Still Black, Posthuman

Instructor: Dr. Butler


Office Hours: By Appointment

Phone: (303) 765-3124

Zoom ID: 8186087210

Course Description:

Blackness waits at the door. It sits in the room. It seeps into crevices. It disrupts stable sensibilities. It is the abyss. It is an overwhelming presence of life and the beyond. And it waits. This course will explore many presentations of Blackness as an ontology, material essence, and tangible modality. In doing so, this course will not only explore onto-materiality of Blackness, but present a case for it as an integral framework to engage posthumanism’s proclivity to emphasizes animal studies and ecology while holding fast to liberalism’s damaging modes of uncritical inclusivity. This is important to the state of the theological experiment as James Cone insisted Blackness is the key to global salvation over 50 years ago. With recent moves to decenter human exceptionalism, shifts in focus to future realities, and intentional re-imaginings of the human-creature-divine relationship. It is important to continue to unravel humanist descendent offerings. As such, this course will provide a lens to investigate/disrupt the potentiality that posthumanity presents, pushing beyond its less obviously regressing boundaries, towards liberative future realities.

Learning Outcomes:

After taking this class, students will be able to:

  1. Communicate and deconstruct their own relationship to Blackness.
  2. Articulate some of the ways that Blackness is theorized.
  3. Differentiate between the theoretical presentations of Blackness and posthuman scholarship.
  4. Speak knowledgeably in ways that markedly utilize/draw from Blackness as a mode/lens for resistance and resisting.
  5. Demonstrate awareness of the relationship between Blackness, resistance, and rupture as it pertains to posthumanity’s maintenance of enlightenment humanism and humanity/human-ness/the human.
  6. Write academic papers with increased ability to formulate a clear, concise, and direct thesis while supporting it with apt textual evidence and sound logic.
  7. Creatively synthesize the course materials into a personal project.

Additional Doctoral Outcomes:

In addition to the above outcomes doctoral Students will be able to:

  1. Contribute original scholarship to the study of religion.
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of a variety of disciplinary perspectives that they will engage critically in interdisciplinary conversation and scholarship.

Course Requirements:

Master’s Students:

  1. Preparation and participation. Participation is 15% of your final grade. For more information concerning participation expectations, see

    Throughout the quarter, we will have several discussions which will compose a large part of our engagement with each other in this online learning space. For these discussions to be meaningful conversation spaces, we all need to take responsibility for consistent and substantial participation. Over the course of a conversation, substantial engagement means:

    1. Extend the conversation - creatively and critically push the conversation forward, do not just regurgitate what has already been said. If 1 or 2 other students have already responded directly to a point raised in a student paper, do not simply write another response to that point unless it adds something new to the conversation. You need to extend the conversation by adding an additional or different insight from the course materials, by asking a new question that stems from one of the posts already offered, by offering a related and contextualized example of the issue being discussed from your own experience, or by creatively integrating your own perspective with what has already been posted. 
    2. Ask contextualized questions - situate your questions within the discussion by referencing the course materials and other parts of the conversation thread that inform your inquiry. Give us a little background as to why this question matters to you and how it relates to the course.
    3. Engage others in the course - thoughtful engagement with other students in the course and with the instructional team. 
    4. Engage the course materials - thoughtful engagement with readings, lectures, student presentations, and any other materials related to the course. Referencing and citing course materials in your posts where appropriate is encouraged. 
    5. Participate Respectfully - discussions in this course are likely to raise sensitive topics. Please strive for respect in all your comments, and charity in reading the comments of others.

    Things to consider: While we learn from each other from our interactions it is important to remember you classmates are not here to teach you through the justification of their experience/existence. It is also helpful to keep in mind that we take each other's histories and backgrounds seriously--being mindful that humor around these issues can be easily misconstrued.

    Each post need not do all of these things, but your overall participation in each conversation should demonstrate all of these components. You might have several short posts and a handful of longer posts in a week or you might have only a few strategic substantial posts (minimum of 2 posts per discussion). Either way, your overall participation in each conversation will be evaluated for substantial engagement. The goal of this discussion design is to encourage and reward interchange, so post often and engage each other with meaningful questions that open to other questions.

    I am looking for posts that help us understand and analyze the text at hand. Application of our texts to new situations is of course the ultimate goal, but we can't do that responsibly without understanding what the author is doing first. And that can be hard!

    If your first post (due Thursday) focuses on one of the assigned papers/readings, please focus your second post on a discussion about another paper/reading.

    section below. These address student learning outcomes 1-6.
  2. Each student will write two papers analyzing one of the readings for a particular. week. You may not write on the same author more than once, and you may not write more than one paper for any given week. Each paper counts for 20% of your final grade. For more information on paper requirements, see

    Paper Guidelines:

     Each student will prepare 3 papers of 3 double-spaced pages each (no less than 1200 words).  You should choose two readings you will write about and one to do a background paper on in the assignment.

    Post Papers

    On a week you have signed up to write, you will submit your paper on canvas for grading. Background papers and one of your reading papers will also be shared as discussion starters for that week. So, on the week you write a background paper and on the week you have indicated that you want to share you reading paper, you will post the paper both in the paper assignment area and as an attachment to a discussion post in our discussion for that week.


