2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

A History of "Race" in the U.S.: From Colonial Era to 2013


Spring 2013 quarter

Michael Vavrus education, history, political economy , Artee Young law, literature, theatre
Fields of Study
African American studies, history and political science
Preparatory for studies or careers in
medicine/health, education, government, law, history, political science, cultural studies, sociology and media studies.

Despite claims that the U.S. is "post-racial," why does "race," nevertheless, continue to retain significance in our contemporary era? And more specifically, just what is "race"?

To address these question and others, this program explores the origins and manifestations of the contested concept of race, including the role of teh U.S. judicial system and law enforcement. We further investigate the ways in which one's racial identification can result in differential social, economic and political treatment and how social movements emerged to challenge racial inequality. To understand this phenomena, we analyze the racialized history of the United States in relation to dominant discourses of popular culture, science, psychology, health care, law, citizenship, education and personal/public identity.

Central to this program is a study of historical connections between European colonialism prior to U.S. independence as a nation and the expansion of U.S. political and military dominance globally since independence and into the 21st century. In this context students are provided opportunities to investigate how the bodies of various populations have been racialized. Students will examine related contemporary concepts such as racism, prejudice, discrimination, gender, class, affirmative action, white privilege and color blindness. Students will consider current research and racialized commentaries that surround debates on genetics vs. culture (i.e., nature vs. nurture).

Students will engage the concept of race through readings, dialogue in seminars, films, and academic writing that integrate program materials. A goal of the program is for students to recognize contemporary expressions of race by what we hear, see and read as well as absences and silences that we find. These expressions include contemporary news accounts and popular culture artifacts (e.g., music, television, cinema, on-line media). As part of this inquiry, we will examine the presidency of Barack Obama in relation to discourses on race. As a learning community we will work together to make sense of these expressions and link them to their historical origins.

Students will also have an opportunity to examine the social formation of their own racial identities through their own personal narratives. Current approaches from social psychology will be foundational in this aspect of the program. Related to this is consideration as to what it can mean to be an anti-racist in a 21st century racialized society.

A visits to a local cultural museum is tentatively planned as part of this program.

Online Learning
No Required Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$30 for entrance fees to cultural museums and reading materials.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
January 28th, 2013 Artee Young has joined the teaching team; enrollment has been increased.
August 20th, 2012 This program is now offered to students at all class levels (Freshmen to Seniors).
April 12th, 2012 This program is now offered to Sophomores in addition to Freshmen.