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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2020-21


AAAS 33.10 Rituals of Breath: Black Performance and Resistance

This interdisciplinary course explores the historical legacy of public rituals of extreme violence against African American peoples as both sites of anti-black state and non-state sanctioned disciplinary projects as well as time-spaces of radical resistance. From the slave trade to life and labor under conditions of slavery to post-reconstruction segregation to lynching to police violence, American history can be read through the changing nature of the public torture of Black peoples. At the center of these forms of violence are the control of breath as life force and sign of freedom. This course examines the murder of Eric Garner in 2014 in a police-executed choke hold as a key event that both harkens back to a long history of lynchings and shootings and also to a history of how Black communities have organized around and resisted these forms of violence. Aesthetic representation has been intimately connected to anti-Black racial violence from photographs and postcards of lynchings in which white perpetrators pose alongside dead Black bodies to representations of Emmitt Till’s mutilated body at his funeral in an open casket to video of Rodney King’s beating to the continuing stream of video and images of extra-judicial killings of black citizens. Generations of artists in film, theater, painting/sculpture, dance, and across media have challenged and confronted this aesthetics of violence. This course explores theories of ritual and performance to understand how artists and communities come together as collectives to contextualize and re-present impossible terrors. Artists and political organizers use aesthetics and collective action to transform the horror of being subject to violence at any moment into rituals of potential social transformation. This course then teaches students theories of ritual and performance as ways that communities have historically engaged and confronted histories of anti-Black violences in order to conceive of new future possibilities in the face of disciplinary actions meant to contain and choke black people(s). In some manner, the course links African American experiences of violence and resistance to those of other African peoples around the world. This course is team taught and also draws upon the expertise of various faculty at Dartmouth. This course aims to link theories of Black life and performance to active practices of performance-making, interrogating the intersections between art and scholarship.

The Timetable of Class Meetings contains the most up-to-date information about a course. It includes not only the meeting time and instructor, but also its official distributive and/or world culture designation. This information supersedes any information you may see elsewhere, to include what may appear in this ORC/Catalog or on a department/program website. Note that course attributes may change term to term therefore those in effect are those (only) during the term in which you enroll in the course.