Undergraduate Fields of Specialization: Race and Ethnicity
Race and Ethnicity
A key anti-racist principle is that ideas about race and ethnicity are social and cultural constructions and not biological realities. Courses in this field of specialization explore how those constructions came to be, what work they have done in particular places and periods, and how they intersected with other categories of social difference such as gender, religion, and class. From medieval religious conflicts and societies’ encounters with “strangers” through long eras of colonialism and slavery to scientific thinking about eugenics and human difference, race and ethnicity are ideas that emerged out of unequal global encounters. Studying their history also reveals how people around the world have formed meaningful identities and communities around racial and ethnic categories, both as strategies to divide and stratify societies as well as to challenge discrimination and celebrate cultural differences. Understanding how race and ethnicity have varied over centuries of contact and exchange makes clear how malleable those concepts are—and can offer insight into how today we can challenge the inequalities that they have generated.