Out of Place in America
This course considers the shared experiences of Indigenous peoples, immigrants, and refugees--groups that are not necessarily considered together--by mapping histories and ongoing practices of exclusion, displacement, and surveillance in the United States as narrated in works by Native American, African American, Latinx and Asian American writers. Drawing on what sociologist Ruth Frankenberg has termed the “social geography of race,” it considers how private and public spaces are racially demarcated in legal, material, social, and affective terms, attending to how citizenship is constituted and felt unevenly by different subjects. Additionally, by giving particular attention to the presence of non-English languages and other motifs, the course explores how literary works also illuminate forms of belonging. The literary works are primarily drawn from the past fifty years, with several touchstone short works from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to extend the temporal frame. Lectures will draw on theoretical texts (which will be available on the course website) from scholars of law, geography, sociology, literature, and ethnic studies. Students will be encouraged to consider how the literary works themselves are theorizing the worlds that they depict; further, students will be expected to create their own maps in a written assignment that explores how their real and perceived subjectivity is shaped by their movement through (or exclusion from) various spaces. Attention to the spatial stratification of race—what it means to be “in (one’s) place” or “out of place” in America—is the central analytic of the course. Texts will include Fae Ng, Bone;Tommy Orange, There There; Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Audiobook); Helena Maria Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus; Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown; and Zitkala-Sa, American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings.