“Blackness” in French: From Harlem to Paris and Beyond

Course Description Video Syllabus Faculty Profiles


Course Description

“Blackness” in French: From Harlem to Paris and Beyond
Kaima Glover and Maboula Soumahoro, Instructors

What distinctions must be made between US-black American fantasies of Paris and realities for Blacks in Paris? What are the historical linkages between black Americans and Paris? Between black Americans and black French women and men? How is “blackness” a category into which all non-white racial others are conscripted? (e.g. Arab and Roma communities)? Using an internationalist (specifically transatlantic) approach and covering the 20th and 21st centuries, this course explores these and other questions over the course of the semester through a close consideration of the literature, arts, culture, history and politics emanating from or dealing with Black France. Implicating in particular the real and mythologized site-ciphers that were and are Harlem, USA and Paris, France, and working with local cultural institutions, among which the Schomburg Center and the Jazz Museum, the texts and artifacts examined in this course will consider “race” as both fact and fantasy in the unique, long-historical relationship between Harlem, Paris, and the wider French empire.

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VIDEO

The Hexagon and the Triangle: Pondering France, the Americas, and the Black Atlantic
Lecture by Maboula Soumahoro 

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Syllabus

“BLACKNESS” IN FRENCH: FROM HARLEM TO PARIS AND BEYOND
Spring 2017

Mondays 11AM-12:50PM

KAIAMA L. GLOVER kglover@barnard.edu
MABOULA SOUMAHORO msoumahoro@barnard.edu

Office Hours: MW 4-5PM or by appointment (314MIL) Course description

What distinctions must be made between US-black American fantasies of Paris and realities for Blacks in Paris? What are the historical linkages between black Americans and Paris? Between black Americans and black French women and men? How is “blackness” a category into which all non-white racial others are conscripted? (e.g. Arab and Roma communities)? Using an internationalist (specifically transatlantic) approach and covering the 20th and 21st centuries, this course explores these and other questions over the course of the semester through a close consideration of the literature, arts, culture, history and politics emanating from or dealing with Black France. Implicating in particular the real and mythologized site-ciphers that were and are Harlem, USA and Paris, France, and working with local cultural institutions, among which the Schomburg Center and the Jazz Museum, the texts and artifacts examined in this course will consider “race” as both fact and fantasy in the unique, long-historical relationship between Harlem, Paris, and the wider French empire.

Students who successfully complete this course will have:

  1. explored and analyzed colonial and postcolonial France;
  2. considered the specific social and economic phenomena impacting France’s contemporary relationship with (im)migrants from its former colonies;
  3. explored various processes of racialized and gendered identity formation in the French metropolis;
  4. considered the symbolic and historical implication of Harlem figures in French cultural understandings of race;
  5. examined the distinctions between US-black American imaginations of Paris and cultural realities of race in France;
  6. worked with archival materials housed in the Schomburg Center, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Jazz Museum;
  7. practiced writing short form essays in the style of contemporary journalistic publications;
  8. produced a richly researched long-form essay or digital project drawing from points 1-7

Course Requirements 

Students are expected to:

  1. have prepared all assigned readings/films and participate actively in class discussions;
  2. be active online in responding to and generating discussion/questions related to course materials;
  3. prepare one book or film review (due March 6);
  4. participate in one Harlem walking tour and post online response;
  5. prepare one independent long-form article (in style of contemporary news and culture journal/magazine) OR one collaborative digital exhibit (proposal due April 3; presentation/project due May 1).

Attendance and Participation 

Students are expected to be present and prepared for all class meetings, having done the reading and completed the required writing assignment for that day. If you miss a class, please notify me in advance via email. You will still be held responsible for the assigned work and should consult with a classmate to be updated on the day’s discussion. Students should come to class ready to examine the specifics of assigned reading(s). Please note that participation/preparation does not mean having all the right answers; it can also mean posing intelligent, well thought-out questions.

Online Activity 

Students are expected to post to the course website in response to weekly readings/films on four occasions over the course of the semester. These posts may take the form of commentary, response to specific questions posed by the instructors, or generative questions/topics for reflection.

Book/Film reviews 

These 750-1000 word writing assignments will follow the model of essays published in The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Le Monde des livres, and other such publications.

