Race and Ethnic Studies

Race and Ethnic Studies is an interdisciplinary program about issues of race. We draw on courses and professors from a variety of departments (see “Faculty” Section). We ask how “race” has been understood in U.S. culture and history, and how that understanding has both reflected and sustained patterns of inequality and injustice. We look at increasingly complex questions of identity, growing out of rising rates of intermarriage and immigration of increasingly diverse peoples and cultures.

We are committed to the study of people of color, primarily, though not exclusively, in the United States. Our program proceeds from the recognition that race and ethnicity have been and continue to be crucial components within interlocking systems of oppression as well as powerful sites of resistance. In the U.S. context, our work focuses on the social, cultural, and historical contributions and lived experiences of African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos/as, and Middle Eastern Americans. Immigration — historical and contemporary, voluntary and involuntary — is an experience that unites many of these communities.

As such, our program encompasses coursework involving the cultures and nations outside of the United States from which such peoples are drawn; it can also include the study of racial and ethnic minorities in other nations. Globalization has brought greater urgency to the recognition that the economic, social, and political forces to which people of color are subjected are not limited to those that originate within the nations in which they reside. Thus we also attend to transnational coalitions, experiences, and phenomena relevant to people of color in the United States and elsewhere.

The Race and Ethnic Studies program is represents a potential complement or alternative to a major in a department such as History, Sociology/Anthropology, English, Religion, Art History, or a foreign language, or work in another IGS program such as African and the Americas, Women’s and Gender Studies, Hispanic Studies, American Studies, Asian Studies or Middle East Studies.

We need to understand what race and ethnicity have meant for our society, including not only the richness of our cultural differences but also the way in which racial inequality has been built into our society and its institutions in ways we are still struggling to change.  We are left with both wounds and possibilities, fears and hopes.  Students today often wish to help create a society in which those possibilities and hopes for racial justice are more fully realized.  How do we prepare to work and raise our families in a society diverse in race, culture, and religion?