Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies

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Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies

Undergraduate Program Chair: Michael Dawson, Ph.D.

5733 S. University Ave., Rm. 201

Telephone: 773-702-8063
Student Affairs Administrator: Y. Kafi Moragne-Patterson

5733 S. University Ave., Rm. 206

Telephone: 773-702-8063


Program of Study

The B.A. program in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies offers an interdisciplinary curriculum through which students can examine the histories, languages, and cultures of the racial and ethnic groups in and of themselves, in relationship to each other, and, particularly, in structural contexts of power. Focusing on genocide, slavery, conquest, confinement, immigration, and the diaspora of peoples around the globe, Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies examines the material, artistic, and literary expressions of peoples who originated in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe, who moved voluntarily or were forcefully bound over to the Americas, and here evolved stigmatized identities, which were tied to the cultures and histories of their natal lands in complicated ways.

A student who obtains a B.A. in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies will be well prepared for admission to graduate programs in the humanities and social sciences, to professional schools in law, medicine, public health, social work, business, or international affairs, and to careers in education, journalism, politics, creative writing, and the nonprofit sector. A degree in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies offers training designed to impart fundamental skills in critical thinking, comparative analysis, social theory, research methods, and written expression.
This major/minor is also available to students interested in the study of Africa in a comparative framework.

Program Requirements

Students are encouraged to meet the general education requirement in the humanities and/or social sciences before declaring their major. Students must meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to discuss a plan of study as soon as they declare their major (no later than the end of Spring Quarter of their third year. Students are also encouraged to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to chart their progression through their course of study.

The major requires 11-12 courses, depending on whether the student counts two or three civilization studies courses chosen from those listed below toward the general education requirement. Student who use all three Colonizations or Latin American Civilizations courses or take both African Civilizations courses and the third course in the Colonizations sequence will have an 11-course major. The major requires eight elective courses, a B.A. Colloquium on Theory and Methods in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies, and a B.A. essay.
Students have two ways to fulfill the elective course requirements for the major. Option 1 allows students to focus four courses on one specific area of specialization – Africa Past and Present, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinas/os, Native Americans – and a second four course cluster drawn from a different area or four comparative courses. For example, one may choose to take four courses focused on African Americans, and choose the second four courses exclusively on Asian Americans, or four courses in the Comparative category.
Option 2 is designed for students who wish to explore Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies primarily through a disciplinary (e.g., Anthropology, English, History) or interdisciplinary program focus (e.g., Gender Studies, Latin American Studies), or who wish to graduate with a double major in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies. Accordingly, one four-course cluster of electives must be focused on one area (Africa Past and Present, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinas/os, Native Americans). A second cluster of four courses should fall within a specific discipline or interdisciplinary area.
The requirements for Options 1 and 2 are virtually identical: 1-2 civilization studies courses, eight electives, a B.A. Colloquium, and a B.A. essay.
B.A. Colloquium: Theory and Methods in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies.

During one’s final year in the program, and after students have completed most of the elective requirements for the major, they must enroll in the B.A. Colloquium on Theory and Methods in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies, which is meant to help synthesize the vast knowledge they have gained and to prepare them to write a B.A. essay.

Research Project or Essay. A substantial essay or project is to be completed in the student’s fourth year under the supervision of a Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies adviser, who is a member of the program’s core faculty. Students must choose an essay adviser and submit a formal B.A. proposal to the Director of Undergraduate Studies by the end of their third year of study. B.A. essays are due on May 1 of their fourth year or by fifth week of their quarter of graduation.
This program may accept a B.A. paper or project used to satisfy the same requirement in another major if certain conditions are met and with the required consent of both program chairs. Students should also consult with the chairs by the earliest B.A. proposal deadline, or if one program fails to publish a deadline, by the end of their third year. A consent form, to be signed by both chairs, is available from the College adviser. It must be completed and returned to the College adviser by the end of Autumn Quarter of the student’s year of graduation.

Summary of Proposed Requirements for Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies

General Education Colonizations (CRES 24001-24002), African Civilization (ANTH 20701-20702), African Civilization in Africa (SOSC 26600-26700), Latin American Civilization (LACS 16100-16200), or Latin American Civilization in Oaxaca (SOSC 24302-24402).

Major 1-2 CRES 24003, Latin American Civilization 16300, or SOSC 24502 if the first two quarters of the above civilizations studies courses are taken to fulfill the general education requirement; two courses in the above sequences if another civilizations sequence is taken.

