Assistant Professor of Diasporic Youth Cultures
Tammy C. Owens’ research focuses on the ways black girls and women use fiction and personal narratives as creative sites to theorize their own transitions from girlhood to womanhood and challenge dominant narratives of American childhood during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Owens’ work has been published in the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth and the Departures in Critical Qualitative Research journal. Her teaching interests include Black Feminism, Critical Race Theory, Queer of Color Theories, children and youth of color histories, youth activism and education, and African American Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Owens is a trained social worker. Her practice primarily focuses on queer youth of color experiencing homelessness.
Black and brown bodies have been weighed down for centuries with racial stereotypes and ideologies. These stereotypes and ideologies have constructed centuries-long narratives that construct black and brown bodies as "things" to be feared, used, killed, and forcibly contained. In essence, negative narratives around black and brown bodies have rendered black and brown people outside of humanity. In this interdisciplinary course, students will examine the history of racialization that black and brown bodies have experienced in American culture from the nineteenth century to present. We will also explore the ways black and brown people have worked to counter racial stereotypes and decolonize black and brown bodies through social movements, art, writing, films, music, photography, social media, and theatre. Throughout the semester, students will produce an original theatrical production of monologues based on the process of decolonizing black and brown bodies for their final project.
W.E.B. Du Bois explained that being black in America was similar to living a life that is divided into halves-one half of a black person always sees themselves through the eyes of others while the other half struggles to remain proud of their history and uniqueness as a black person. In this course, students will use Du Bois' theory alongside scholarship in Black Queer Studies to examine the experiences of black queer youth in New England. Analyzing films, archives, poetry, and novels, students will answer the following questions: What does it feel like to live a divided life as a young, black and queer person in New England? How do black queer youth challenge racial stereotypes and resist being pushed into several pipelines, including the school-to-prison pipeline or the cradle-to-grave? Students will answer these questions and write, direct, and produce a movie on black queer youth in New England.
The hashtags #sayhername #blackgirlmagic #blackjoy #blacklivesmatter #intersectionalfeminist and others are rooted in a long history of Black Feminist consciousness in the U.S. While these hashtags have made feminism more accessible to people across multiple lines of difference, they have also silenced a rich genealogy of black women and black queer intellectuals, educators, and activists who created the original theories long before the hashtag was created. Thus, the creators are not cited for their work and originality, but rather relegated to the dark corners of history. In this course, students will follow the hashtag offline to recover its intellectual roots. Analyzing films, archives, texts, and social media, students will examine key issues and scholarly interventions in Black Feminist Thought from the nineteenth century to our contemporary moment. Throughout the course, students will create a web-based hashtag archive that links some of the most popular hashtags to Black Feminist thinkers.
From the success of the Oscar-winning film Moonlight to the global popularity of hip-hop stars Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar, America indulges in the cultural work that young black men and boys create to express their unique experiences at the intersections of race, youth, and masculinity in film and music. Yet, when black boys and young men are not on stage or the screen performing to entertain spectators, they are oftentimes perceived as threats and violently policed, incarcerated, and killed. This course explores how the interconnections of race, gender, youth, and geography influence performances and cultural perceptions of black masculinities in America since the twentieth century. Students will use Queer of Color and Feminist theories to analyze representations of black masculinity in literature (e.g., Kiese Laymon, Richard Wright), film, art, music, and social media. Students will also study current social science research on black masculinities in Boyhood Studies.
Defining moments in girlhood and youth like fashioning different hairstyles and clothing are oftentimes inextricably linked to turning points in the development of one's political consciousness. This course explores the ways girls and women of color theorize the development of their political consciousness through these seemingly apolitical coming of age moments in the U.S. since 1920. Students will analyze personal narratives, oral histories, fiction, and plays that document early political trajectories of well-known figures such as bell hooks, Michelle Cliff, and Janet Mock and lesser-known figures. Students will examine the political trajectories of women (e.g., Beyonce) who came of age in the public eye. Course questions include: What are defining moments in the emerging political identities of girls of color? How does becoming aware of gender, race, and class differences during youth impact the development of political identity? How have social movements influenced the political identities of girls of color?
This course explores narratives of black girlhood from the nineteenth century to our contemporary moment. Students will analyze black girlhood through a diverse collection of sources including young adult literature, street lit, personal narratives, and recent scholarship in Black Girlhood Studies. We will consider the following questions: How do the intersections of race, class, gender, and geography impact the ways we understand girlhood? How have black girls defined girlhood and the transition from black girl to black woman? How do representations of black girlhood challenge dominant conceptualizations of American childhood and young adulthood? To answer these questions, students will examine the racialization of girlhood, the criminalization of black girls, sexual literacy, youth activism, education, and black girls in social media and hip-hop culture. Some of the texts we will engage include The Coldest Winter Ever (Sister Souljah) and Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools (Monique Morris).
Each culture defines childhood according to their own values and beliefs. These definitions of childhood change over time. Since the nineteenth century, racial ideologies have shaped dominant conceptualizations of childhood in the U.S. In this course, students will examine the history of race and childhood. The guiding questions of the course include: How do racial ideologies affect the concepts of childhood, dependency, and age? How have defining historical moments in race relations such as U.S. slavery, the Brown vs. Board of Education case, and the Black Lives Matter movement influenced conceptualizations of the "American child" and "American childhood"? To answer these questions, we will engage scholarship in the History of Childhood and Youth Studies alongside representations and analyses of "American childhood" in literature and sociology. Placing history in conversation with literature and sociology is essential for exposing students to diverse interpretations of the interrelationship of race and childhood.