Racial Identity in the American Imagination

From Sally Hemings to Barack Obama, this course explores the ways that racial identity has been experienced, represented, and contested throughout American history.  Engaging historical, legal, and literary texts and films, this course examines major historical transformations that have shaped our understanding of racial identity.  This course also draws on other imaginative modes including autobiography, memoir, photography, and music to consider the ways that racial identity has been represented in American society.  Most broadly, this course interrogates the problem of American identity and examines the interplay between racial identity and American identity.

Summer 2019 Syllabus


Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race

Elsa Barkley Brown, What Has Happened Here: The Politics of Difference in Women’s History and Feminist Politics

About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge, White Women Crying Is Racist (podcast)

George Sanchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945

Ana Minian, Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration (introduction)

Allyson Hobbs and Ana Minian, A Firsthand Look at the Horrors of Immigration Detention

Amira Jarmakani, Arab American Feminisms: Mobilizing the Politics of Invisibility

Jeannie Suk Gersen, The Uncomfortable Truth About Affirmative Action and Asian-Americans

Mae Ngai, The World War II Internment of Japanese Americans and Citizenship Renunciation Cases

Philip Deloria, Playing Indian (introduction)

Podcast Resources

Software: Hindenburg (30 day free trial)

Hindenburg Shortcuts

Creating a Hindenburg Project

Starting to Edit

Interviewing Tips

Interviewing Dos and Don’ts

Optional Related Readings

Rogers Brubaker, trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities

Matthew Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color:  European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race

Toni Morrison, On the Backs of Blacks