Ethnic Studies 24, Section 2

Reading Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk Today (1 unit, P/NP)

Professor Keith Feldman
Wednesday 11:00-12:00, 204 Dwinelle Hall, Class number: 24146

“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” W. E. B. Du Bois is inarguably one of the most renowned American scholars of race, and this sentence, repeated three times in Souls of Black Folk (published in 1903), is one of his most famous. Souls illuminates African American lifeworlds through a veritable mixtape of genres, disciplines, and topics. Allegory, sociology, history, musicology, and philosophy vibrate across the text. Since its publication over a hundred years ago, it has profoundly influenced how scholars, artists, and activists regard slavery and its aftermath, the role of education in social transformation, the centrality of African American culture, the persistence of white supremacy, and perhaps most profoundly (to use our contemporary idiom), the mattering of Black lives. In this freshman seminar we will read Souls closely, carefully, and critically, focusing our attention on one chapter per week. Questions we will consider include these: How does Souls of Black Folk help us understand racial division as an ongoing problematic in American life? How does Souls invite us to hear, sense, and feel the past in the present? What can we draw from our shared patient engagement with this single text?

Instructor Bio

Keith P. Feldman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. Born and raised in Maryland, Feldman moved to the west coast for graduate school at the University of Washington, and has taught at UC Berkeley since 2009. Feldman’s research and teaching draw from U.S. cultural studies frameworks to explore the interface between race, knowledge, and state power. He routinely writes about, teaches, and draws inspiration from W. E. B. Du Bois’s work, and has published on Du Bois in a wide array of academic settings. Feldman’s first book, A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America (Minnesota 2015), was named Best Book in Humanities and Cultural Studies by the Association for Asian American Studies, and was a Finalist for the Romero Best First Book Prize in American Studies.

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