The Carter G. Woodson Institute, U.Va.

The Carter G. Woodson Institute

for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia

J-Term 2021 Courses

 J-Term 2021 courses that might* fulfill AAS major/minor requirements. Check back into our department website for updates to approved courses



AAS 2224: Black Femininities & Masculinities in the US Media (Lisa Shutt).

This course, taught as a lower-level seminar, will address the role the media has played in creating images and understandings of “Blackness” in the United States, particularly where it converges with popular ideologies about gender. We will explore how different media, including feature films, popular television, documentaries, popular fiction, television, and print news media create categories of race and gender in different ways for (different) Americans – each medium encapsulating its own markers of legitimacy and expertise – each negotiating its own ideas of authorship and audience. We will concentrate on the particular ways various media produce, display, and disseminate information; in particular, we will be analyzing cultural texts, the cultural environment in which they have been produced, and the audience reception of those texts. Finally, we will ask what responsibilities those who create and circulate information have –and whether or not the consuming/viewing public shares in any sort of responsibility. This class will enable students to cultivate theoretical tools and critical perspectives to analyze and question the influence of the popular media that saturate our lives.


AAS 2559: African Languages and Literatures. (Anne Rotich)

This course is a survey of literary texts in English by contemporary African writers. Students will develop an appreciation for literatures and languages of Africa and an understanding of issues that preoccupy African writers and the literary strategies that they employ in their work. Students will read a variety of texts including excerpts from novels, short stories, poetry, film and songs and critically analyze the cultural and aesthetics of the literary landscape. Particular attention will be on how authors engage themes such as identity, patriarchy, gender, class, and politics in post-colonial structures. Students are expected to actively engage in an analysis and exploration of the required literary works and to express their responses through class discussions, group presentations and the writing of analytical digital stories. 


HIST 2559/RELG 2559: Whiteness: History of Racial Categorization (Andrew Kahrl/Jalane Schmidt)

The insidious systematic injustices resulting from white supremacy, and the phenomena of ‘white privilege’ and ‘white fragility’ have been recent topics of debate in the U.S., where a resurgent white nationalism has unleashed violent political conflict. This course examines the necessary prior question: what is ‘whiteness’? Often functioning as an unmarked category of putative racelessness against which raced ‘Others’ were contrasted, whiteness was treated as self-evident and eluded critical examination. Upon closer review, the shifting definitions of whiteness reveal the inherent instability of its boundaries, and the efforts to police them. Through assigned readings, screening of documentary films, guest lectures, and discussion, the course traces the historical processes through which disparate, previously unrelated (and sometimes competing) ethnic groups were welded together into a new racial category known as ‘white.’ We will analyze who is categorized as white—by whom and why—by examining how institutions constructed this racial category and what performative practices are deemed constitutive of whiteness.



GSGS 2211: Environment, Health, and Development in Africa. (James LaFleur)

This is a lecture- and discussion-rich course that explores the changing relationships between people in Africa, their environments (ecological, epidemiological, political, economic, cultural, and more), and their global neighbors from 1900 CE to present. Issues addressed include imperialism, wildlife conservation, petroleum in Africa, HIV/AIDS, the “Green Revolution” and GMOs, growing Chinese roles in the continent's future, gender violence, and the recent (and perhaps resurgent) Ebola crisis. Emphasis will also be placed on critical appraisal of the role of historic and emerging media in understanding (and sometimes misunderstanding) these problems and in engaging Africans’ own aspirations. Experience studying Africa and/or any of the course themes is welcomed but not at all required. The seminar’s focus is on Africa, but the issues are global and comparative, and therefore course learning is applicable to other places.


GSGS 4559: Community Organizing, Public Health, South Africa (David Edmunds)

The Movement for Change and Social Justice has emerged from decades of activism on the part of Mandla Majola and his colleagues with the internationally renowned Treatment Action Campaign, a campaign that addressed the HIV/AIDS pandemic from within South Africa.  We propose to integrate UVA students with experienced and new activists at MCSJ to learn how to address emerging challenges for township residents related to public health, broadly defined.  The learning plan focuses on exposing students and new activists to the historical and social context for social action in the townships, introducing them to key case studies of social activism related to public health, and training them – in the classroom and through direct experience as possible – in many of the skills required for effective work at organizations such as MCSJ.

GSGS 4559: Arts Activism, Liberated Spaces and Creative Economies at The Black Power Station. (Noel Lobley)

In collaboration with a team of artists, community activists, faculty and other educators in Makahda, South Africa, this course will draw on existing interdisciplinary approaches and skills from Global Studies, and Music and Performance to introduce students to the synergies among African humanism, arts, economics and community power. The course builds on proven and trusted relationships nurtured between the spaces in Makhanda and UVA for more than a decade. Co-instructors in Makhanda represent an expansive team coordinated through TBPS's arts-activist-education space. Students will learn about black consciousness, histories of black resistance, and African humanism from a leading South African scholar. They will then learn from the TBPS's, arts-based activists about how to design, build and sustain arts programming and creative economies that embody African humanism and promote black liberation.


MDST 3559: Race, Protest, and the Media (SIGNATURE COURSE). (Camilla Fojas and Shilpa Dave.)

What images of protest are imprinted on our collective memory by the media? How does media frame and influence how protests centered on racial justice become touchstone generational events? Our class will frame contemporary movements around BLM, Undocumented and Unafraid, protests against the Muslim ban, and the success of groundbreaking texts such as Black Panther through the lens of key media moments of historical protest. We will study the rise of the Power Movements and Ethnic Studies in the 1960s, the Immigration Rights movement that rose in response to anti-Asian and Anti-Latinx violence along with analysis of the Rodney King beating and subsequent L.A. Riots of the 1990s. We will analyze the mediations of key historical moments along with their engagement by mainstream and independent media.


PLAN 3500: Race, Redlining and Redevelopment: The Legacy of Racialized Cities. (Jessica Sewell.)

What does the racial history of American cities have to do with wealth gaps, Covid-19 infection rates, educational attainment, disaster resiliency, and bicycle lanes? How are American ideas about race influenced by our experience of cities? This class explores the legacy of redlining, urban redevelopment, zoning laws, anti-black violence, white flight, and other racialized urban policies and practices on contemporary society. In this class we will work to better understand the structures of inequality in the United States and how they are tied to space and urban policy. Themes will include health, wealth, environmental justice, transportation, and education.

PSYC 3500: Psychology of Black Racial Trauma. (Seanna Leath).

This course will focus on the history and systemic nature of anti-Black racism in the U.S. We will use readings, podcast interviews, and group discussions to explore the effects of racial trauma, and the compounding impact of belonging to multiple marginalized groups, including (but not limited to) gender, social class, and sexuality, and how these intersections intersect to increase susceptibility to experiences of racial trauma.

RELA 3559: Introduction to African Philosophy. (Oludamini Ogunnaike)