    Discussing Papers

    All students not writing in a week will read all of the posted papers and choose one to engage substantially with a robust response by the first discussion deadline for the week. See Discussion Guidelines for more details on discussion expectations. By the second discussion deadline each week, students will need to participate substantially in the discussion at least one additional time. Late postings will not be accepted.


    Paper Types


    • Reading Papers (2): These papers will critically engage the particular reading for which you signed up as a way of initiating rich conversation with your classmates.
    • Background Papers (1): Based on the readings for the week, choose one core theological topic that you see emerging across the readings and provide some background on that topic that will foster substantial discussion.  How does this topic connect to other topics in the course? What key historical events or figures might be relevant to this topic? Are there current events that shed light on our engagement with this topic? Furthermore, what historical events took place around the topic itself which might help give greater context to the topic you’re discussing? And, is there anything else relevant about this topic that would be useful for us to know as we discuss?


    Evaluating Papers:

    Papers will be graded according to the following 4 criteria:


    1. A clearly stated claim;
    2. Textual evidence to support the claim;
    3. Quality of writing (organization, proper use of sentences and paragraphs, grammar, spelling, and all other mechanics);
    4. Depth and seriousness of analysis. 


    In a short paper the claim typically appears as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph (if it is not there the writer needs clearly to mark where it is, since otherwise readers will assume that sentence is the claim).  A claim states the conclusion of the argument put forward in the paper.  You have a great deal of freedom here.  A claim might state what is the most important idea in the reading, or what the author must assume to make his or her argument, or what the logical extension of that argument might be, or how that argument relates to other readings on our syllabus, or what the author gets right or wrong, etc.   In a short paper you will likely not be able to summarize the all the points the author makes, nor should you try.  Part of your task of analysis is to prioritize what is most important to lift up for discussion for our class.  Your paper will likely not follow the same organization as the reading under analysis, since the logic of your argument will not be the same as the logic of the argument of the reading.  If your paragraphs tend to begin “And then . . .;  Next . . .” then it is probably time to go back and do at least one more draft and re-think what you are presenting and how.  Papers for this class are a little closer to the summary end of the spectrum than a term paper might be, since they are the basis for our discussion.  But they are still papers that make engage the text by making a point about the text.

    The purpose of the papers is three-fold:


    1. The first is to encourage deep engagement with the texts;
    2. The second is to encourage a habit of discussion that is open, respectful, and rigorous.  This is best accomplished when the analytical essays take a charitable stance towards the readings.  Some of them will seem old-fashioned, and the writers may have different concerns than do we.  As in any good conversation, it is important first to try to see where the writer is coming from, rather than to be dismissive of his, her or their ideas.  There will be plenty of time later to decide what is useful to you and what is not.   We must begin with an accurate understanding of what is actually going on in the essay. 
    3. Third, these section papers will help develop your skills as readers and writers.  A great number of studies show that “peer-review” is a very effective way to teach writing.  The feedback you get on these papers during discussion will be quite valuable.


    Papers will be graded on the following scale:

    4 = A

     3 = B

     2 = C

     1 = D

     0 = F

    section below. These address student learning outcomes 1-6.
  3. Each student will provide introductory background on 1 topic during the quarter. This background paper is worth 20% of your grade. For more information on this assignment, see

    Each student will write 3 papers this term: 1 on a background topic and 2 on course readings. Please choose 2 readings from the list below, without choosing more than 1 in any single week and without choosing the same author twice. Please choose 1 background paper slot below, preferably not in a week you are writing one of your reading papers. Ideally, each student will only write one paper in a given week. For more details on the requirements for these papers, see Paper Guidelines.

    Your background papers and one of the two reading papers you choose to write will be used to initiate our discussion for the week. Please indicate the reading paper you wish to use as conversation starter by BOLDING your name in that slot. On this week you will post your reading paper BOTH as an assignment to be graded and as an attachment to a discussion post in our discussion for that week. Background papers will always be posted both as an assignment and in the discussion as an attachment. 

    To make your selections, click Edit in the top right corner of the page and enter your name in the Sign up column for 2 readings and 1 Background.  Please choose readings that do not have anyone signed up before adding your name in the second slot for a reading. Only the number of students indicated by each slot can sign up for that reading, so if a reading or background already has all spots filled, you must choose another. Once you have entered your name in 3 spots and bolded the reading paper you want to share with the class, be sure to click Save at the bottom of the page and check to make sure the saved page has your name in the slots you selected. You can always come back to this page to see the papers you chose to write. 

