Still Black Posthuman: Embracing Blackness as a Libertive Framework

Instructor: Dr. Butler


Office Hours: By Appointment

Phone: (303)765-3124

Zoom ID: 818 608 7210

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 JDP Outcomes:

In addition to the above outcomes JDP 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:


    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



    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 Paper Signups section below. These address student learning outcomes 1, 2, 4-6.
  4. Final project. 25% of your grade These address student learning outcomes 1-7.

JDP Students:

In addition to the assignments described above. JDP 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

Zakiyyah Jackson. Becoming Human . New York: New York University Press, 2020.

Philip Butler. Black Transhuman Liberation Theology . New York: Bloomsbury, 2019.

Fred Moten. Black in Blur . Durham, North Carolina. Duke University Press, 2017.

Further readings will be provided via Canvas

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.

Course Requirements:

Preparation and participation (15%): All students not writing in a week will read all of the posted papers and choose one to engage substantially through a robust response by the first discussion deadline for the week. By the second discussion deadline each week, students will need to substantially engage in further discussion at least one additional time. Late postings will not be accepted.

Discussion Papers (40%): Each student will write two papers analyzing one of the readings for a particular week. Students may not write on the same author more than once, neither may they write more than one paper for any given week. These papers will critically engage the particular reading you signed for up as a way of initiating rich conversation with your classmates. Each paper counts for 20% of their final grade.

Background Paper (20%): 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, if any, 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 that might help provide greater context to the topic of your discussion? Have there been any historical events that shaped this topic, or our understanding of it? And, is there anything else relevant about this topic that would be useful for us to know as we discuss?

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.

Jan 05, 2021TuePaper Sign-updue by 06:59AM
Jan 06, 2021WedWeek 1 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 08, 2021FriWeek 1 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 10, 2021SunWeek 1 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 13, 2021WedWeek 2 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 15, 2021FriWeek 2 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 17, 2021SunWeek 2 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 20, 2021WedWeek 3 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 22, 2021FriWeek 3 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 24, 2021SunWeek 3 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 27, 2021WedWeek 4 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 29, 2021FriWeek 4 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 31, 2021SunWeek 4 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 31, 2021SunWeek 6 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 03, 2021WedWeek 5 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 04, 2021ThuWeek 5 Discussiondue by 08:00PM
Feb 06, 2021SatWeek 5 Continueddue by 03:00PM
Feb 10, 2021WedWeek 6 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 12, 2021FriWeek 6 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 17, 2021WedWeek 7 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 19, 2021FriWeek 7 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 21, 2021SunWeek 7 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 24, 2021WedWeek 8 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 26, 2021FriWeek 8 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 28, 2021SunWeek 8 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 03, 2021WedWeek 9 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Mar 05, 2021FriWeek 9 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Mar 07, 2021SunWeek 9 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 10, 2021WedWeek 10 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Mar 12, 2021FriWeek 10 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Mar 14, 2021SunWeek 10 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 16, 2021TueFinal Projectdue by 05:59AM