Focused on a single text, each review should present the plot/content of the work in question and discuss the work’s significance vis-à-vis its historical and/or literary context, its critical reception, or a particular thematic “angle.”

Final Project Presentation

This 20-25 minute in-class report, should outline the research question, methodology (including role assignment for collaborative projects), and conclusions drawn.

Final Paper/Digital Project 

This 3500-5000-word essay or substantive digital project should offer comparative reflections on a thematic element at play in multiple texts from the syllabus, relying on close reading and textual analysis of primary sources and implicating theoretical materials as well. Students must propose a paper topic or project no later than April 3 and final papers/projects are due on May 1. Late submissions will be marked down one half grade point for every day past the due date.

Courseworks

As an enrolled student, you have access to the Courseworks site and will be expected to engage with this platform over the course of the semester. All course-related information (syllabus, links to and references for readings) can be found on this site. In addition, students are expected to post responses to reading/film-related questions here, and to review the responses of other members of the class.

Course Grading and Grading Scale

A+ 96 93 A-90B+ 86 83 B- 80 73 C- 70 63 D- 60

Attendance/Participation 10%
Online activity Film/Book Review 20%
Final Project Proposal 15%
Final Project Presentation 15%
Final Project 20%

Class Attendance Policy

 Students are expected to communicate promptly regarding absences from class, preferably in advance of any missed class. Students will be held responsible for all assigned work and should consult with a classmate to be updated on any missed class discussion.

Classroom Use of Technology

Laptops and tablets are permitted for in-class use (this policy is subject to alteration in instances of mis-use of such devices). Cell phone use is strictly forbidden in class.

Barnard College Honor Code 

Your participation in this course comes with the expectation that your work will be completed in full observance of the Barnard College Honor Code. You can review it carefully at: http://barnard.edu/dos/honor-code

Students with Documented Disability 

If you are a student with a documented disability and require academic accommodations, you must visit the Office of Disability Services (ODS) for assistance. Students requesting eligible accommodations in their courses will need to first meet with an ODS staff member for an intake meeting. Once registered, students are required to visit ODS each semester to set up new accommodations and learn how to notify faculty. Accommodations are not retroactive, so it is best to register with ODS early each semester to access your accommodations. If you are registered with ODS, please see me to schedule a meeting outside of class in whichyou can bring me your faculty notification letter and we can discuss your accommodations for this course.

Students are not eligible to use their accommodations in this course until they have met with me. ODS is located in Milbank Hall, Room 008.

Wellness Statement 

It is important for undergraduates to recognize and identify the different pressures, burdens, and stressors you may be facing, whether personal, emotional, physical, financial, mental, or academic. We as a community urge you to make yourself–your own health, sanity, and wellness–your priority throughout this term and your career here. Sleep, exercise, and eating well can all be a part of a healthy regimen to cope with stress. Resources exist to support you in several sectors of your life, and we encourage you to make use of them. Should you have any questions about navigating these resources, please visit these sites:

SCHEDULE OF MEETINGS 

23 Jan

  • Course Introductions – logistics, requirements, expectations, overview
  • Pascal Blanchard and Juan Gélas – Noirs de France/Black France, part. 1 “The Time of the Pioneers (1889-1940)” (film 52”)

30 Jan – site visit: Studio Museum in Harlem “Protest” exhibit

  • Mathieu Kassovitz – La Haine (film 95”)
  • blog exchange between Mathieu Kassovitz and Nicolas Sarkozy
  • Frenchness and the African Diaspora “Introduction”

HISTORY/CONTEXT – France and It’s Colonial “Others”

6 Feb

  • Charles de Gaulle – “Opening Speech at Brazzaville”
  • Jean-Paul Sartre – “Black Orpheus”
  • Aimé Césaire – Discourse on Colonialism 

13 Feb 

  • Pascal Blanchard and Juan Gélas – Noirs de France/Black France, part. 2 “The Time of Migrations (1940-1974)” (film 52”)
  • Franz Fanon – Wretched of the Earth (“Concerning Violence”) and A Dying Colonialism (Introduction)
  • Jacob Drachler – Black Homeland/Black Diaspora
  • Bob Swaim – Lumières noires (film 52”)

