The theme of surveillance is prevalent in Black literature and theories. Many Black artists, poets, political theorists, and literary writers have explored this theme in different ways. Surveillance in these literary and theoretical works takes on different meanings depending on the time period and geographical location. Gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-cultural status, colorism and race, along with other configurations of power like education, nationality, and religion, have all influenced how these thinkers express the feeling of being watched and/or watching. In some of these artistic works, the white gaze figures prominently, while in others the discussion turns to how Black people return the gaze or how Black people surveil other Black people. In this seminar, we will take up this theme by asking: What is surveillance? How is surveillance theorized by Black feminist and political theorists? How do Black poets and literary writers articulate surveillance and watching? Do they use these specific terms? If not, what concepts do they introduce? How do Black artists materialize or represent the feeling of being watched or of watching? How does surveillance reinforce racial boundaries? What role does surveillance play in the construction of race, gender, and sexuality, if any?  

These are some of the preliminary questions that will guide our seminar. I look forward to incorporating your own questions. Though our main theme is surveillance, we'll also explore related sub-themes such as Black feminisms, carceral culture, policing, Black existentialism and phenomenology, prisons, criminalization, freedom, and abolition.  

We'll explore the theme of surveillance via primarily Black artistic works, such as Black literature and theories, Black diasporic artworks (Willie Middlebrook, Dawoud Bey, Amanda Williams), poetry (Claudia Rankine, June Jordan), documentaries, and films (Get Out, Sorry to Bother You, Moonlight).  

Satisfies Africana Studies major requirement.
Satisfies English major requirement.


Class Details
Course AFR 223
Section 0
CRN 20550
Time M W
Time 0805 - 0920am
Building 1006 CHAM
Instructor Claudia Garcia-Rojas
Max 20
Current 0
Remaining 20
Semester Spring 2022