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Performing Race


A theoretical and practical course offered by University of Texas’ School Arts & Humanities T/H 9:00-1:00pm Summer Semester 2004

Dr. Venus Opal Reese Office: JO3.514, (0) 972.883.2013 Office Hours: t/h 1:15-2:15pm or by appointment

How does one perform one’s race? Can someone “be” more, black, Asian, white, Latino—more whatever than a body born into that particular population? What happens when one is biracial—how does one perform one’s bi-racial-ness? What is the difference between racism, racialism, and appropriation? Since 9/11, how has racial profiling moved from the usual suspects to a broader “brown” or rather, a non-white appearing population? Does my race make me who I am? How would I know myself, or others, without race? What is the history of race and how did it become a tool for community, pride, oppression, and annihilation? How do I, through race, perform me?

This course is an exploration of race through theory and media. White supremacy, anti- Semitism, Apartheid, appropriations of “blackness” and the performance of cultural politics will be explored and deconstructed—both theoretically, visually, and personally. Utilizing history, theory, and personal narrative, each student will have the opportunity to create a theoretically based multimedia piece, by converging theory with images, text, and technology. Part theory, part practice, Performing Race is an extraordinary opportunity to explore, express, and expand one of the most provocative and problematic constructs in the history of humanity.


Fredrickson, George M. Racism: a Short History. Johnson, Patrick E. Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity. Williams, Patricia J. The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor.


Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Diamond, Elin. Ed. Performance and Cultural Politics. Lee, Josephine. Ed. Performing Asian American: Race and Ethnicity on the Contemporary Stage.

TECHNOLOGICAL TRAINNING This class is open and welcomes students with all levels of technological training. Students will be taught how to use Photo Shop and Final Cut Pro 4 software for photo/image editing and movie making. Students will have “lab” day every Thursday, which is dedicated to working on your final project.

Grading will be based on the following:

Attendance, Punctuality, and Participation: (15%) The student’s final grade will be lowered by 2/3 letter grade for each unexcused absence. To receive an excused absence, a doctor’s note is required immediately upon the student’s return to class. If you are late twice, that equals one unexcused absences and shall be reflected in your final grade. Students are graded on participation in class discussions, preparation, and in-class activities. The student’s ability to take direction, correction, willingness to readily participate, and work as part of a team will be measured and graded by the instructor.

Theoretical Briefs/Weekly Showings: (15%) Each Tuesday, the student will submit a one-page brief that summarizes the reading for that week as well as how that reading supports the student’s final project. Each Thursday, the student will show the progressive stages of her/his project to the professor for feedback and guidance.

Process/Theoretical Log: (20%) Students are required to keep a process log. The log must have an entry from each class addressing the work covered during that class period as well as entries addressing what the student has learned, notes, breakthroughs, approach, and methodology. The log is your roadmap through this course to the final project. It must be clearly organized and methodic. The log entries shall be typed up and submitted one week before the final presentation. The log can include creative writing, scholarly writing, and/or technical writing that supplements and enhances the student’s final project presentation.

Final Project: (50%) The students shall create a 3-10 minute multimedia project based on the theoretical material covered in class as well as personal perspective. Each student will create a piece of digital art in which the student constructs race from images, movie clips, digital photos, sound, and or original film footage shot during the span of the course.


Digital Equipment: Students may use UTD camcorders to collect footage. The student is responsible for all equipment use and if it is broken, the student is liable. Feel free to use your own equipment, digital cameras, camcorders, etc.

Disabilities Statement: If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disability Services, which is located in room 1.610 in the Student Union. Office hours are Monday and Thursday, 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM, Tuesday and Wednesday, 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM, and Friday, 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. The Disability Services email is:

Scholastic Dishonesty: Scholastic dishonesty is subject to severe penalty up to and including expulsion. As you are working on your papers, please be conscientious about carefully recording your citations and maintaining a solid separation between your voice


and that of source materials. Please read the following webpage so that you do not accidentally cheat in any form:

Incomplete Grade: A grade of Incomplete may be given, at the discretion of the instructor of record for a course, when a student has completed at least 70% of the required course material but cannot complete all requirements by the end of the semester. An incomplete course grade (grade of X) must be completed within the time period specified by the instructor, not to exceed eight weeks from the first day of the subsequent long semester. Please see the following web address for more detailed information:

ONE FINAL NOTE: It is an honor to know you and to learn with you. Thank you for being in this course, learning together, expanding what’s possible through your genius and generosity of spirit. It’s going to be an extraordinary semester.



Reading Assignments (RA) are due on the date specified.

The following is subject to change at the instructor’s discretion.

Week #1: Beginnings

05/18 T

05/20 H

Getting an Understanding/Course Overview/Racial Difference?

Lab I: Instruction

Week #2: Racism/Gathering Evidence

05/25 T

RA: Racism/ Biological Racism

05/27 H

Lab II: Instruction/Gather Images Assignment: Race text advertisement

Week #3: Racism/Racialism/Personal Storyline

06/01 T

RA: Racism/ “Racialism” (handout)

06/03 H

Lab III: Instruction/Story Board Draft Assignment: Race CD Cover w/ Image and text

Week #4: Bodies Raced/Image that reveal Character

06/08 T

RA: The Alchemy of Race and Rights/Race and Law

06/10 H

Lab IV: Instruction/Sort Images & create Assignment: Racial Profiling then & now Magazine Cover

Week #5: Appropriation/Constructing Race

06/15 T

RA: The Alchemy of Race and Rights and Appropriating Blackness

06/17 H

Lab V: Instruction/Construct “raced” character(s) Assignment: Race Interview w/ still photos and text

Week #6: Authenticity/Performing Race

06/22 T

RA: Appropriating Blackness

06/24 H

Final showing—guest welcomed