Ethnicity—that is, the identification with a group due to factors such as common language, customs, beliefs, religion, historical experience, kinship ties and race—is increasingly becoming the challenge of the new century. Within the United States, race became, as W. E. B. Du Bois had predicted, perhaps the central problem of the 20th century, and the influx of immigrants of various ethnic groups has continually complicated the socioeconomic landscape. Contemporary international conflicts often take the form of ethnic conflicts; we only need look at the recent problems in Bosnia or Rwanda to understand that ethnic relationships are influential factors in many areas of the world.

This interdisciplinary minor explores topics such as the meaning of ethnicity and race; the impact of ideas about ethnicity and race; and the definition, experience, and interactions of ethnic groups.

The curriculum is guided by a variety of questions, including the following:

  • Is our identity determined by our biology?
  • How much of our identity is socially constructed?
  • How do ideas about ethnicity and race affect our sense of identity?
  • Is there a significant difference between ethnicity and race?
  • How do individuals come to understand and to express their ethnic identity?
  • How do the experiences of ethnic groups in the United States compare to those in other areas of the world?
  • What are the political, economic and social consequences of one’s racial or ethnic identity?
  • Do these consequences change through time and place?
  • How can we promote better relationships among racial and ethnic groups, in the United States and abroad?

Students may elect to enter the program through one of two interdisciplinary courses, one emphasizing the social sciences and humanities (ETST 200), the other emphasizing the fine arts and humanities (ETST 210).

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