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Race and Ethnic Studies- ES 185/ES212: Introduction to Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity/ Theories of Race and Ethnicity

Block 1 - ES185: Introduction to Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, Rashna B. Singh

Block 2 - ES212: Theories of Race and Ethnicity

Meets the Critical Perspectives: Global Inequality (G) or Social Inequality (IE) requirement (1 unit). 

Rashna Singh, India BazaarIn the first block of this FYE, we will examine racial and ethnic diversity and difference in the United States of America as well as transnationally. Migrations, both physical and metaphysical, forced and unforced, will be a central part of the course as we examine how various ethnic groups position themselves and are positioned. What are the asymmetrical relations of power that inform their histories? What do we mean when we refer to diaspora, displacement and dislocation?  How does immigration influence and affect a sense of cultural identity? How does the U.S. global economic ‘empire’ impact the ‘homeland,’ and how does U.S. foreign policy influence domestic policy as well as impact other nations? We will look at these issues as they play out both within and beyond our borders. We will use a collection of essays: Rethinking America: The Imperial Homeland in the 21st Century, non-fiction studies such as Behind the Backlash by Lori Peek, and short novels such as Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy, Sindiwe Magona’s Mother to Mother, and Demetria Martinez’s Mother Tongue, novels that probe experiences of migration and conflict. We will also watch relevant feature films such as “Catch a Fire,” “Earth,” and “The Namesake,” as well as documentaries such as "Why We Fight" and "Long Night's Journey Into Day." 

Block 2: How can we analyze and talk about the legacy and current realities of racial difference in the 21st century? This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary theoretical vocabularies and conceptual frameworks that scholars, writers, social scientists and political activists have developed to understand race and how it interacts with other axes of difference such as gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, and religion. The class is structured around the debates and controversies in the study of race and ethnicity, diasporas, and migrations.  Using readings from a variety of disciplines, as well as literary works and film, we will try to understand how race and ethnicity have been constructed, and how US and global citizens might address tensions and inequities between racial and ethnic groups.  

A set of linked one-block courses that must be taken together; separate grades will be given for each block.


  • This First-Year Experience class brings together two core courses in the Race and Ethnic Studies Program: ES185 and ES212
  • ES185 and ES212 each fulfill requirements of the Race and Ethnic Studies Minor This is a required course for the Race and Ethnic Studies minor, but is open to all students who wish to take it.
  • There will be occasional film screenings in the afternoon.
  • The class will involve field trips.