4 courses in one specific area of specialization (Africa Past and Present, African American, Latina/o, Asian American, or Native American)

  1. courses in a second area of specialization or 4 comparative courses; students completing a second major may choose 4 courses within a single discipline or interdisciplinary field (e.g. history, gender studies, sociology, political science) that focus on race and ethnic issues.

1 B.A Colloquium (CRES 27600)

1 B.A. Essay (CRES 29900)


11-12 courses

Grading. All courses must be taken for a quality grade unless a course only offers a P/F grading option.

Honors. The B.A. with honors is awarded to all students who meet the following requirements: a GPA of at least 3.25 overall and 3.5 in the major, and a grade of A- or above on the B.A. essay.
Advising. Each student must choose an adviser who is a member of the Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies core faculty listed below by the time the B.A. essay proposal is turned in at the end of the third year. Students are expected to have consulted with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to identify a faculty adviser and to design their program of study by the beginning of their third year (after the declaration of the major). Students may continue to seek advice from both the Director of Undergraduate Studies and their faculty advisor while completing their programs of study.
Minor Program in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies.

The minor in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies consists of 5-7 courses, depending upon whether the two civilizations studies courses are taken for general education. Credit toward the minor for courses taken at any other institution must be discussed with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in advance of registration. Students must receive the undergraduate program chair’s approval of the minor program on a form obtained from their College adviser. This form must then be returned to their College adviser by the end of Spring Quarter of their third year.

Courses in the minor program may not be (1) double counted with the student’s major(s) or with other minors and (2) may not be counted toward general education requirements. Courses in the minor must be taken for quality grades, and more than half of the requirements for the minor must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers. Courses taken to complete a minor are counted toward electives.
Summary of Minor Requirements

2 Colonizations (CRES 24001-24002), African Civilization (ANTH 20701-20702), African Civilization in Africa (SOSC 26600-26700), Latin American Civilization (LACS 16100-16200), or Latin American Civilization in Oaxaca (SOSC 24302-24402).

4 courses in one specific area of focus (Africa past and present, African-American, Latina/o, Asian American, or Native American)

1 Comparative course


5-7 courses (depending whether the civilization studies courses are taken for general education)

Degree Listing

Students who major in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies will have their area of specialization listed on their transcript. Thus a student with an African American Studies focus will have their degree listed as “Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies, specialization African American Studies.” The same will apply for those students who focus on Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos/as, and Africa Past and Present.


H. Agrama, L. Auslander, R. Austen (Emeritus), L. Berlant, P. Bohlman, D. Borges, M. Briones, C. Broughton, A. Brown, T. Brugrea, S. Burns, M. Butler, D. Chakrabarty, K. Charles, K. Choi, Y. Choi, C. Cohen, J. Cole, H. Conyers, R. Coronado, J. Dailey, S. Dawdy, M. Dawson, D. DeSorMeaux, D. English, M. Dietler, C. Evans, T. Fisher, R. Fogelson, A. Ford, C. Fromont, C. Futterman, L. Gandhi, M. Gilliam, H. Ginard, J.A. Goldsmith, R. Gooding-Williams, A. Green, R. Gonzalez, R. Gutiérrez, J. Hevia, T. Holt, D. Hopkins, D. Hutchinson, R. Jackson, T. Jackson, R. Jean-Baptiste, W. Johnson, A. Jones, M. Keels, J. Kelly, K. Kim, E. Kourí, L. Kruger, D.L. Levine (Emeritus), A. Lugo-Ortiz, W. McDade, O. McRoberts, A. Melo, D. Miller, S. Mufwene, D. Norton (Emeritus), E. Oliver, O. Olopade, E. Osborn, J. Palmer, S. Palmié, V. Parks, T. Paschel, C. Payne, M. Peek, S. Reddy, F. Richard, G. Miranda Samuels, L. Sanchez-Johnsen, J. Saville, M. Small, M. B. Spencer, R. Stone, F. Stuart, M. Vela, D. Voisin, R. Von Hallberg, K. Warren, M. Yasui, M. Ybarra, T. Zahra, R. Zorach

Africa Past and Present

10201. Themes in West African History. This course will explore major themes in West African history, from the emergence of the Empire of Mali in the thirteenth century through the jihad of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the European colonial conquest and occupation of Africa in the nineteenth century. Themes of study include: the expansion of Islam; the creation of ethnic trading diasporas; the trans-Atlantic slave trade; metissage and the creation of coastal Creole communities; and legitimate commerce. E. Osborn.

20103. Urban History in Colonial and Contemporary Africa. This course traces the rapid expansion of and migration to cities in sub-Saharan Africa from the 1950s through today.
Though cities and towns have existed in varied parts of the continent since early history, the last decades of the twentieth century witnessed unprecedented urbanization. Topics to be explored include: city planning and colonialism; the informal economy; marriage and family life; youth, crime and punishment; prostitution; and labor. R. Jean-Baptiste.

