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Cover of "Teaching with Tension" featuring a bright red background
January 2019
Northwestern University Press

College or Unit:

Teaching with Tension

Race, Resistance, and Reality in the Classroom
Edited by: 
Philathia Bolton
Cassander L. Smith
Lee Bebout

"Teaching with Tension" is a collection of 17 original essays that address the extent to which attitudes about race, impacted by the current political moment in the United States, have produced pedagogical challenges for professors in the humanities. As a flashpoint, this current political moment is defined by the visibility of the country's first black president; the election of his successor, whose presidency has been associated with an increased visibility of the alt-right; and the emergence of the neoliberal university. Together these social currents shape the tensions with which we teach.

Drawing together personal reflection, pedagogical strategies and critical theory, "Teaching with Tension" offers concrete examinations that will foster student learning. The essays are organized into three thematic sections. "Teaching in Times and Places of Struggle" examines the dynamics of teaching race during the current moment, marked by neoconservative politics and 21st century freedom struggles. "Teaching in the Neoliberal University" focuses on how pressures and exigencies of neoliberalism (such as individualism, customer-service models of education and online courses) impact the way in which race is taught and conceptualized in college classes. The final section, "Teaching How to Read Race and (Counter)Narratives," hones in on direct strategies used to historicize race in classrooms comprised of millennials who grapple with race neutral ideologies. Taken together, these sections and their constitutive essays offer rich and fruitful insight into the complex dynamics of contemporary race and ethnic studies education.


Lee Bebout is an associate professor of English at Arizona State University.