Race enters writing, the making of art, as a structure of feeling, as something that structures feelings, that lays down tracks of affection and repulsion, rage and hurt, desire and ache. These tracks don’t only occur in the making of art; they also occur (sometimes viciously, sometimes hazily) in the reception of creative work. Here we are again: we’ve made this thing and we’ve sent it out into the world for recognition—and because what we’ve made is in essence a field of human experience created for other humans, the field and its maker and its readers are thus subject all over again to race and its infiltrations. In that moment arise all sorts of possible hearings and mis-hearings, all kinds of address and redress.
~ Claudia Rankine
For the past year, Claudia Rankine’s words have both inspired and haunted me, both as a scholar of race, popular culture, and (intellectual property) law, and a teacher of those subjects. Rankine is perhaps not an obvious choice to anchor a teaching statement. Yet for me, her words are pedagogically valuable for understanding race, popular culture, law, and rhetoric. The notion that “[r]ace enters writing” suggests that it is an (unwelcome) guest, one who is always present but often unobserved. We can, perhaps, identify a moment when the fleet-footed guest joins us, or their presence comes to our awareness. The notion that race enters writing as “a structure of feeling” points us to the role of public emotions in racist and racist thought but also to the amorphousness and stickiness of racial feelings. Rankine, an incisive communication scholar as well as extraordinary poet, traces the relationship between production and text, audience reception and audience mis-reception. Together, Rankine reminds us that we must always be mindful of the way that race infiltrates cultural spaces, written, visual, and aural, in ways which are perniciously invisible but deeply emotional. Attending to the vagaries of the racial categories which we inadvertently produce and reproduce is a central part of my goal as a scholar of race, popular culture, law, and rhetoric. I am interested not in filling my students’ brains with facts and numbers, in a manner that Paulo Friere would certainly critique as part of the “banking model” of education, but rather by offering them (and myself) space to cultivate tools, language, emotional self-awareness, that will help them navigate the ubiquitous and complex racial landscapes to which Rankine alludes.
My full teaching philosophy is posted here.
Please note that while I post my most recent syllabi for reference and inspiration, I do so with an expectation that scholars will not pass off the intellectual labor of creating these courses off as their own. I refer here to the statement of the Critical Ethnic Studies Journal on citation practices as a reference for thinking about citation practices generally as well as in the context of developing new courses and areas of study:
Sara Ahmed (2013) describes citation practices as a “rather successful reproductive technology, a way of reproducing the world around certain bodies.” Citation ‘structures’ form disciplines, Ahmed tells us. “The reproduction of a discipline can be the reproduction of these techniques of selection, ways of making certain bodies and thematics core to the discipline, and others not even part.” Indeed, our practices of citation make and remake our fields, making some forms of knowledge peripheral. We often cite those who are more famous, even if their contributions appropriate subaltern ways of knowing…Over time, our citation practices become repetitive; we cite the same people we cited as newcomers to a conversation. Our practices persist without consideration of the politics of linking projects to the same tired reference lists.
Essentials of Argument
Black Cultural Studies
Introduction to Communication II
Introduction to Communication I