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Summer Ethnic Studies Course – Professor Bianca Williams



Contemporary Issues in African American Studies: 

Black Women, Popular Culture, and the Pursuit of Happiness

— Upper- division Elective —


M-F, 12:30-3:30 pm

ETHN 4652

Dr. Bianca Williams

This course takes an in-depth look at how the pursuit of happiness in the United States is affected by race and gender, particularly for Black women. By putting representations of Blackness, womanhood, and happiness into conversation with one another, students will be able to examine the extent to which historical processes of racism and sexism continue to leave their imprints on an individual’s ability to attain happiness and success. Throughout the course, we will examine representations of race, gender, and happiness present in self-help books, music, films, magazines, blogs, and other forms of media. Therefore, the following questions are of interest for this course:

(1) How do race and gender affect an individual’s ability to pursue happiness? 

(2) What are the emotional and economic “costs” of happiness? 

(3) What do the experiences of Black women pursuing happiness in the U.S. mean for the broader American concept of “the pursuit of happiness?”


African American Social and Political Thought      

Summer Session A

M-F, 12:45-2:20 pm

ETHN 2242

Dr. Bianca Williams

Fulfills Human Diversity and U.S. Context requirements

This course is designed to provide an introduction to the historical and contemporary thinking, writings, and speeches of African Americans. While the texts for this course span the early 20th and 21st centuries, and were written in a particular social and political context, each piece is applicable to our lives today. Beginning with some of the most prominent critics of racism in the U.S., such as W.E.B. DuBois and Carter G. Woodson, we end with some of the most profound anti-racist, feminist theorists of our time, Angela Davis, Patricia Hill Collins, and Melissa Harris-Perry. Throughout the semester, we will engage in lively discussion and analysis of how race and racism have changed drastically over the past one hundred years, while simultaneously remaining incredibly the same. We will analyze music videos (by artists like Jay-Z, The Roots, Nicki Minaj) and political commentary shows (by Melissa Harris-Perry and Jon Stewart) in order to decipher how the conclusions of past theorists apply to the contemporary moment. 


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