    Topic Reading Sign up

    Week 1


    Vinnetta Golphin-Wilkerson


    Carolyn Pittman


    Carolyn Pittman

    Background Lyse Fedjanie Barronville

    Week 2


    Matthew Webber


    Matt Haar Farris


    Wesley Snedeker

    Week 3





    Wesley Snedeker


    mai gross


    Matthew Webber


    Week 4



    Jackson (Theorizing in a Void)

    Lyse Fedjanie Barronville


    Dennis Saavedra Carquin-Hamichand, Blake Gibbins

    Matt Haar Farris

    Week 5


    Brayden Hunt, Wesley Snedeker


    Dennis Saavedra Carquin-Hamichand


    Eve Lyne, Isabela Rosales


    Week 6

    Sharpe (Ch. 2-3)

    Matthew Webber


    Carolyn Pittman, Eve Lyne


    Vinnetta Golphin-Wilkerson

    Week 7

    Moten 1-5

    Vinnetta Golphin-Wilkerson, Blake Gibbins


    Eve Lyne


    mai gross

    Week 8

    Moten 6-12

    Matt Haar Farris


    Vinnetta Golphin-Wilkerson, Isabela Rosales


    Matthew Webber


    Week 9

    Butler (Intro, 2-3)

    Lyse Fedjanie Barronville


    Wesley Snedeker


    Dennis Saavedra Carquin-Hamichand

    Week 10

    Butler (9,11)

    mai gross

    Butler - BPT

    Isabela Rosales


    Blake Gibbins, Carolyn Pittman


    section below. These address student learning outcomes 1, 2, 4-6.
  4. Final project (25%): Your final will be a creative project that exhibits your use of Blackness' onto-materiality as a critical lens. It should include complex and critical elements of Blackness in conversation with some form of posthumanist discourse. In presenting your construction you should consider: 


    • Which elements of Blackness will you draw from (gendered, sexual, physical, cosmological, onto-material, etc.)?
    • Which element/s of post-/humanist discourse are you critiquing?
    • What are your foundational modalities (fantasy, science, fiction, hyper-realism, etc.)?
    • What theological elements, if any, can be derived from, or emerge out of this exercise? 
    • How is Blackness conceived? Is it disruptive, distributed, whole, piercing, vibrating, crushing, enlivening, world-ending?
    • What does this form of Blackness do to YOU?


    Your creative project can take the form of a podcast, short video, sketch comedy, a painting/digital art, a novela, or a paper. If you have an idea that is not expressed here, please let me know and we can discuss.


    Your creative project will be graded on 4 aspects:

    1. Level of creativity: This is not a critique on the medium, but how it is used. If you choose to write a paper, the argument you present must be original (this is where it is important to speak with me). Your task is to take what you have been given this semester and mold/construct/build something new.


    2. Knowledge of the Subject: How well are you able to communicate the material from this course into a synthesized coherent argument? This is not an opportunity to regurgitate information. This is a space where you are asked to demonstrate enough critical awareness of the subject that you can then integrate it into a clear and concise project.


    3. Strength of Argument (structure): This is your time to make a strong and provocative statement. Do just that. If you argument does possess clear, sound, and strong logic (even if it is nonlinear) it will be difficult for you to receive full credit for this category. 


    4. Self-awareness: What is your relationship to the topic? Does this lens flow from your own experience (i.e., do you embody the experience of Blackness?)? If so, then how does this lens open things up for you? If not, in what ways do you employ this in your world(s) as lens for the now, immediate future, and so forth?

    25% of your grade These address student learning outcomes 1-7.

Doctoral Students:

In addition to the assignments described above. JDP/DMin students will be required to:

  1. Read Extra material, labeled JDP throughout the course. This addresses student learning outcomes 9.
  2. Utilize interdisciplinary analysis in analysis and background papers. This addresses student learning outcomes 9.
  3. Write one extra analysis OR background paper - 4 short papers total. These address student learning outcomes 1-6.
  4. Use their creative project to contribute original scholarship to the study of religion. This addresses student learning outcomes 8.

Required Readings x Auxilliary Readings:


Becoming Human: Zakiyyah Jackson

Black Transhuman Liberation Theology: Butler

Black in Blur: Moten

Statement of Inclusivity:

If you have a preferred pronoun that you would like for the class to address you by please let me know so that we can honor that for you.

Jan 11, 2022TuePaper Sign-updue by 06:59AM
Jan 12, 2022WedWeek 1 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 14, 2022FriWeek 1 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 16, 2022SunWeek 1 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 19, 2022WedWeek 2 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 21, 2022FriWeek 2 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 23, 2022SunWeek 2 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 26, 2022WedWeek 3 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 28, 2022FriWeek 3 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 30, 2022SunWeek 3 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 02, 2022WedWeek 4 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 04, 2022FriWeek 4 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 06, 2022SunWeek 4 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 09, 2022WedWeek 5 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 11, 2022FriWeek 5 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 13, 2022SunWeek 5 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 16, 2022WedWeek 6 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 18, 2022FriWeek 6 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 20, 2022SunWeek 6 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 23, 2022WedWeek 7 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 25, 2022FriWeek 7 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 27, 2022SunWeek 7 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 02, 2022WedWeek 8 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Mar 04, 2022FriWeek 8 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Mar 06, 2022SunWeek 8 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 09, 2022WedWeek 9 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Mar 11, 2022FriWeek 9 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Mar 13, 2022SunWeek 9 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 16, 2022WedWeek 10 Papersdue by 05:59AM
Mar 18, 2022FriWeek 10 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Mar 20, 2022SunWeek 10 Continueddue by 05:59AM
Mar 21, 2022MonFinal Projectdue by 05:59AM