Course: Inside Out Prison Exchange: Autobiography as Political Agency – Part II

HC 424H / HC 431H

Professor: Anita Chari

Graduation Requirement: This class will fulfill both of the following requirements: a Social Science Colloquium and an IP (Identity, Pluralism & Tolerance) Multicultural class. If you have already taken a Social Science Colloquium, this class will fulfill both of the following requirements: an Elective Colloquium and an IP Multicultural class.

This course is part of the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program, and open only to CHC students. An application, interview and instructor approval are required to register for this course. 

This class explores the autobiography as a form of both personal and political expression. The class begins by complicating, questioning and demystifying the divide between the personal and political by linking students' personal stories and histories with narratives of broader social structures, such as capitalism, patriarchy, slavery, and colonialism.

We will read autobiographies from diverse sources, including diaries, quasi-fictionalized autobiographies, poetry, and autobiographies of political activists. We will also engage with theories of social structure and agency in order to interrogate the interface between personal experience and political agency. Finally, we delve into trans-generational narratives in order to think about social structure and agency across time and space.

Students will produce a significant body of writing in class and in homework assignments in order to create their own (political) autobiographies. Authors that we will read in the class include the following: Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, James Weldon Johnson, Gloria Anzaldua, Anne Frank, Hannah Arendt, Iris Young, Walter Benjamin, Nellie Wong, Kitty Tsui, Aime Cesaire, and Nelson Mandela.