2020 TASS Programs

Due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the programs were held in an online format, the Telluride Association Online Seminars.

You can read about the 2020 seminars by clicking on the tabs below.

Black Protest from Slavery to #BlackLivesMatter
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York ONLINE
June 21 – August 1, 2020

Faculty: Alisha Marie Gaines, Florida State University, and Dennis Tyler Jr., Fordham University

Factotum: Alexis Ferguson, Georgetown University

The history of Black cultural production in the United States is a legacy of protest. Since Black bodies were first considered property and then only fractionally human, claiming personhood through arts and letters is a revolutionary act. This course will consider the canon of African American literature through an expansive definition of protest. We will theorize how the definition of protest has evolved since the 18th century while continuing to inform our own sociopolitical moment. We will find protest in both obvious and unlikely places—from the seemingly conservative poetry of Phillis Wheatley to the nearly instantaneous archive of resistance enabled by social media and 21st century screen technologies. As we interrogate the meanings of Blackness and protest, we will also reveal how that history has consistently shaped American identity. Throughout the course, we will encounter narrative, memoir, essay, speeches, poetry, and film.

Testify: The Politics of Imagination, Fantasy, and Magic
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York ONLINE
June 21 – August 1, 2020

Faculty: Jasmine Jay and Cristina Correa, Cornell University

Factotum: Sabina Jones, Columbia University and Amelia Samuelu, Cornell University

Upon hearing the word “testify,” what leaps to mind? Perhaps you see a witness in a court of law swearing the truth onto a Bible, or hear a pastor and gospel choir laying out the soundtrack of “testifyin” in an African American church. Rooted in these denotations is the act of stating fact and bearing witness, or speaking the truth we see into reality. In this course, we will consider how some versions of the truth allow people who have been made marginal to imagine and create alternative, centralized realities. We will consider how fantastical thinking can offer us new ways of seeing—or testifying to—realities that we want to realize, as well as those we cannot escape. 

Our analysis will be anchored in tracing the meaning of testimony through the texts, images, and sounds of Black feminism, Afro-futurism, religious and magical traditions, horror and fantasy, testimonio literature, eco- and confessional poetics, among other mediums of thought. Through these imaginative wellsprings, we will get curious about our relationship to Blackness as something both brought into existence by bearing witness, and something that can be revolutionized by bearing witness. 

Assignments will center on the magical possibilities of testimonies that prioritize underrepresented subjects while offering a practice in the incantatory and world-building capacities of writing. Specifically, we will take walks in nature as a form of meditative thinking, close read tweets and music videos, write a film adaptation, and read our own poetry in public as a way of putting testimony into practice. All events and practices will culminate in a performative and group-imagined capstone project.

“Whose Streets?! Our Streets!” The Legacy of Youth Organizing in Black Liberation Movements
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan ONLINE
June 21 – August 1, 2020

Faculty: Eshe Sherley and Aurelis Troncoso, University of Michigan

Factotum: Demi Moore, Yale University

This course explores how transnational Black youth organizing is central to Black Liberation movements from 1900 to the present. Specifically, it examines the effects of Black grassroots movement building in the U.S. and the Caribbean, and centers the role of Black young people in the development of a transnational movement culture for Black liberation. Using the intersections of gender, class, race, and history as points of departure, this course will examine the role of youth-led movements and youth culture in broader efforts for Black liberation. Students will use archival sources, oral histories and secondary sources to explore the development and emergence of youth involvement in radical political movements.

This course will engage the following questions: How do changes in socio-economic structures, communications, and migratory patterns inform the rise of youth-led movements and movement cultures? How does centering youth culture disrupt dominant perceptions of the key historical figures in the history of Black liberation and political protest? How does centering the Americas, rather than the United States, shift our conceptualization of Black liberation away from American exceptionalism and towards the centrality of U.S. empire? Students will learn oral history and archival methods in order to engage with the key questions of this course. By the end of this course, students will have a more expansive perspective on Black freedom movements and will understand the importance of youth culture in movement building throughout history.

AfroAsian Cultures and Media
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan ONLINE
June 21 – August 1, 2020

FacultyJoo Young Lee, University of Michigan, and Myra Washington, University of New Mexico

Factotum: Valerie Starks, University of Central Florida

This course explores the ways in which AfroAsian relations, diasporic African and Asian identities, and Blasians have been represented and constituted in global media, from print media and films to performing on YouTube. Through the mediation of AfroAsian identities and relations in films, television shows, magazines, graphic novels, music, and digital media, the course explores how these racially, ethnically, culturally, nationally, and regionally distinctive identities are formed, perpetuated, maintained, and challenged in different forms of media and culture. This course draws upon diverse theoretical frames and literatures to map the terrain of hybrid, multicultural, multiracial, and transnational identity constructions in popular culture. Throughout the semester we ask the following questions: How are AfroAsian identities culturally expressed and produced through binaries and fusions? How has this popular culture expression of identities developed over time? What are the possibilities of an Afro/Asian coalition beyond popular culture? Through examining these questions, we will develop tools to analyze media representations and understand key issues in historical and contemporary experiences of African Americans, Asian Americans, Black and Asian Diasporas, and Blasians. These include race, gender, citizenship, globalization, interracial relationship, and mixed race identity.