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Racial Identity in the American Imagination

From Sally Hemings to Barack Obama, this course explores the ways that racial identity has been experienced, represented, and contested throughout American history. Engaging historical, legal, and literary texts and films, we will examine the major historical transformations that have shaped our understandings of racial identity. 


We will also explore autobiography, memoir, photography, and music to consider the ways that racial identity has been represented in American society. We will consider the following questions:

  • What is the interplay between racial and American identity?
  • What role do mixed-race identities play in American society?
  • Is race merely a performance? What does it mean for race to be a “social construct”?
  • What roles do class, gender, and sexuality play in the construction of racial identity?


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Portrait of Allyson Hobbs
Session Three