316 - Political Science 316: THE POLITICS OF ETHNIC AND...

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Political Science 316: THE POLITICS OF ETHNIC AND RACIAL GROUPS Fall 2005 Mr. Ross M 2-4 Goals . The purpose of this course is to consider the politics of ethnic and race focusing on the United States although questions we will raise during the semester are certainly relevant to other multiracial and multiethnic societies. The central focus comes out of the apparent contradiction in the American experience associated with the narrative of the melting pot and assimilation of people from many different lands into “one nation,” and the reality the throughout American history there were always people considered unassimilatable. Although there have been changes in who these people have been and how they are defined, the most enduring cleavage has been that of race. There have been questions as well about the extent to which the US is, or should be, a multicultural, multiethnic, or multiracial society and what it is that all citizens must share. Is it language? religion? core values? a set of political institutions? a common identity? How are people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds able to recognize their differences while being able to effectively communicate with each other? The first part of the semester explores the concepts of ethnicity and race and how they have changed in popular and scholarly usage over time and identifies some conceptual tools to understand this change. A central goal of the course is to recognize the contextual nature of American identities and to consider the contradictions between the apparent “objective” indicators of group identity and their subjective, socially constructed nature. In many ways this is especially well illustrated through examination of the apparently simple question, “Who is white?” As Jacobson argues, answers to this question are anything but straightforward as whiteness is a category who boundaries have been renegotiated almost each generation. Considering the dynamics of group definition and redefinition is a first step towards considering the political consequences of these dynamics. Who defines group boundaries and privileges and how is this done? These issues encourage us to consider whose who gains and loses from alternative frameworks and how ideas about belonging and citizenship interact with specific questions about politics such as apology and reconciliation, political campaigns and advertising, affirmative action, and symbolic inclusion. The course seeks to provide an interplay between specific cases and general questions about
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316 - Political Science 316: THE POLITICS OF ETHNIC AND...

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