FROM HARLEM TO PARIS

 20 Feb

  • William A. Shack Harlem in Montmartre (film 83”) and/or Joanne Burke – When African Americans Came to Paris (film – 3/15” shorts)
  • Trica Keaton – “‘Black (American) Paris’ and the ‘Other France,’” France/France noire
  • Tracy Denean Sharpley-Whiting – Negritude Women

27 Feb 

  • Tracy Denean Sharpley-Whiting – Black Venus
  • Abdellatif Kechiche – Black Venus (film 159”)

6 Mar 

  • Petrine Archer-Shaw – Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s
  • Bennetta Jules-Rosette – “Reflections on the future of black France: Josephine Baker’s vision of a global village,” in Black France/France noire
  • Eileen Julien –“Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Josephine Baker’s Films of the 1930s and the Problem of Color,”
  • Terri Francis – “The Audacious Josephine Baker: Stardom, Cinema, Paris,” Europe and the African Diaspora
  • Guest: Fania Noel (France-Haiti), Mwasi (Afrofeminist Collective and Camp d’été décolonial, Paris)

**DUE – book or film review

 

SPRING BREAK 

MUSLIM/ARAB FRANCE

20 Mar

  • William Safran – “The French and Their National Identity: The Quest for an Elusive Substance?”
  • David Beriss – “Schools, Scarves, and Segregation: The Foulard Affair”
  • Mayanthi Fernando – The Unsettled Republic: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism
  • Pierre Tévanian – “A Conservative Revolution within Secularism: The Ideological Premises and Social Effects of the March 15, 2004, ‘Anti-Headscarf’ Law,” in Frenchness and the African Diaspora

CONTEMPORARY “BLACKNESS” AND/AS OTHERNESS 

27 Mar

  • Trica Keaton – Muslim Girls and the Other France: Race, Identity Politics, and Social Exclusion
  • Tahar Ben Jelloun – French Hospitality: Racism and North African Immigrants
  • Ahmed Boubeker – “Outsiders in the French Melting Pot: The Public Construction of Invisibility for Visible Minorities,” in Frenchness and the African Diaspora
  • Achille Mbembe – “Figures of Multiplicity: Can France Reinvent its Identity?,” in Frenchness and the African Diaspora

3 Apr 

  • Shay Youngblood – Black Girl in Paris
  • Trica D. Keaton – “Black (American) Paris” and the French Outer-Cities: The Race Question and Questioning Solidarity,” in Black Europe and the African Diaspora
  • Fred Constant – “Talking Race in Color-Blind France: Equality Denied, ‘Blackness’ Reclaimed” in Black Europe and the African Diaspora
  • Tyler Stovall – “No Green Pastures: The African-Americanization of France,” in Black Europe and the African Diaspora

**DUE – proposal for independent long-form article OR collaborative digital exhibit

10 Apr

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic in Paris, Between the World and Me (excerpts)
  • Open Society Justice Initiative – Profiling Minorities: A Study of Stop-and-Search Practices in Paris
  • Alice Diop – Vers la tendresse (film 39”) and La Permanence/On Call (film 96”)

17 Apr 

  • James G. Spady, H. Samy Alim and Samir Meghelli – Tha Global Cipha: Hip Hop Culture and Consciousness
  • Charles Tshimanga – “Let the Music Play: The African Diaspora, Popular Culture, and National Identity in Contemporary France,” in Frenchness and the African Diaspora

24 Apr 

  • Didier Lapeyronnie “Primitive Rebellion in the French Banlieues: On the Fall 2005 Riots,” in Frenchness and the African Diaspora
  • Achille Mbembe “The Republic and Its Beast: On the Riots in the French Banlieues,” in Frenchness and the African Diaspora
  • Charles Forsdick, “Compensating for the Past: Debating Reparations for Slavery in Contemporary France”

1 May 

  • Guest: actor-director Cedric Ido (France-Burkina Faso), screening of parts of his latest film “La vie de Château” (“Chateau” in English) and Q&A.

8 May 

  • Project Presentations

**DUE – Final Project

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Faculty Profiles

Kaiama L. Glover is Associate Professor of French and Africana Studies at Barnard College. Read Glover’s complete faculty profile.

Maboula Soumahoro is Visiting Professor of Oral History at Columbia University. Read Soumahoro’s complete faculty profile.

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