English 135AC

Literature of American Cultures: Race, Class, & Disability in American Cultures: American Foundlings

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2019 Schweik, Susan
Lectures MW 10-11 in 141 McCone + one hour of discussion section per week in different locations (sec. 101: F 10-11; sec. 102: F 12-1) 141 McCone

Book List

Adams, Maurianne: Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Fourth Edition)

Other Readings and Media

A course reader.


To start with, a general overview. This course will analyze the categories of “disability,” “race” and “ethnicity” critically. My aim in the class is to set up situations in which we can think about several of these categories intersectionally, in the context of American cultures present and past.

We’ll have a specific focus: family separation and incarceration in the United States.  Starting with a recent crisis, the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and what’s happening to children on the border of this country, we’ll explore some of the many ways in which American history is a history of family separation and incarceration, reading, for instance, archives of slavery, “Indian boarding schools,” Japanese American internment, eugenic sterilization, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the “Muslim Ban,” and disability institutions as archives of orphaning, imprisonment, forced caregiving and, sometimes, reunion. 

A variety of guest speakers, including artists, performers, and activists, will visit us, and we’ll work with films and digital resources as well as reading historical and sociological analyses and literary texts.

And we’ll engage in a collective research and creative project. The course will be part of the Adobe Fellowship initiative, designed to provide “opportunities for reflective making and producing—in visual art, design, film, media, performing arts, and more.” In semester-long creative projects, students will “face challenges of conceptualization, design, planning, and implementation; build new, and hone existing, creative skills; and participate in structured reflection throughout the act of creation.” 

Taking our inspiration from models like the 50 Objects site (which explores the history of Japanese American internment through the examination of 50 objects), the Smithsonian Museum’s Everybody exhibit (which explores U.S. disability history through a set of artifacts), and London’s Foundling Museum (which exhibits and contextualizes the small tokens—like buttons or scraps of cloth—left by mothers with the babies given over to the Foundling Hospital), we’ll be locating, collecting, analyzing and displaying significant objects that our class will curate together, creating our own American Foundlings project.

This course satisfies UC Berkeley's American Cultures requirement.

Discussion Sections

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