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Contemporary Afroamerican Politics: Black Social Movements in

Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the United States, and Venezuela.

Afro-American Studies 591D

Prof. Agustín Laó-Montes New Africa House 308

Office Hours: Tuesdays 11:30-12:30pm

General Description

The current global crisis that includes not only economic malaise but also a rise in
political authoritarianism and increased policing by states, had widened social and racial
inequalities and hence racial and sexual violence. In this world-historical context there
has been an emergence of Black movements across the Americas. This course will study
Black movements in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the United States and Venezuela, looking at
their particularities and differences as well as their similarities and relationships. The
class will offer a historical perspective while focusing on contemporary Black

We will open the semester with an historical, theoretical and methodological discussion
on the study of Black collective actions and the centrality of the agency of Africana
subjects for cultural, intellectual and political formations and for key historical
transformations in the modern world and beyond. The first two classes will be geared
toward presenting and developing an analytics of Africana/Black politics, especially
focusing on the Americas. The first meeting will provide a general historical overview of
the importance of Black historical agency in world-historical perspective since the times
of slavery, slave revolts and maroonage, until the current struggles of Black peoples
across the planet. The second class, will inquire more into the analytics of Black politics:
its different ideological, intellectual and political frameworks such as Black Nationalism,
Black Marxism, Black Feminism, etc; the variety of cultural politics, organizational
forms and repertoires of action, conceptions of community, and historical projects in
contention. The readings from Michael Dawson and Patricia Hill Collins, both develop an
analytics, the former of Black ideologies and politics, and the latter of Black sexual
politics, based on the U.S., from were we will extrapolate larger lessons for the whole
Africana world. The third section we´ll begin a comparative analysis of Afroamerican
politics, primarily by reading Tianna Paschel´s comparison of racial states and Black
political fields in Brazil and Colombia. In the first three classes we will flesh-out a
methodology for comparing Black social movements in the Americas that will integrate
global political-economy, critical political theory, decolonial feminist critique; and
Africana traditions of critical/radical theory, historiography, culture and politics.

The next three meetings we will concentrate on Brazil, discussing its Black movements in
rural and urban settings, Afro-Brazilian feminist perspectives and politics, and their role
in patterning state policies, the political realm and public culture. The dialogue will be
based on the readings but also in texts in Portuguese from Afro-Brazilian intellectuals

and from lived experience of students and professor in Brazil. The next round of classes
will focus on Afro-Colombian collective actions and organizational forms and their
significance in the constitutional and political changes. The achievements in legislation
and policy fostered by one of the most vibrant constellations of Black social movements
in the region, is paradoxically matched with widespread violence (social, political,
symbolic) that has strong racial dimensions and affects millions of Afro-Colombians who
in this context became key activists for peace and justice in a complex historical scenario.
It is important to highlight that we are reading two young and upcoming Afro-Colombian
intellectuals, Aurora Vergara-Figueroa and Carlos Valderrama, who both studied their
doctoral degrees in sociology at UMASS.

After Colombia, we will study Afro-Cuban politics, which has been central to Cuban
political, cultural and intellectual debates since the nineteenth century. We will first read
Alejandro de la Fuente´s book on the significance of Black racial politics in twentieth
century Cuba, and will trace such tradition to the nineteenth century. The following
analysis, on racial politics in post-revolutionary Cuba will be done on the basis of three
studies: on the one hand, from two U.S. African-American scholars (Mark Sawyer and
Devin Spence Benson), and on the other hand, from Afro-Cuban intellectual Esteban
Morales. A third meeting will examine the cultural politics of Cuban Hip-Hop as an
African Diaspora social movement. Through the whole exercise of studying Afro-Cuban
racial politics, we will bring to attention research and perspectives from Afro-Cuban
intellectuals such as Alberto Abreu, Gisela Arandia, Tomas Fernandez Robaina, Ines
Maria Martiathu, Daisy Rubiera, and Roberto Zurbano, not yet published in English.

The last part of the semester will focus on Black Movements in the United States and
their transnational relations and implications. We will bring the U.S. into our readings,
presentations and conversations since the very first day of classes and throughout the
semester for three reasons: 1) U.S. Black history is a key referent to Global Africana
histories, for instance for Pan-Africanism as a movement; 2) U.S. Black movements has
been transnational since the long nineteenth century until the Black Lives Matter
movement today; 3) the comparative analysis that we´ll pursue in this class will entail
consistently been conscious of the political, cultural, and intellectual connections in the
Africana world, namely the Global African Diaspora and the African continent.

