Richmond Home

Post-Blackness in the UK

What is blackness? Where are the boundaries of blackness? How do African-American artists portray blackness as they confront both black cultural traditions as well as societal expectations from the dominant culture? How is blackness rendered or discussed today, in a post-liberated era—when “freedom” has been attained?

Post-black art refers to art produced by blacks who were either born or came of age after the world's freedom movements of the 1960s, and who are immersed in blackness—but not restricted by it.  “Post-Blackness in the UK” will largely focus on fiction, film, and music produced in the United Kingdom by black Brits.

Inside the Classroom

Post-Blackness has three viable contexts: the "cultural mulatto" archetype (art and/or artists influenced by whiteness and blackness); key allusion-disruption gestures (post-black art that comments on—and critiques—preexisting conceptions of blackness); and an overall sense of what Dr. Ashe calls "blaxploration” (whereupon post-black artists explore non-traditional modes of blackness).  This course will examine post-blackness in England, studying a set of black British texts in order to explore what happens when the familiar American conception of African-American post-blackness is examined beyond the borders of the United States.

Throughout the course, students will:

  • Be introduced to and build an understanding of African-American literature and culture 
  • Understand why and how some black artists seek to undermine and disturb certain blanket assumptions (by blacks and non-blacks) attendant to African-American literature and culture 
  • Gain an understanding of the intimate practice and importance of "reading" texts through contexts, struggling with shifting contexts, and gaining a facility toward making sense of it all
  • Learn to look beyond U.S. borders as a way to inform textual readings

By the end of fall semester, students will have a firm sense not only of what post-blackness entails and why it's important, but also the significance of the exploration of national spaces beyond American borders as a way to inform an American identity and artistic sensibility.

Outside the Classroom

Students will travel to London, England to view, hear and experience post-black art, as well as connect with both British and American expatriates who are doing post-black work. The community will also visit museums and attend readings and screenings that have post-blackness as their focus, both locally and regionally.

Research and Capstone Project

Over the course of the fall semester, students carry out individual research in the form of a research paper on one topic due at the end of the semester. Over the spring semester, students work in groups with their classmates to create a capstone project and subsequent presentation to the University community.

Course Fast Facts

Faculty:
Bertram Ashe, Ph.D.

Years Offered: 2012–13, 2013–14

Fall course:
ENGL 362: Post-Soul Literature and Culture (1 unit)

Spring course:
IDST 290: Post-Blackness in the UK Seminar (.5 unit)

Group travel:
London, England

Sample Course Readings

W.E.B. DuBois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” from The Souls of Black Folk

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Kobena Mercer, “Black Art and the Burden of Representation,” Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies

Diran Adebayo, Essays on Post-Blackness in the UK

Young Soul Rebels, dir, Isaac Julien

Zadie Smith,White Teeth

Carol Tulloch, “Style-Fashion-Dress: From Black to Post-Black