HAA 274 - American Racial Ground





Sarah Lewis

Mondays, 9:45 am - 11:45 am

How are artists, and how are disciplines in the arts and humanities, responding to the hyper-visuality of racial injustices on American ground? This course explores how visual artists including Mark Bradford, Theaster Gates, Amy Sherald, Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley, and new landmarks—such as the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial to Peace and Justice and the creation of Black Lives Matter Plaza—have initiated a new set of “groundwork” tactics in the Stand Your Ground Era in the United States. Stand Your Ground laws, first established in 2005 and now in over thirty-three states, define the right to self-defense, to claim the ground on which one stands if there is a perception of “reasonable threat.” The law disproportionately affects black and brown lives today. These artworks prompt the question, What does it mean to not be able to “Stand Your Ground”? What are the representational tools available to show the frequent challenge to this upright position as a statement of sovereignty over one’s own life? How has the manifold meaning of the term “ground”—as both reason, fact, but also soil itself, opened up a mode of critical inquiry to address the injustices wrought at our feet? Just as the field of environment studies has begun to consider its nexus with racial inequity; this course will approach these representations of the “ground” with a critical race art history perspective. It will give students the chance to consider the “groundwork” that artists have created as both practical labor for civic society, and as a prompt for new, critical methodological inquiry in the arts and humanities at large. Enrollment is limited to graduate students and a few undergraduates by application.