We will first have a class that will concentrate on the Black Lives Matter movement and
its meanings both in the U.S. and globally. After this we will revisit Black feminist
intersectional theories-methodologies-politics from the angle of Afro-Latin American
feminisms. For this we´ll read a two-volume edition on Black Feminisms in Latin
America published in the journal Meridians. The idea is to study Afro-Latin American
Feminisms as a political-epistemic lens to do the comparative analysis we´ll do
throughout the semester.

The last meeting will be a counterpoint of critical analysis of the present and future of
Black politics in the U.S. and Venezuela form the standpoint of two leading radical
Afroamerican scholars, Michael Dawson and Jesus Chucho Garcia. Hopefully having the
last section on May Day will add to the inspiration that the course may be able to plant.

Classroom Dynamics & Evaluation

Students are expected to attend every session unless there is a substantially good
excuse. This is of primary importance given that the goal is to develop an active and
creative critical dialogue on the substantive questions at stake as well as on their
implications in terms of method, research and politics. Class attendance will count
as 20% of the grade.

The pedagogical strategy will primarily consist of a combination of presentations by

the professor (approximately the first hour) with student presentations and
facilitation of discussion in the rest of the class. The presentations will begin with
the fourth class section where we´ll discuss Michael Hanchard´s Orpheus and Power.
I will present the themes of each section on the basis not only of the assigned
readings, but also drawing on other sources and my own analysis of the problems to
be discussed. I will also give an additional bibliography of relevant readings each
week of classes The presentations should be done in groups given the wide range of
themes and the volume of readings (around 235 pages per week). These
presentations will count as 15% of the grade.

Students are expected to do all the required readings every week and to develop
critical reviews of each the main perspectives that we will study. Even though I am
not asking to write reviews of each of the readings it is expected that students read
everything carefully and come to class prepare with comments and questions for the
theme of the week. In the sections where we have secondary readings, students are
not required to read them but the professor will draw from their arguments for his
presentation. I will put the assigned books on reserve and make available several of
the readings in electronic format. If your budget allow should buy as many of the
books as you can, given that they are valuable resources in the field. When there is
only one book, we will read the whole volume, but in the sections where there is
more than one required book, we will only read fragments of each.

There will be two required papers for the class. The first one will be due early in the
semester, and the purpose is for each student to write a statement of her/his
analytical perspective on comparative Black politics that will serve as a foundation
for the work we´ll do the rest of the semester, including the final paper. This first
paper will be due on Sunday, February 11th and will count for 25% of the grade.
The last writing exercise should be either a term research paper or a critical review
of all the literature we studied in the semester. This paper will be due on Saturday,
May 12th and will count for 40% of the final grade. I advise to each student to meet
with the professor right after you get feedback from the first paper to start
discussing your final paper. I will give hand-outs with more details about these two
writing assignments.

Schedule of Classes

1) January 23:
Cartographies of Black Politics in World-Historical Perspective.
Main Readings:
 Agustín Laó-Montes. Cartographies of the Political in Our Afroamérica.
 William Martin et al. From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International since
the Age of Revolution.

Secondary Readings:
 Juliet Hooker. Race and the Politics of Solidarity.
 Cedric Robinson. Black Movements in America.
 Kelvin Santiago Valles. “World-Historical Ties among ‘Spontaneous’ Slave
Rebellions in the Atlantic during the 18th and 19th Centuries.” Review

2) January 30:
For an Analytics of Black Politics.
 Michael Dawson. Black Visions: The Roots of Contemporary African-
American Political Ideologies.
 Michael Hanchard. Party/Politics: Horizons in Black Political Thought
 Patricia Hill Collins. Black Sexual Politics.

3) February 6:
Comparing Racial States and Black Movements: Brazil & Colombia.
Main Reading:
 Tianna Paschel. Becoming Black Political Subjects: Movements and Ethno-
Racial Rights in Colombia and Brazil.

Secondary Readings:
 George Fredrickson. Black Liberation: A Comparative History of Black
Ideologies in the United States and South Africa.
 Agustín Laó-Montes. Maroon, Nation, Diaspora: Counterpoint of Racial
States and Black Movements in Colombia and Cuba.
 Anthony Marx. Making Race and Nation: A Comparison of South Africa, the
United States, and Brazil.
 Philip McMichael. “On Incorporated Comparisons.”
American Sociological Review.

