Seminar in Cultural Studies: Genres of Social Movements: BDS, BLM, and Mauna Kea

Prof. Cynthia Franklin

775 (section 001)

W 6-8:30 p.m.


Genres of Social Movements: BDS, BLM, and Mauna Kea


Delivery Format: In-person


Course Description: In this course we will study social movements and consider how different cultural genres partake in, provoke, shape, or otherwise engage them. The course is organized around three social movements that are defining ones for the contemporary moment, and that all are global ones, even as our focus will primarily be the United States. Section 1 will focus on Black Lives Matter; Section 2, on the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS); Section 3, on the movement for Mauna Kea. To conclude the course, we will explore coalitions (and cultural texts) that conjoin these distinct movements, and consider the significance of expressions of reciprocal solidarity.

         Our investigation of these social movements and the cultural texts that instigate, lift up, or otherwise respond to them will involve us in analyzing novels; short stories; poetry (printed and performed); music videos; theoretical essays, monographs, and edited collections; feature films; documentaries; autobiographies; biographies; legal documents; blog entries; letters; and literary and political essays. For example, in Section 1, we will consider not only texts that explicitly comment on BLM (i.e., BLM cofounder Patrisse Cullors’ memoir, and the M4BL platform), but also films like Fruitvale Station that helped give rise to BLM. Or, in Section 2, for example, we will take up the poetry of Remi Kanazi in relation to his organizing work for the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. In Section 3, we will read texts inspired by or part of the movement for Mauna Kea including academic forums and special journal issues, music videos, and poetry. Our focus in the concluding section will be on texts that explicitly bring together different movements (for example, videos produced by Black4Palestine).

         The movements for Black Lives, BDS and Mauna Kea have each spread via texts on social media as well as been taken up by cultural studies theorists, artists, writers, organizers and public intellectuals who not only comment on, but also participate through their work in these movements. As we consider texts that represent a wide variety of genres, we will consider why some genres are taken up more by one or the other of the movements. We will consider what kind of work some genres can do that others cannot and how they work together in complementary ways and/or in tension with one another. As we do the work of delving into the articulations between genre, history, and politics, we will address theory alongside rather than as distinct from the other cultural texts we consider—not as transhistorical, placeless, or without context, but rather as a highly situated mode of discourse with its own conventions and discursive protocols. In other words, as we read theoretical texts, we will follow Stuart Hall, who argued in “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies” that “movements provoke theoretical moments.”

         This course, then, will allow us to consider the specific politics and poetics of BLM, BDS and the Kū Kia‘i Mauna movements in ways that also enable a thinking through of the interrelations of cultural theory, art, and politics, and the articulations of the academic, the political, the literary and the personal.



Assignments: A presentation accompanied by an annotated bibliography and a short essay (25%); weekly letters to the class (20%); an abstract, outline, and seminar paper (scholarly, or an act of engaged scholarship) + a short presentation of the paper (50%); attendance at two talks or events related to the class, and short write-ups of them (5%).


Required Texts:


Ta-nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)

Patrisse Cullors, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (young adult version, 2021)

Remi Kanazi, Before the Next Bomb Drops (2015)

Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada and No ‘u Revilla, special Biography Issue 43.3 “We Are Maunakea” (2020) (available Open Access on Project Muse)

Sunaina Maira, Boycott! (2018)

Claudia Rankine, Citizen (2014)

Barbara Ransby, Making All Black Lives Matter (2018)

Steven Salaita, Uncivil Rites (2015)


Films (full-length and short)

Black 4 Palestine and Noura Erakat, When I See Them, I See Us (2105)

Ryan Coogler, dir., Fruitvale Station (2013)

DAM, Whose the Terrorist? (Meen Erhabi?) (2011)

Mikey Inouye, dir. Like a Mighty Wave (2020)

Remi Kanazi, This Divestment Bill Hurts My Feelings and Normalize This! (2012)

Jalena Keane-Lee, Standing Above the Clouds (2020)

Ciara Lacy, dir. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: This Is the Way We Rise (2020)

Jason Mamoa, We Are Mauna Kea (2020)

Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu Maunakea and Mana Maoli. Worldwide #Jam4Mauna (2019)

Jasiri X, Checkpoint (2014)


Websites and Facebook Pages

Jewish Voice for Peace


Love Not Blood Campaign


NDN Collective

Palestine Legal

Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu


The Mauna Kea Syllabus Project


Essays, book excerpts and articles by writers including Ruha Benjamin; Jamelle Bouie; Charlene Carruthers; Zinzi Clemmons; Brittney Cooper and Treva Lindsey; Glen Coulthard; Angela Davis; Chandni Desai; Noura Erakat; Erakat and Mark Lamont Hill; Candace Fujikane; Daniel Heath Justice; Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua; Kai Green, Je Naé Taylor, Pascale Ifé Williams, and Christopher Roberts; Kaleikoa Ka‘eo; J. Kēhaulani Kauanui; Rania Khalek; Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada; David Uahikeaikalei‘ohu Maile; MANA; Nick Mitchell; Darnell Moore and Sa’ed Atshan; Fred Moten; Bill Mullen; Jamaica Heolimelekalani Osorio; Claudia Rankine; Steven Salaita; Heike Schotten; Leanne Betasamosake Simpson; Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor; Frank Wilderson, Omar Zahzah.



Student Learning Outcomes:

Appreciation of how political movements feed and are fed by literary and cultural texts.

Ability to situate your work within larger critical conversations.

Strengthened skills in historicizing texts and movements.

Strengthened skills in working across different academic disciplines.

Advanced skills in analyzing different literary genres in relation to social and political movements.

Enhanced ability to craft a research paper, including developing a research question, formulating a compelling thesis, and choosing and analyzing sources to develop and strengthen your arguments.

Enhanced ability to give oral presentations to students that clearly convey a body of information and analysis .

Foundational knowledge about literature on BLM, BDS, Mauna Kea, and movement-building.

Foundational readings in contemporary Black and Indigenous theory