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Course Information

Instructor Info:Christopher Tinson
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Wednesday Friday
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) ELH
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) ELH

This course looks closely at the radical imagination expressed in the writing and activism of poet Claude McKay, performer Paul Robeson, and activist-theorist Assata Shakur. The scholar Anthony Bogues has written that Africana intellectual work is centrally concerned with the moment of rupture; when black subjectivity dislodges from western epistemology. This course asks how that moment of rupture can be traced in the activist careers of McKay, Robeson, and Assata. What does their lives and writing offer us concerning the development of Africana intellectual thought? As figures experiencing different degrees of alienation, this course will also engage with questions of home, exile, citizenship, and diaspora in the shaping of liberatory projects that challenge American liberalism and western imperialism.

Course Objectives:

Statement on course objectives: After taking and successfully completing this course, students will be able to identify and discuss some of the signature contributions of Wells, McKay, Robeson, and Assata Shakur to several streams of radical activity, particularly their constructions of antiracist and anticolonial thought, their thinking about democracy and democratic praxis, Africana scholar-activism, and the shaping of an Afrodiasporic radical imagination. Ultimately, students will acquire insight into these figures' most well known writings and be able to place their positions, actions, and arguments in proper political, social, and historical contexts with a view on what their work means in the present day.

Evaluation Criteria:


Power, Community, and Social Justice (PCSJ)

Cumulative Skills:




Prof. Tinson’s philosophy of critical education: This course seeks to achieve a courageous vocabulary of race and social justice, as such active and informed dialogue is encouraged and appreciated (attacks are not). We encourage getting real about race, and offering comments that stem from critical engagement with the course readings. We should expect some discomfort at times, and anticipate that some issues will be left unresolved and require longer consideration. And lastly, critical thinking and reflection is valued over self-righteousness.


Attendance, Tardiness, and namesAttendance is critically important and therefore mandatory.  Three unexcused absences will result in no evaluation.  Don’t disappear from the course even (or especially) when you are struggling with an issue. Persistent tardiness is unacceptable under any circumstances.  Your attendance and tardiness will be included as a part of the overall course participation portion of each student’s course evaluation. I take course attendance through a simple sign-in sheet. 

Please indicate on the sign-in sheet how you would like to be addressed. Include any names and pronouns you would like for me and your cohort to use when addressing you. As I teach a large number of new students each semester, I ask that you be patient with me.  It may take me a couple of course meetings to become familiar with you, especially if we’ve never met before this course.  But, rest assured, I will make every effort to address you as you wish.  In class discussions I will answer to “Professor Tinson” or “Professor T”. I do not answer by my first name, nor do I answer to “Mr.”; doing so will only yield blank, slightly hostile stares from me. 


Email ETIQUETTEPlease type the course number CSI 132 (or Tutorial) in the subject line of all correspondence directed to me (I will do the same).  Also, please properly address and sign your emails. I do not answer emails that begin “Hey”, “Hey prof.,” “So”, “Yo”, etc., or those that begin without any address at all.  “Hi Prof. T.,” or “Dear Professor Tinson” are great email starters.

If you need an answer to a burning question or need to inform me of a pressing issue (e.g. a medical absence), do not wait until the last minute to notify me.  I need at least 24 hours lead time to answer you.  Plan accordingly.  However, I do not accept emailed assignments.


Course Evaluation PolicyIn accordance with the student assessment practices of Hampshire College, each student will be evaluated based upon their course attendance and participation, and the fulfillment of all assignments in a satisfactory and timely manner. All of your work should be compiled in a course portfolio and turned in to me at the required date.


Take Notes. I try to provide as much information on a topic as possible, so be sure to write down questions, issues raised, or texts for future consideration.


NO LAPTOPS. Unless otherwise noted, you are not allowed to use your laptop during course meetings. However, if you have a disability that requires the use of your laptop for notetaking purposes, please register with Joel Dansky at Disabilities Services who will inform me and you will be cleared to use your laptop.


Course portfolios—All students are required to submit all of their written work at the end of the semester. If you do not hand your portfolio in by the deadline, you will be in danger of receiving a No EVAL.  No exceptions.  Work turned in late cannot be guaranteed an evaluation. 


SEVERE WEATHER & CLASS CANCELLATION (just in case): On severe weather days please call the College’s weather information line to check the status of school closing.  If the school is open plan to attend class.  If school is closed due to weather, I usually issue (via email) a small assignment to make up for lost class time; so don’t be surprised. J If for some reason the professor is unable to come to class the CSI administrative assistants will place a written notice of class cancellation on the classroom door. 


All Out-of-class assignments must be typed Handwritten out-of-class assignments will not be accepted. 


LATE ASSIGNMENTS AND REWRITE POLICY: Yes, students are allowed to rewrite their written/evaluated assignments.  All rewrites must be received no later than one week (or two class meetings) after the assignment was evaluated by the instructor and returned to the student. However, assignments turned in late cannot be revised for reconsideration. Late assignments will be evaluated and returned in the student’s final portfolio.


Student Participation: Students are required to read all assigned course readings, however students will also select (or be assigned) readings for which they will lead course discussions throughout the semester.  How? Lead discussants will provide the overall argument in the article or chapter; they will offer one or two (or more!) critical questions about the material for the class to discuss; and give their own view of what readers should take away or conclude from the article or chapter. Students should have their 1 single-spaced page of notes to turn-in at the conclusion of their discussion.


Written Work: 6 Total 

1 reflective essay, 3 CRITICAL RESPONSE ESSAYS, 1 Research Proposal & 1 RESEARCH PAPER (or equivalent project)

Students are required to write two critical papers, and one research paper or equivlent project throughout the semester. These essays are a chance for you to explore an idea and to demonstrate your understanding of the particular themes and concepts we have read, observed and discussed in the course.

Critical essays should be no shorter than 5 full double-spaced pages in length and not longer than 7 pages.  In these essays you are expected to draw upon one or more of the aspects of the reading, film/video, musical, or literary contents that pertain to historical, social and or political developments concerning the controversy and debate surrounding Africana radical thought and activism, specifically engaging the assigned course readings. 

Research Papers must be 10-12 pages in length on a subject of your choosing closely related to our course.  Additionally, it is essential that students use proper citation methods (Chicago or MLA) in the critical and research essays. If you don’t know what this means, now is a good time to find out.  The course readings should be a starting point, but you should also bring in materials that you have found in the course of research.

  • Examples of Final essay topic or approved “project”
    • RESEARCH ESSAYS: A study of Wells,  contribution to… Where would Africana knowledge be without Du Bois? What particular aspect of Du Bois’s repertoire would you like to explore? More potential topics will be announced throughout the course.
  • PROJECT: Could be organizing a campus wide program containing a serious interactive activity; it might also be a creative project of your choosing such as a visual art piece, a radio segment, a collection of poems, a high school lesson plan, a community arts project, a zine, a website, etc. All projects must also include a descriptive write-up detailing the ideas and strategies contained therein.
  • PLEASE NOTE: All Final essays/projects should demonstrate depth and rigor.
Additional Info:

N.B. For purposes of efficacy, any part of this syllabus may be changed at the discretion of the professor. For example, readings or viewings may be added, removed, or altered depending on the direction and pace of the course. Please bring your syllabus with you to each class in case changes are made.