Black Holes: Race and the Cosmos is a new hybrid course taught by Profs. Parisa Vaziri (Comparative Literature), and Nicholas Battaglia (Astronomy). No prerequisites are required, and the course is open to all undergraduates. Please see the description below and attached poster. For more information, you can contact Prof. Vaziri at email@example.com. The course can be taken for Physical Sciences credit for students who matriculated in 2020.
Black Holes: Race and the Cosmos
Conventional wisdom would have it that the “black” in black holes has nothing to do with race. Surely there can be no connection between the cosmos and the idea of racial blackness. Can there? Contemporary Black Studies theorists, artists, fiction writers implicitly and explicitly posit just such a connection. Theorists use astronomy concepts like “black holes” and “event horizons” to interpret the history of race in creative ways, while artists and musicians conjure blackness through cosmological themes and images. Co-taught by professors in Comparative Literature and Astronomy, this course will introduce students to the fundamentals of astronomy concepts through readings in Black Studies. We will experiment with what it means to engage with astrophysics concepts both inside and outside of the disciplinary framework of astronomy—for example, in genres like film, afrofuturist science fiction, and critical theory. Do astronomy concepts lose coherence outside of their scientific contexts, or do they acquire a different kind of sense? Why are humanities scholars everlastingly drawn toward the stars? In particular, what do artists and theoreticians of color gain from turning identity politics toward cosmological reflection? Texts will include works by theorists like Michelle Wright and Denise Ferreira da Silva, authors like Octavia Butler and Dionne Brand, and others. Astronomy concepts will include the electromagnetic spectrum, stellar evolution, and general relativity.