Some of Us are Brave: Black Feminist Theory, Black Womanist Ethics

Fall 2017
W 1:30-3:20pm
Area II, Area V
MDIV Requirements: 
Permission Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

This advanced seminar seriously considers radical subjectivity as the first tenet of womanist theological ethics in its focus on the relationship between black feminist theory and black womanist ethics. Building on the work of leading black feminist scholar and intellectual activist Patricia Hill Collins, the course places contemporary black feminist thinkers in conversation with black womanism to identify critical points of continuity and divergence that frame black women’s intellectual production in church and society.  The commitments of womanist theologians/theological ethicists like Emilie M. Townes, Kelly Brown Douglas, and Angela Sims guide the seminar as it privileges the interdigitation of race, gender, class, and sexual indicators as the groundwork of moral imagination and moral resistance. Students will engage a womanist ethical “dance of redemption” to deepen knowledge of the distinct textures of black women’s historiography, personality, carcerality, and aesthetic maneuvers that substantiate the construction of black womanist-feminist ethical norms and mandates.  Considerable attention will be given to theoethical reflection on contemporary social concerns that disproportionately affect the lives and life chances of black women, as well as praxial application of black feminist theoretical considerations.


By the end of this course, students will:
Understand the interdigitation of black feminist theory and black womanist theological ethics
Acquire critical insight concerning black women’s theoretical and theoethical reflection on human personality, intragender relationality, violence, visuality, and resistance
Grasp the significance of black feminist and womanist thought for theoethical reflection on contemporary social issues emerging at the interstices of race, gender, class, and sexual oppressions
Demonstrate competence in applied womanist method, praxis, and pedagogy


Background Expected: 

REL 614: Introduction to Womanist Theology & Ethics or equivalent

Course Requirements: 

1. Punctual Attendance and Active Participation in Class (20%)

2. Discussion Starter (10%) – Survey the impact of race, gender, and class in your life and community.  This 5-7 page double-spaced paper must:

Include a careful analysis of the reading material – what are the major themes that emerge? What are the sub-themes of the readings that are particularly intriguing? What holds the readings together and/or distinguishes them? (40%)
Critique the major themes of the readings in relationship to class lecture and discussion – where do you find points of agreement and disagreement in the readings? (40%)
Conclude with ONE critical question that the readings prompt for you and your ministry context (20%)
Students will choose their presentation week on the first day of class.  

3. Working Group Presentation (35%) – Students will be assigned a working group on the first day of class.
Each group will have 25 minutes at the end of the semester to creatively present on a course topic as assigned. The presentation must demonstrate a grasp of the womanist ethical “dance of redemption” by including each of the following elements:
Dialogical reflection – rigorous engagement that places two thinkers covered in class (1-womanist,1-black feminist) in conversation with each other on the assigned theme
Conscientization -  immediate sensory response to the thinkers and the assigned topic
Emancipatory historiography - critical analysis and critique of material that identifies explicit and/or implicit themes, norms, and values that present as points of disagreement
Praxial concern – consideration of implications for black women and their communities of accountability
Norm clarification -  questions for critical engagement
Pedagogical creativity – required relevant inclusion of film, music, visual, and/or performance art
Each group will be given five (5) minutes to respond to questions of clarification. Twenty-five (25) minutes of discussion will follow the presentation.
Assignment due as scheduled at the beginning of the semester.

       4.  Final Paper (35%) – DUE Monday, December 11th by 5PM
Each student must submit a 12-15-page double-spaced final paper on two thinkers covered in the class (they cannot be the thinkers engaged for your group presentation) in conversation with a contemporary theoethical dilemma that emerges at the intersections of race, gender, class, and/or sexual oppressions.
Students must meet with professor and teaching assistant by or before November 8th to discuss paper topic and scope.  My availability for this meeting will be offered on the first day of class.

= 100%

Basis of Evaluation: 

Regular and punctual attendance
Completion of assignments by due date
Accuracy and precision of scholarship (including use of inclusive language)
Clarity and precision of oral and written presentation
Depth of comprehension of reading material and in-class engagement
Grammar & Style