4) February 13:
Black Social Movements and Racial Politics in Brazil.
Main Reading:
 Michael Hanchard. Orpheus and Power: The Movimento Negro of Rio de
Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1945-1988.

Secondary Readings:
 Michael Hanchard, Ed. Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil.
 Gladys Mitchell-Waltour. The Politics of Blackness: Racial Identity and
Political Behavior in Contemporary Brazil.

5) February 20:
Afro-Brazilian Rural Struggles and Political Change.
Elizabeth Farfán-Santos. Black Bodies, Black Rights: The Politics of
Quilombismo in Contemporary Brazil.

6) February 27:
Black Women/Feminisms, Citizenship and Urban Struggles in Brazil.
 Keisha-Khan Perry. Black Women against the Land Grab: The Fight for
Racial Justice in Brazil.
 Kia Lily Caldwell. Negras in Brazil: Re-envisioning Black Women,
Citizenship, and the Politics of Identity.

7) March 6:
Mapping Black Publics and the Field of Afro-Colombian Activism.
 Ulrich Oslender. The Geographies of Social Movements: Afro-Colombian
Mobilization and the Aquatic Space.
 Carlos Valderrama. Selections from Master Thesis & Dissertation.

8) March 20:
Territory, Terror and Self-Affirmation in Afro-Colombian Lifeworlds and
Social Movements.
Main Reading:
 Aurora Vergara-Figueroa. Afrodescendant Resistance to Deracination in
Colombia: Massacre at Bellavista-Bojayá-Chocó.

Secondary Readings:
 Bettina Ng´weno. Turf Wars: Territory and Citizenship in the Contemporary
 Arturo Escobar. Territories of Difference: Place, Movements, Life, Redes.

9) March 27:
Race and Negritude as Key Factors in 20th Century Cuban Politics
Main Reading:
Alejandro de la Fuente. A Nation for All: Race Inequality and Politics in
Twentieth Century Cuba.

Secondary Readings:
 Frank Guridy. Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African-Americans in a
World of Empire and Jim Crow.
 Aline Held. Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-
 Jean Stubbs and Pedro Perez Sarduy. Afro-Cuba: An Anthology of Cuban
Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture.

10) April 3:
Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba.
Readings (selections from each book):
 Devyn Spence Benson. Antiracism in Cuba: The Unfinished Revolution.
 Danielle Pilar Clealand. The Power of Race in Cuba: Racial Ideology and
Black Consciousness during the Revolution.

Secondary Readings:
 Jean Stubbs and Pedro Perez Sarduy, ed. Afro-Cuban Voices. On Race and
Identity in Contemporary Cuba.
 Esteban Morales. Race in Cuba: Essays on the Revolution and Racial
 Mark Sawyer. Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba.

11) April 10:

Afro-Cuban Cultures, Hip-Hop, & Revolution within the Revolution.
Main Readings:
 Tanya Saunders. Cuban Underground Hip-Hop: Black Thought, Black
Revolution, Black Modernity.
 Agustín Laó-Montes. Afro-Cuban Counterpoint: Doña Nganga Libertad and
Don Ajiaco Descolonial. Forthcoming in Agustín Laó-Montes, Diasporic
Counterpoints: Political Constellations of Our Afroamérica.

Secondary Reading:
 Sujatha Fernandez. Cuba Represent!: Cuban Arts, State Power, and the
Making of New Revolutionary Cultures.

12) April 17:

Black Lives Matter and a Global Renaissance of Africana Radicalism.
 Keeanga-Yamatha Taylor. From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation.
 Angela Davis. Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the
Foundations of a Movement.

13) April 24:

Afroamerican Feminisms as Contemporary Forces of Liberation and Hope.
 Afro-Brazilian Feminisms. Meridians 1
 Afro-Latin American Feminisms. Meridians 2

14) May 1rst/May Day:

What´s Up for Afroamerican Politics?
Main Readings:
 Michael Dawson. Not In Our Lifetimes: The Future of Black Politics.
 Jesus Chucho Garcia. Afrodescendents in the Americas.

Secondary Readings:
 Robin Kelley. Black Freedom Dreams.
 Agustín Laó-Montes. Creole Ubuntu: Horizons of Humanized Futures from
Africana Beats. Forthcoming in Agustín Laó-Montes, Diasporic
Counterpoints: Political Constellations of Our Afroamérica.