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ARTD 3138/7138: Journey to Wakanda: African Art and Popular Culture: Syllabus

Special Topics in Art History, Graduate Seminar (R6)

Course Information

ARTD 3138 – Special Topics in Art History

Journey to Wakanda: African Art and Popular Culture

Undergraduate Seminar (Synchronous)

Thursdays: 5:05 – 7:50PM, via Zoom

Instructor: Dr. Christopher Richards

Instagram: bcmuseumed

Office: Fridays via Zoom, 12:30 – 2:00PM (please pre-arrange time) or by appointment

Downloadable Syllabus

Course Objectives

  1. To gain a more nuanced understanding of African peoples and their cultural practices.
  2. To better understand the cultural, social, and historical significance of African art forms in a variety of cultures and historical/contemporary contexts.
  3. To become familiar with iconic works of African art and to develop skills in discussing these artworks orally and in writing.
  4. To engage with the literature of the field and to intellectually question primary and secondary source materials.
  5. To demonstrate how art is embedded with specific cultural conceptions and values that can be read and interpreted through an art historical analysis.
  6. To critically analyze how African art forms and cultures are referenced and reinterpreted in a contemporary global context.

Requirements, Materials

Course Requirements:

  1. Students are required to watch Black Panther before the start of class (or during the first week)
  2. Students are required to regularly attend class via Zoom and actively participate in classroom discussions.
  3. Students are expected to complete all assigned readings before class.
  4. Students are responsible for writing weekly reflection papers (2 pages in length), a midterm and a final reflection “podcast”, 15 minutes in length.

Course Materials:

Due to the specialized nature of this course, there is no required textbook. All readings for the course are available digitally, via the course’s Libguides page.

Grading and Evaluation

Method of Evaluation:

Students will be assessed through weekly reflection papers, a midterm and a final research paper. The grade distribution is as follows:

  • Participation/Attendance – 20%
  • Weekly reflection papers (11 total, beginning Week 2) – 30% Midterm – 20%
  • Final Reflection Podcast– 30%

Grading Scale:

A+ = 100-97, A = 96-93, A- = 92-90, B+ = 89-87, B = 86-83, B- = 82-80, C+ = 79-77, C =76-

73, C- = 72-70, D+ = 69-67, D = 66-63, D- = 62-60, F = 59 - below

Attendance and Participation:

  • Regular virtual attendance and participation are required. Two or more unexcused absences will be penalized by a lower final grade (one letter grade lower for two unexcused absences). If a student has four or more unexcused absences, this results in an automatic failure. Entering a Zoom meeting 15 minutes after the start time will be marked as an unexcused absence.


Classroom Etiquette:

Students should be on time for Zoom virtual class sessions and prepared to participate in discussion (which means having completed all reading assignments prior to class). Although I cannot require that you turn your video camera on, I would encourage all of you to take online instruction seriously, which means setting aside time for our weekly meetings, finding a space that is quiet and comfortable, and being actively engaged in the virtual conversation. Be respectful and attentive to your instructor and classmates.

Academic Integrity:

The faculty and administration of Brooklyn College support an environment free from cheating and plagiarism. Each student is responsible for being aware of what constitutes cheating and plagiarism and for avoiding both. The complete text of the CUNY Academic Integrity Policy and the Brooklyn College procedure for policy implementation can be found at If a faculty member suspects a violation of academic integrity and, upon investigation, confirms that violation, or if the student admits the violation, the faculty member MUST report the violation.

Center for Disability Services:

In order to receive disability-related academic accommodations students must first be registered with the Center for Student Disability Services. Students who have a documented disability or suspect they may have a disability are invited to set up an appointment with the Director of the Center for Student Disability Services, Ms. Valerie Stewart-Lovell at (718) 951-5538. If you have already registered with the Center for Student Disability Services, please provide your professor with the course accommodation form and discuss your specific accommodation with him/her.

Consideration of Religious Observance:

Students are allowed to be absent from school to observe religious holidays, however they are responsible for any and all material they may have missed. It is the individual student’s responsibility to ensure that they are provided with this material. Students should contact the professor directly in these instances.


Netiquette Statement

Observation of “Netiquette”: Compose all online communication (including e-mail correspondence) with fairness, honesty and tact. Spelling, grammar and appropriate tone are all important in an online environment. What you put into an online course reflects on your level of professionalism and academic character. Online and e-mail communication that is demeaning or inconsiderate will result in immediate action. Therefore, it is important that you compose communication with respect for all readers.