Christianity, Race and Colonialism

My other new course this year is a new module I’ve designed entirely from scratch on Christianity, Race and Colonialism, which I’ll be teaching to second and third year undergraduates. I’m really excited and also extremely nervous about it, but currently feeling pretty pleased with the syllabus. I teach alternate week advanced seminars with the third years, so for those sessions we’ll be focusing on more advanced theoretical material and trying to think through how those additional readings relate to the course. I’ve given all the students a relatively open brief for the oral exam at the end of the course and am really excited to see what they come up with. The syllabus runs as follows:

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Dazzling Darkness: Mysticism and Philosophy Syllabus

We’ve launched a new MA programme at Winchester this year, and I’m looking forward to teaching postgraduate students again. We run a theology, a religious studies and philosophy module every year and this year I am designated philosopher, syllabus as follows and, as you might expect, featuring several of my co-bloggers and friends of the blog:

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Help me plan a module on Christianity, Race and Colonialism

This September I’ll be teaching my first ever completely self-designed module, and I’m pretty excited about it. The module will focus on Christianity, race and colonialism, and possibly for the first time ever when teaching I feel like the learning outcomes I have committed myself to actually reflect what I want the module to do:

By the conclusion of this module, a student will be expected to be able to :

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of the historical development of racism and colonialism
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of key conceptual frameworks for understanding the development of racism and colonialism
  • Critically evaluate theological texts in light of historical and theoretical accounts of race and colonialism

I have a bunch of ideas, and am trying to figure out how to balance these three central elements – history, theory and theology – in assigned readings and classes, but would love to know: what do you think are the canonical texts, events, ideas etc for this kind of a module? Any and all suggestions gratefully received; I’m especially keen to find resources for engaging with the histories of slavery and colonialism outside of North America, and especially with the histories of slavery and colonialism in relation to the British Empire.

‘Klingons are animals’

The title credits of Star Trek: Discovery unfold on a background of age-stained paper. Perfectly geometrical lines and calculations take solid colour and form as a ship over a planet, a human body being outfitted with a space suit, a gun, a communications device, Klingon weapons of war and, finally, two space-suited hands reaching out, never quite touching one another. Star Trek unfolds, we are reminded, within the horizon of modernity: of the transformation of the human body into a machine; the transposition of divine characteristics onto Man, creator and controller of the world due to previously unimagined technological advances; all driven and enabled by exploration, warfare and, crucially, the invention of race. After the weapons comes the reaching out of hands; after the transformation of cold geometry into the hard lines of metal comes the dissolution of all these images into smoke; all that is solid melts into air.24-credits.w1200.h630.png

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Good Cop, Bad Cop

It says a lot about me that it took so long to get there, but one of the most important political shifts of my life was when I came to realise that the police are bad and should be abolished. Once you know that, it’s hard not to be amazed by how much work goes into convincing us that the police are, first, on our side and, second, actually good at solving crimes. I’ve never been much of  a once for police procedurals, but middle class peer pressure eventually sucked me into watching Luther and True Detective (I’ve just finished season 1 of True Detective, so no spoilers for season 2 please). What’s interesting about both shows is the way they lean into some of the most powerful critiques of the police: they’re corrupt, they’re violent, they encourage and enable the worst kinds of toxic masculinity, they’re actually pretty bad people on the whole. But they do so precisely in service of the basic beliefs that enable us to continue supporting and enabling policing. Sure, both shows say, the police are terrible human beings; but they’re our terrible human beings, and however bad they are, the bad guys they’re fighting are far, far worse. Sure, the police might break rules, steal, commit violence, break every possible code of conduct. But they’re doing it because, at the end of the day, they’re profoundly committed to protecting us from bad guys so unimaginably evil that everyone of those transgressions is justified. It’s a special kind of high-quality drama ironic distance. You’re watching good TV here, award-winning TV, so no one’s going to pander to you to try to kid you that the police are clean faced angels: we all know that’s not true. Instead you, the discerning viewer, are going to confront the gritty and horrifying underbelly of society; face up to the messy business of law enforcement where the evils the police are fighting on your behalf are so horrifying, so watershed-unfriendly, that the hard truth is that we have to let the police get their hands dirty. You’re right! All cops are bastards. But they’re our bastards, and they’re going to protect us by catching the real bad guys, even if they have to break a few rules along the way.

Hegel, Marx and Dialectical Thought syllabus

The third and final course I’m teaching this semester is on Hegel, Marx and Dialectical Thinking. As with everything I’ve ever taught, I’ve begged, borrowed and stolen ideas from friends, enemies and a whole bunch of people who happened to put their syllabi on the internet (god bless you all), but I’m especially indebted in this case to Timothy Secret and Tom O’Shea who were both extremely generous with their comments and suggestions. I’ve tried to build some later critical engagements with Hegel into the earlier part of the course and generally to intermingle recent works with older ones, which I’m hoping will open up some more interesting conversations than if we’d done it chronologically. The full module handbook, including weekly readings and essay questions, is available here, but the outline of the course is as follows:

WEEK 1: Introducing Hegel and Dialectics

WEEK 2: The Master/Slave Dialectic

WEEK 3: Hegel in Context

WEEK 4: Hegel and Recognition

WEEK 5: Dialectical Materialism?

WEEK 6: Marx and Alienation


WEEK 8: Social Reproduction

WEEK 9: Critical Theory

WEEK 10: Marxist Feminism

WEEK 11: Black Marxism

WEEK 12: Essay Workshop

Introduction to Political Philosophy syllabus

I’m about to teach an Introduction to Political Philosophy course for the second time. Last time around I used an adaptation of Robin James’ Social and Political Philosophy syllabus, which had a ton of great material but proved to be a bit much for my students. So I’ve more or less rewritten the whole course to go much more slowly through texts and topics. I’m planning to open with some conversations about race, gender and class as the three categories of analysis we’ll be using for thinking about how societies are organised, and then we’ll explore some key themes via reading and discussing some key political philosophers, as follows:

WEEK 1. Introduction to Political Philosophy
WEEK 2. The social contract: Thomas Hobbes
WEEK 3. The sexual contract: Carol Pateman
WEEK 4. The racial contract: Charles Mills
WEEK 5. Private Property: John Locke
WEEK 6. Communism: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
WEEK 8. Freedom: John Stuart Mill
WEEK 9. Resistance: Frantz Fanon
WEEK 10. Liberty: Robert Nozick
WEEK 11: Control: Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Paul B Preciado
WEEK 12: Topic selected by the class

Thanks to everyone who chipped in when I was planning the first iteration of this course; I went back over all the comments this time around and found them super helpful. Because I’ll be teaching a mixture of students doing Politics and PPE as well as some of our own students taking Philosophy, Religion and Ethics, I’ll be teaching a class of around 60, by far the biggest group I’ve ever taught. I’m planning to experiment with Nearpod to see if that will let me keep some meaningful element of student interaction in my classes, but if anyone has any tips for managing a group that size (we’ll be stuck in a lecture-style theatre just for added barriers to small group discussion) etc, I’m all ears! PO1103 PPE1001 S2 Handbook 2017-2018, for those who are interested.