Race and Ethnic Studies
Recent senior thesis topics have included:
Black Panthers and contemporary grassroots organizing in Portland
Latino access to health care in Washington State
Race and difference in US media portrayals of HIV/AIDS in Africa
Diversity programs in higher education
Veronica Willeto received a Fulbright Award to study “Indigenous Cultural Tourism” in Botswana.
What do we mean by “race” and “ethnicity”? While it is easy enough to say that these words are used to designate difference of some kind, pinning down the nature of that difference can be quite tricky. Nonetheless, ideas about race and ethnicity have been central at many points in world history and remain salient today, whether we talk about ethnic pride or ethnic cleansing, about multicultural diversity or racial discrimination. Race and Ethnic Studies brings together students and faculty interested in exploring these ideas with analytical tools and approaches developed in a range of academic disciplines, and committed to critical examination of historical and contemporary social issues through the lens of race and ethnicity.
In the Race and Ethnic Studies major and minor, we explore what race and ethnicity as categories of difference mean now and how they have operated in the past. How have they been defined, constructed, and applied in different places and at different times? How do they intersect or overlap with other ways of understanding difference, such as gender, or class, or nation, or religion? For the major, each student makes these enormous questions manageable by working with faculty advisers to create a concentration within the major, grounded in either a regional or a thematic focus – examples might include African American Studies; Race and Ethnicity in East Asia; Indigenous Studies; Islam and Ethnicity; or Race and Ethnicity in Africa. Choosing coursework from at least three departments, the student builds background in the concentration area and, in the senior year, completes a research project drawing on this work. Along with the concentration, students choose one of several required “foundation” courses focusing on race and ethnicity, they engage in study of a language other than their first language, and they complete the third-semester General Studies class, Critical and Alternative Voices, as a sustained exploration of difference both from and within the “western” worldviews glimpsed in the first-year General Studies sequence. Finally, Race and Ethnic Studies majors come together in the fall of the senior year for a senior seminar in which they bring their particular interests to a wide-ranging discussion of scholarship exploring facets of Race and Ethnic Studies, allowing for comparison between cases and the application of theoretical perspectives to new topics.