The Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity is affiliated with the journal Meridians, which focuses on feminism, race, and transnationalism. It is currently based at Smith College. This fall there will be a special issue of the journal on respectability politics, ahead of a spring 2017 course on the same topic being co-taught at Duke and Smith by Paula Giddings and Adriane Lentz-Smith.
The Culture of Politics and Respectability
Thursdays 3:05-5:35 p.m.
This seminar explores the history of respectability and its ongoing contemporary salience.
Respectability has long been central to African American politics. For black women, especially, the idea that conduct and character are connected to rights has shaped
the rhetoric and strategies of social protest. And throughout the twentieth century, many people have pushed back against the proscriptive aspects of the “politics of respectability,” asserting a freedom rooted in individual expression.
What do we talk about when we talk about respectability? How does embracing and rejecting respectability shape the black freedom struggle? This course will explore how discussions of “the politics of respectability” have stood in for discussions of class, patriarchy, and racial identity—how women and men of African descent might survive and confront white supremacy. Looking at both vital histories and present urgencies, the course challenges students to consider the efficacy, logic, and flaws of the politics of respectability which challenged “scientific” notions of race and gendered inferiority but codified class divisions within the black community.
Part of a collaboration on the journal Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, the course is jointly taught at Smith College and Duke University. Half the class will be located in each school.