Ethnic Studies

Identity and Transformation

Ann McBee, Lecturer

Course: ETHNIC 192, SEM 001
Class Number: 29249
Credits: 3 HU
Time: TR 3:30 PM – 4:45 PM
Place: BOL B83

Course Description:

Whether you come from a small town, a big city, the farmlands, from outside the USA, or someplace in between, where you are from is one way to identify yourself for others. But places of origin, like other “identifying” codes, can give others a false sense of knowing who you are, because people want to simplify, generalize, stereotype. Notions of identity are complex, and identification with gender, family, race, custom, and nationhood adds to it. Forming and sustaining a sense of identity is problematic for most everyone.

This First-Year Seminar investigates notions of personal, social and cultural identity. What do we mean by identity? How are ideas of identity both meaningful and limiting? How does globalization affect our sense of identity? Do we need to be alike to get along?

Our thoughtful attempts to work through these difficult questions will help bring a new and more profound understanding of who we are—individually and culturally—in 21st century America. We’ll examine literature that addresses the concerns and challenges of “fitting in” and mine our personal experience, background, ethnicity and beliefs to share with our classmates a notion of “who we are.” Together we’ll provide a supportive and instructional space in which to discuss, explore, investigate and navigate the complex issues of identity.

Work Involved:

In-class learning activities and assigned readings (35%). The writing for this class will consist of five short informal essays (25%), and two peer-reviewed, revised essays (20%). Some of the writing will be analytical, and some will be reflective, or memoir-type writing. A two-part research project (20%) will investigate some aspect of your own ethnicity or background, and will consist of a written essay and an oral/visual presentation. Ongoing small and large group discussions will engage students to become active learners in their own course experience. There will be no formal examination.

Sample Reading:

“Dumped (But Not Down),” by Carlin Flora in Psychology Today, excerpt from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, excerpt from The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, excerpt from George Mead’s Mind, Self and Society, Gloria Anzaldua’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” poetry by Marge Piercy, Rita Dove, Kimberly Blaeser and Brenda Càrdenas, three films: The Namesake, Disturbing Behavior, and Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She, NPR website “This I Believe,” and two essays from Colonize This: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism.