English 250

Research Seminar: Race as Method--Or, What Is Ethnic Literature?

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2005 Lye, Colleen
Lye, Colleen
Tues. 3:30-6:30 214 Haviland

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T.B.A. (see course description for a close approximation).


This course will be concerned with the implications of recent research in racialization theory --in particular, historical/materialist approaches to conceptualizing race, racism, and racialization-- for how we might go about reconceptualizing what is ethnic literature. That is to say, while we have become ever more aware of the social constructedness of race, it has proved exceedingly difficult to redraw the boundaries of ethnic literature along post-essentialist lines or to ask political questions of ethnic literature that are not predicated upon such reified dualisms as majority/minority, domination/resistance. Why? This course can be thought of as a working group whose aim will be to examine the possibilities for developing new approaches to ethnic literature from the at present under-considered resources afforded by marxist theory. Ultimately, we will be interested in asking: what does literature have to contribute to an understanding of ethnicity as a social relation and a historically dynamic process? What alternative political grounds might be discovered for ethnic literature? The course will be divided into two major movements. For the most part, we will be immersing ourselves in varieties of (what I wish us to consider as) historical/materialist approaches to race and racism. Our readings here will have four areas of concentration: writings on anti-semitism and the Jewish Question (Marx, Postone, Arendt, Sartre); on debates in black marxism and on the wages of whiteness (Cedric Robinson, David Roediger, Barbara Fields, Dubois, Theodore Allen, Robin D. G. Kelly, C.L.R. James); on theories of race in the context of imperialism and colonialism (Fanon, Hall, Gilroy, Balibar, Foucault); on the problem of Asian American identity as its focalizes debates in ethnicity theory versus racial formation, ethnic studies versus diaspora studies (Robert Park, Omi and Winant, Henry Yu, Alexander Saxton, Lisa Lowe, and others). In the latter part of the course, we will research the construction of ethnic canons and generate accounts of the prevailing methodological assumptions that structure them.

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