20200. Sierra Leone: Slavery and Freedom in Atlantic World. This course focuses on the British colony of Sierra Leone to investigates the linkages that emerged among West Africa, Europe, and the Americas.  In the eighteenth century, European and American merchants resided on the coast of Sierra Leone and engaged in the slave trade.  At the end of the eighteenth century, a small group of former slaves from North America committed to abolition took up residence there, and they were soon joined by others: Maroons from Jamaica and Recaptives, or captives liberated from ships illegally engaged in the slave trade.  This course draws heavily upon primary sources (correspondence, missionary records, government documents, and the writings of prominent Sierra Leonean intellectuals) to examine the history of Christianity and colonialism in West Africa, as well as to consider the trans-national circulation of ideas about "civilization", freedom, and citizenship. History majors can fulfill their pre-BA research paper requirement in this class. E. Osborn.

20701-20702. Introduction to African Civilization I, II. (=AFAM 20701-20702, HIST 10101-10102, SOSC 22500-22600) Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This core sequence introduces students to the history and societies of Africa. Part one focuses primarily on Western and precolonial Africa. We use a diverse variety of sources to examine the history of West African kingdoms and the rise and impact of the slave trade. The second part examines the process of colonization in Africa, and African responses. We focus our investigation primarily on the eastern and southern regions of Africa, as well as on Madagascar. Winter, Spring.

21203/33600. Intensive Study of a Culture: The Tswana, Past and Present. (=AFAM 205). This course describes and analyzes the sociocultural order of an African people during the precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial periods. Jean Comoroff.

21217. Intensive Study of a Culture: The Luo of Kenya. This course offers an overview of the history and contemporary culture of the Luo, a Nilotic-speaking people living on the shores of Lake Victoria. It examines the migration of the Luo into the region, the history of their encounter with British colonialism, and their evolving situation within the post-colonial Kenyan state. M. Dietler.

22210. African Intimacies: Gender, Sex and Marriage in Africa. This course explores the intersection between ideas and practices around the body, reproduction, and intimate social relations and broader political and economic processes in contemporary Africa. Drawing on recent ethnographies as well as historical studies of diverse African societies, we will explore the nature of body and person in Africa, and how ideas about the body and intimate social relations inform wider political formations and social dynamics. J. Cole.

23400. Gender, Generation and Social Change in Contemporary Africa. In recent years there has been an explosion of research on youth and children in Africa. Much of this research is premised on the idea that the current demography of Africa, where a huge proportion of the population is under the age of 25, paired with recent social and economic changes, creates what some have called a crisis of social reproduction. Taking the current concern with a crisis of social reproduction as a point of departure, this class uses the categories of gender and generation in order to investigate processes of continuity and transformation, both in the past and in contemporary Africa. J. Cole.

24201/34201. Cinema in Africa. (=AFAM 21900, CMLT 22900/42900, ENGL 27600/48601, ISHU 27702) PQ: At least one college-level course either in African or in film studies, and advanced standing. This course examines cinema in Africa as well as films produced in Africa. It places cinema in Sub-Saharan Africa in its social, cultural, and aesthetic contexts-ranging from neocolonial to postcolonial, Western to Southern Africa, documentary to fiction, art cinema to TV. We begin with La Noire de... (1966), a groundbreaking film by the "father" of African cinema, Ousmane Sembene, contrasted with a South African film, The Magic Garden (1960), which more closely resembles African-American musical film. We then continue with anti-colonial and anti-apartheid films, from Lionel Rogosin's Come Back Africa (1959) to Sarah Maldoror's Sambizanga, Ousmane Sembene's Camp de Thiaroye (1984), and Jean Marie Teno's Afrique, Je te Plumerai (1995). Lastly we examine cinematic representations of tensions (between urban and rural life; between traditional and modern life) and the different implications of these tensions (for men and women; for Western and Southern Africa; in fiction, documentary, and ethnographic film). L. Kruger.

African American

16402. Slavery at the Movies. (=HIST 16402) This course considers representations of slavery in historical documents, fiction, and in film, in order to think critically about the representations and uses of enslavement in popular culture. Comparisons of historical vision and cinematic representation of slavery focus on the largely understudied post World War II commercial film. Special remarks: It is expected that all students will have viewed the film at least once before the first class meeting of the week. Anyone who does not attend the Sunday afternoon screening is responsible for making independent arrangements to view the film. J. Saville.

