Graduate Program

350:511 - Comparative Racialization

Course No:  350:511
Index # - 27992
Distribution Requirement:  B, C
Monday - 4:30 p.m.
MU 207

Comparative Racialization

Stephane Robolin

Following the October 2008 PMLA special issue by the same title, this course will place race at the center of comparative cultural analyses. It will invite us to consider what is gained by placing one construction of race alongside another. What value lies in thinking about racial formations—not in isolation but in relation to others—across time or place? And what risks—from reductions and conflations to erasures and presentisms—bedevil projects of racial comparison? In short, how do we think across race ethically and productively?

This course structures comparative racialization in two primary ways. The first, more classical sense focuses, synchronically, on the relationship between racial groups across different social structures, geographies, and histories to consider their similarities and differences—and to discern what those similarities and difference reveal about race and transcultural relation. This approach includes transnational blackness, comparative indigeneities, Afro-Asian relationships, and other cross-racial solidarities. The second sense of comparative racialization involves exploring how the construction of race—and the identity of racial groups entangled amongst others—changes diachronically. We’ll additionally take up ways that race is compared to other categories of social difference, including gender, sexuality, and class. It will include queer of color critique, feminist studies, and critical race theory. The nature of this inquiry will also necessitate a careful meditation on the kinds of, and grounds for, comparison.

The course will draw from a range of critical texts, likely including selections from PMLA and from edited volumes, such as Lionnet and Shih’s Minor Transnationalisms, Feldman’s Comparison, Clarke and Thomas’s Globalization and Race, and Soske and Jacobs’ Apartheid Israel. It will also feature whole or partial monographs that may include Edward’s The Practice of Diaspora, Jaji’s Africa in Stereo, Byrd’s The Transit of Empire, Bald’s Bengali Harlem, Lowe’s The Intimacies of Four Continents, Eng’s The Feeling of Kinship, Schleitweiler’s Strange Fruit, Mayeri’s Reasoning from Race, Rasberry’s Race and the Totalitarian Century, and Glissant’s Poetics of Relation. To ground our discussions, we’ll occasionally take up primary creative texts, which may include the following: Coetzee’s Dusklands, Gyasi’s Homecoming, Lu’s Pamela: A Novel, Kureshi’s My Beautiful Laundrette, Magona’s Mother to Mother, Patel’s Migritude, and Vassanji’s The Gunny Sack.


Course evaluations will be based on regular class participation, pre-class reflections, class presentations, a midterm paper, and a final paper.