how individual women who have held this role have understood it and adapted it. This is an upper level course. Every student is required to read all assignments and be prepared for a class discussion each week. You will be expected to write, read, and analyze regularly. There will be no lectures; this is entirely a seminar and reading course based on a graduate education model.

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Women in Politics, Media, and the Contemporary United States

This course is an introduction to the various roles and experiences of women in contemporary American politics, media, and society. We will explore changing definitions of womanhood and women’s identity during the late 20th and early 21st century. We will discuss women who hold positions of leadership and relative privilege and women who find themselves in the most powerless and difficult circumstances in contemporary America. We will explore cross-cutting issues of class, race, sexuality and gender identity to help understand the many experiences of women in America.

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