The memory of US American Slavery is highly contested. In this seminar, we will look at cultural texts and practices that find various ways of addressing the past and tracing its legacy in US society today. One focus will be recent forms of honoring Harriet Tubman, about whom Kasi Lemmons directed a film (Harriet, 2019), and whose image, the Biden administration declared, will displace Andrew Jackson’s from the $20 bill (an endeavor started in 2016 by the Obama administration). Tubman is furthermore fictionalized in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2019 novel The Water Dancer. How else is she remembered at sites in her native Maryland and in museums, for instance? We will look at the practice of heritage tourism and the history of museums, and will contextualize these texts and practices with theories of cultural memory and representation, as well as with the ongoing debate on reparations. Further films to be discussed will be Get Out (J. Peele, 2017), Django Unchained (Q. Tarantino, 2012) and Twelve Years a Slave (S. McQueen, 2013). With each of the texts under investigation, we will inquire into their cultural (and political) work. Since the module exam for modules 7 and 10 take the form of term papers, this seminar will have a strong writing component, with writing assignments and peer editing.
The course will be designed as a hybrid online-course with a mix of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Students registered in this class are asked to make sure that they are generally available during the time of the sessions. More detailed information will be sent out to registered students at the beginning of the semester.