Teaching Black Feminisms and Slavery Discourses in the 2020 US Election Season
Shortly after I began teaching a graduate seminar addressing Critical Race Theory, US Black feminisms, and 19th-century US slavery discourses, President Donald Trump issued de jure an order “combatting race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating” among federal employees (September 22, 2020). Four days later, Trump announced as his Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, well-known for her reproductive—gender—conservatism. The edict and the Barrett nomination grossly intensified challenges my seminar students and I already faced: daily life amid COVID-19, 2.25-hour synchronous Zoom seminar sessions, other unfamiliar online instruction tools, global political agitation against racialized violence, and a soul-crushing, nail-biting presidential election season. Trump’s actions defied central claims in our readings: fiction, personal narratives, and theoretical essays examining identity and identity politics, race discourses, im/migration, sexuality, motherhood, imprisonment, involuntary sterilization, and citizenship. My talk explores the unexpected ethical dilemmas my seminar confronted and the resolutions life writing offers.
Joycelyn Moody teaches African American literature, life writing, and Black feminisms as the Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is Series Editor of African American Literature in Transition and editor of A History of African American Autobiography (both forthcoming, Cambridge).