18803. Civil Rights in Twentieth-Century America. (=LLSO 22004) This course focuses on struggles over the definition of civil rights and who could claim them over the course of the twentieth century. The African American Freedom Movement is at the narrative center of this course, but other civil rights movements (e.g., the women's movement, the gay rights movement, other ethnic-based rights movements) are discussed as well. J. Dailey.

20104/30104. Urban Structure and Process. (=SOCI 25100, GEOG 22700/32700,) This course reviews competing theories of urban development, especially their ability to explain the changing nature of cities under the impact of advanced industrialism. Analysis includes a consideration of emerging metropolitan regions, the microstructure of local neighborhoods, and the limitations of the past U.S. experience as a way of developing worldwide urban policy. O. McRoberts.

21201. Intensive Study of a Culture: Chicago Blues. This course is an anthropological and historical exploration of one of the most original and influential American musical genres in its social and cultural context. We examine transformations in the cultural meaning of the blues and its place within broader American cultural currents, the social and economic situation of blues musicians, and the political economy of blues within the wider music industry. M. Dietler.

21225. Intensive Study of a Culture: Louisiana. Louisiana is home to Cajun music, Creole food, and the Yat dialect, as well as some of the most impressive prehistoric mound sites in North America. This course offers an archaeological, historical, and ethnographic introduction to Louisiana's complex culture. We focus on the ways in which race, ethnicity, and identity are constructed within and about Louisiana. S. Dawdy.

22200. African-American Politics. (=LLSO 25902, PLSC 22100) This course explores both the historical and contemporary political behavior of African Americans, examining the multitude of ways in which African Americans have engaged in politics and political struggle in the United States. To understand different approaches to the liberation of black people, we must pay special attention to the attitudes, worldviews, and ideologies that structure and influence African-American political behavior. An analysis of difference and stratification in black communities and its resulting impact on political ideologies and mobilization is a crucial component of this course. Our goal is to situate the politics of African Americans in the larger design we call American politics. C. Cohen.

22800. African American Religion: Themes and Issues. This is an introductory course on the history and religious experiences of African Americans. I focus especially on the social and cultural context of the evolution of African American religion, relationships between black and white churches, and black and white interpretations of African American religion. C. Evans.

23200. Jazz. (=MUSI 23100/33100) PQ: Any 10000-level music course or ability to read music. T. Jackson. Spring.  This survey charts the history and development of jazz from its African roots to the present.  Representative recordings in various styles are selected for intensive analysis and connected to other musics, currents in American and world cultures, and the contexts and processes of performance. T.Jackson.

24601. Malcolm and Martin: Life and Belief. This course examines the religious, social, cultural, political, and personal factors that went in to making the two most prominent public leaders and public intellectuals emerging from the African American community in the 1950s and 1960s: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. We will review their autobiographies, the domestic trends within the U.S.A., and the larger international forces operating during their times. Their life stories provide the contexts for the sharp differences and surprising commonalities in their political thought and religious beliefs. Malcolm X went through 3 different stages of life and intellectual development. Martin King underwent, at least, two major personal and thought movements. The operative question is: what can Malcolm and Martin tell us about America during one of the most dynamic periods in the nation's personality metamorphosis? We will use documentary videos of each man's speeches and of the social contexts in which they lived. D. Hopkins.

25103. Black Women Writers of the 1940s & 1950s. In 1950 Gwendolyn Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for her verse collection Annie Allen. Eight years earlier, For My People brought Margaret Walker the Yale Younger Poets award. Ann Petry's The Street became a million-seller novel upon its publication in 1946. A Raisin in the Sun's twinned successes as a Broadway hit and winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1959 established Lorraine Hansberry as a playwright of note. This second "woman's era" in African American literature is often neglected as one compared to those of the late 19th and 20th centuries. In this course, we will attend to this group of writers, to account for the unprecedented critical and popular acclaim that they received during the 1940s and 1950s. Focusing on the writings of Brooks, Walker, Petry and Hansberry, we will consider the following issues: How might we theorize the thematic and formal appeal of their works-what traditions did these writers continue, what innovations did they establish, and why did their craft and concerns resonate so keenly with mid-20th century American reading publics? What historiographies and sociologies might account for their formation as a cultural cohort-in what friendship and professional networks did these writers circulate? Why was their work so readily accommodated by the mainstream print venues? How did their circuits of contact and influence differ from support systems that black women writers enjoyed (or lacked) in prior or subsequent times? When read in sync with the governing ideals of literary culture and public intellectual life during the post-World War II/pre-Civil Rights Movement eras, what models of black female authorship and intellectual authority emerge from this time? J. Goldsby.

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