In our effort to de-emphasize the scientific method in the STEM curriculum at Cornell University by de-centering whiteness, we propose a new course that complements Astro 2034–Black Holes: Race and the Cosmos, [c]o-taught by professors in Comparative Literature and Astronomy.
Black Holes: Race and the Cosmos is described thusly: This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of astronomy concepts through readings in Black Studies. We will experiment with what it means to engage with astrophysics concepts both inside and outside of the disciplinary framework of astronomy—for example, in genres like film, afrofuturist science fiction, and critical theory. Do astronomy concepts lose coherence outside of their scientific contexts, or do they acquire a different kind of sense? Why are humanities scholars everlastingly drawn toward the stars? In particular, what do artists and theoreticians of color gain from turning toward cosmological reflection? Texts will include works by authors like Octavia Butler and Dionne Brand, theorists like Sylvia Wynter and Denise Ferreira da Silva, and others. Astronomy concepts will include the electromagnetic spectrum, stellar evolution, and general relativity.
The proposed course, Black Body Radiation: De-centering Whiteness, will introduce students to the fundamentals of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics through music, dance, and readings in sociology. We will analyze songs such as Black Body by 5th L, Black Body by Fiorella, and get to know the life work of the artist known as Black Body. We will discuss Dorothy Roberts’ book, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty. Then we will move on to deconstruct, unpack, and interrogate the black body into its parts using a bottom-up approach by learning about the Blackfeet Nation, as well as Ma Rainey’s song Black Bottom and the dance that goes by the same name. We will then apply what we have learned to understand medical maladies such as black lung, black hairy tongue, and black eyes.
Following the successful completion of Black Body Radiation: De-centering Whiteness, students will be prepared to take an intermediate level course in Decolonizing Light.