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Visiting Fellow Archive (2008-2009)

Houston Baker


The 2008-2009 Institute for the Humanities Visiting Fellow is Houston A Baker, Jr., Distinguished University Professor, Vanderbilt University. He will be in residence at UIC from October 20-31, 2008, offering two seminars and a public lecture. The two seminars are open to faculty and advanced graduate students. Preregistration is not required but it is highly recommended. The lecture is open to the public.

Seminar will take place in the Institute of Humanities. lower level, Stevenson Hall.


Lecture: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 4 p.m
“Just Enough for the City: Richard Wright and the Black Urban Imaginary ”

Seminar I: Thursday October 23, 2008 from 2 p.m to 5 p.m 
“My Life As the Ghetto: How Where We are Reared Conditions Our Intellectual Life Forever … For Good or Ill ”
To paraphrase H. Rap Brown: “Segregation in the U.S. is as American as Cherry Pie”. From the holds of slave ships in the trade to present-day Detroit (the most segregated city in the U.S.) zones of confinement have been chief venues of black life in the Americas. Arrangements of black life south and north of the Mason-Dixon have been marked by what Richard Wright calls “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow”. Focusing on the U.S. South and analyzing selected texts, the seminar will explore: the “regional” distinctiveness and “national” homogeneity of black southern autobiographical projects; the southern rootedness of northern ghettos; the imperatives of black intellectual life derived from or conditioned by segregated/ghetto early life. Along the way, it will be incumbent to sample critical pros and cons of the “New Southern Studies”.

Seminar I Readings:

Book: Richard Wright, Black Boy (Harper Perennial edition)

Book: Richard Wright, 12 Million Black Voices

Essay: Richard Wright Essay:” The Ethics of Living Jim Crow ” (supplied by Institute for Humanities)

Excerpt from: Houston A. Baker, Betrayal (Columbia University Press): ” Little Africa ” chapter

Book: Houston A. Baker, I Don’t Hate the South (Oxford University Press)

Excerpts from: Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens:
” In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens ” (supplied by Institute for Humanities)
” Searching for Zora ” (supplied by Institute for Humanities)

Short story: Alice Walker, “Everyday Use ” (supplied by Institute for Humanities)

Excerpt from: Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X: Chapters 1 through 3

Excerpt from: Riche Richardson, Black Masculinity and the U.S. South: “Introduction” and Chapter 4

Seminar II: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Essay: Michael Kreyling, ” Toward ‘A New Southern Studies'” (supplied by Institute for Humanities)

“Bright Boyz Against the Hood: Black Neocons, Centrists, Comedians, and Magic Negro Politicians”

During the second week of the Visiting Fellowship, we shall examine how “bright” young (and not so young) black men overcome the ghetto, deploy their native brilliance, and become behaviorist, neo-conservative, politically centrist, and beloved paid spokespersons for the white mainstream. Of course, the prevailing politics of “post-race” black presidential hopefulness will be on the table, but the more rigorous analytic will be a question of race treachery, black psychological denial of continuing disenfranchisement, and much more. The primary text will be Houston Baker’s Betrayal. The works of Adolph Reed, Norman Kelley, and others will supplement discussion. The DVD “Street Fight” featuring the campaigns of Cory Booker and other visuals will also supplement. No greater supplement could be imagined than the two-party system’s national conventions.

Seminar II Readings:

Book: Houston A. Baker, Betrayal (Columbia University Press)Essay: Matt Bai, “Is Obama the End of Black Politics” (New York Times August 10, 2008 (supplied by Institute for Humanities)