Sophomore Seminar (TASS) | 2016 Programs

Four TASS programs will be held in 2016.

See this year's brochure here!

Cornell I TASS
Cornell II TASS
Indiana TASS
Michigan TASS

Cornell I Program

Are You an American Citizen? A History of a Complicated Question
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
June 26 – August 6, 2016
Faculty: Ed Baptist, Cornell University and William Jelani Cobb, University of Connecticut
Factotum:  Zakiya Williams Wells, Cornell University
The term “citizen” is a powerful one. We hear it every day. It works as a concept, all around us. We believe that citizenship status entitles one to rights. We believe that citizenship commits us to responsibilities. And we believe that citizenship promises equality before the law.

But the laws do not work equally for all. Racial disparities in the outcomes of criminal cases, for instance, suggest that something is amiss. Not all have the same rights. Not all have the same responsibilities. These contradictions and disparities are not accidents. They are the product of history.

So, while you may have been told that citizenship is an equal status, the reality is this: over the course of U.S. history, citizenship usually has been profoundly unequal. Even the ways in which it is achieved have changed profoundly over time. As you approach the age at which you will be faced with new choices and new responsibilities, we ask you to learn more about the concept “citizen.” Using both classic readings and texts drawn from the confrontations and protest movements of our own day, this course asks you to critique, research, challenge, and ultimately rebuild both the idea and the practice of citizenship in the U.S.


Cornell II Program

Exploring Cultural Identity Through the Music of the Harlem Renaissance, Soul and Social Protest Movements, and Contemporary Hip Hop
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
June 26 – August 6, 2016
Faculty: William Banfield, Berklee College of Music and Emmett Price, Northeastern University
Factotum:  Asia Alman, Vassar College, and Jessica Dozier, University of Michigan
Music is a principal carrier of community agency and ideas that have shaped and nurtured American cultural identity and values in each century. The cultural relevance of music and arts reflects both an understanding of what we as individuals value and what is held up and valued by the culture we live within. As poet Amiri Baraka wrote in his autobiography, “There was a newness, defiance, laid out in their music, politically and creatively, it was all connected. It was [as] if the music was leading us.”

This seminar aims to help students understand and appreciate the development of music-making in the American historical and socio-cultural context. Students will examine the sociopolitical and aesthetic underpinnings of American history and culture and the music being created within that context, and connect and share about the music worlds we live in today. Our seminar will focus on three distinct periods of great social-cultural artistry and draw attention to the parallels and distinctions among a wide variety of art forms, including music, poetry/lyric, and images. By the end of this course, students will be able to know and interpret the history, trends, movements, and role and place of music citizenry in contemporary American society.


Indiana University Program

The Black Struggle for Freedom: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

Indiana University, Bloomington
June 19 – July 30, 2016
Faculty: Maria E. Hamilton Abegunde, Indiana University and Fabio Rojas, Indiana University
Factotum:  Mosea Esaias, Swarthmore College, and Summer Sloane-Britt, Swarthmore College
Abolitionism. Civil Rights. Black Power. For over two centuries, these words have described the push for racial and social equality in America. But what exactly do these words mean? How did the movements and key participants associated with them make race and social status visible in the United States? How did they view the rest of American society and make Americans view themselves? How can the struggles from which these words and movements were born help us to evaluate the current “post-racial” environment?

This seminar will introduce you to three of the major political and cultural movements that have defined African American life in the United States. Using an interdisciplinary approach that combines oral histories and witnesses with audio, digital, literary, performance, and visual texts, we will access relevant archives, artifacts, and experiences to discuss the underlying philosophies of these movements, the historical and political events that created them, their cultural and artistic expressions, and their ultimate successes/failures to address racial and social differences in the United States.

Finally, we will consider if the ways in which these movements defined race and social status are still relevant today in a “post racial” society, and if similar movements in the current generation exist to address issues of race and social difference, including those related to gender, within an ever-expanding global society.


University of Michigan Program

In Search of Identity: Performance of Blackness and Representations of Gender and Sexuality
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
June 26 – August 6, 2016
Faculty:Tabitha Chester, Denison College and Khalid Long, University of Maryland, College Park
Factotum:  Amrit Trewn, Northwestern University, and Thembekile Shato, University of Michigan
What is Blackness? Who is ‘too Black’ and who is ‘not Black enough’? How do performances and representations of Blackness in popular culture shape ideas of Blackness in the United States and across the globe? How does power and privilege affect the performances and representations of Blackness we encounter? In this course we will engage a variety of historical and contemporary works—film, television, theatre, music, and other texts—in an effort to understand how Blackness is further complicated by issues of gender, sexuality, class, and other identity markers.

Interdisciplinary in nature, this course will examine how Black people are portrayed and represented in history, literature and popular culture. Furthermore, in challenging the notion of essential or authentic Blackness, we will critically engage with the ways in which Blackness is both challenged and reinforced in various arenas. Simultaneously, we will focus on current performance and identity theories and explore race, gender and sexuality as constructed and contested categories. Students will be invited to analyze a variety of performances and be challenged to think in new ways about race, gender, and sexuality through performances of Blackness.

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