Motivated by a need to understand and respond to the events of the summer, this course situates #Charlottesville in its historical context, focusing particularly on the social construction of the past in the present. Where many worry that taking down monuments amounts to an erasure of history, we will ask: whose perspectives do these histories take for granted, and whose do they silence? We will frame these monuments as contested representations of history and material culture, investigating why they were created and what kind of social and political work they continue to do. How do Confederate monuments mobilize hundreds of white supremacists with torches, homemade riot gear, and clubs? How does the emancipation of 52% of Charlottesville’s population after get re-written as a moment of defeat? How do these statues come to stand for “white culture” and “Southern history” as a whole? And what other histories might we turn to?
What kinds of tools do we need to grapple with ideological forces that masquerade as neutral and objective historical accounts? What other kinds of histories do we need as community members come together to defend one another and build decolonial worlds in the wreckage of white supremacy and the abandonments of the State? In addition to engaging with these questions through blog posts, articles, and films, this class will feature guest lectures from local community organizers, so that students may learn from their firsthand experiences and insights. Students will also work with peers in parallel #Charlottesville classes in order to gain an interdisciplinary perspective.