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SCAND 490 A: Special Topics

Meeting Time: 
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm
RAI 314
Joint Sections: 
Photo of Olivia Gunn
Olivia Gunn

Syllabus Description:

SCAND 490 & 590: Special Topics: “Afro/Nordic Perspectives”

Professor: Olivia Gunn

UW, Scandinavian Studies, Fall 2019

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Course Description

In this course, students will explore:

  1. Scandinavian perspectives on blackness and colonization
  2. African-American perspectives on Scandinavia
  3. Afro-Nordic perspectives

We will begin by identifying and deconstructing terms of racialization and identity in Norden today.

In unit one, we will explore works of Scandinavian literature and film that depict the ideologies, power relations, and outcomes of the colonial project, including H.C. Andersen's The Mulatto (1834), Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa (1937), Göran Olsson’s The Black Power Mixetape 1967-1975 (2011), and Gisli Palsson’s The Man Who Stole Himself (2016). In unit two, we will read works by African-American authors that both contribute to and critique the concept of Scandinavian exceptionalism, including Booker T. Washington’s “The Organization of Country Life in Denmark” (1911), Nella Larsen’s Quicksand (1928), James Baldwin’s “The Northern Protestant” (1961), and Rodrick Ferguson’s critique of Gunnar Myrdal (by means of Baldwin) in Aberrations in Black (2004). In unit three, students will give research presentations on major voices of the contemporary Afro-Nordic landscape, using scholarly, sociological, aesthetic and/or popular sources.

The slash in the term Afro/Nordic is meant both to separate and to unite these two names in different ways, depending on the texts and contexts under consideration.

Learning Outcomes

  • De-naturalizing whiteness
  • Centering and de-centering American blackness
  • Confronting assumptions about Nordic exceptionalism and homogeneity
  • Recognizing, exploring, and critiquing our (not necessarily shared) assumptions about ethnicity and racialization
  • Practicing critical reading and writing skills


Assignments are TBD, but might include

  • short response papers (possible pre-writing for a term paper)
  • in-class presentations
  • a term paper (490: 8-10 pages; 590: 12-15 pages)

NOTE: This course is listed as an upper-division and graduate course. Graduate and honors students enrolled in SCAND 590 will read additional secondary sources and take some responsibility for presenting critical perspectives to the class.

W credit is an option!

Catalog Description: 
Special topics in Scandinavian art, literature, culture, and history. Course offerings based on instructor's specialty and student demand.
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:22pm