Course Description

MSI students at the annual dinner

Please see the course description below to learn about MSI’s 2022 Academic Component.

Mutual Aid: Literary Representations of Relief and Collective Care

This course considers how literature deepens our understanding of "mutual aid," one of the most pressing themes in today's political, popular, and academic conversations. The course asks, is mutual aid merely a short-term practice during mass emergencies or does it provide an alternate viewpoint for communal self-reflection and structural transformation? Can we think about using the principles of mutual aid to make lasting changes in social relationships and political structures?

In this class we will use the concept of mutual aid to break down traditional binaries between surviving and thriving or pragmatism and idealism. We will think through the utopian ideal of mutual aid as a possibility for real political and social intervention. The literary works we will read allow us to imagine how the seemingly impossible becomes possible through the mundane uses of mutual aid. In addition to reading memorable works of literature in the historical contexts of black and queer communities, this course will devote consistent attention to the mechanics of writing persuasive thesis-driven essays, an essential skill for succeeding at Occidental. Readings will include Richard Wright’s short fiction “Down by the Riverside,” William Still’s compilation The Underground Railroad, Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night, and José Muñoz’s “Queerness as Horizon.”