Race & Diversity Area Goals

Race & Diversity courses develop a sophisticated understanding of race and racism as dynamic concepts, pointing to the ways in which race intersects with other group identifications such as gender, class, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation or disability.

Race & Diversity courses are intended to teach students how to:

  • Recognize the ways in which race intersects with other group identifications or ascriptions: gender, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age;
  • Understand the relationships among diversity, justice and power;
  • Explore what it means for individuals and institutions to exist in a multi-racial, multicultural world;
  • Investigate the various forms race and racism has taken in different places and times; and
  • Discuss race matters with diverse others in relation to personal experience.


African Americans and Law: Weapon or Tool?

LEGAL STUDIES 0803, 0903
Learn about the experience of African Americans through the lens of the US legal system. US law, which first defined African Americans as less than human, eventually declared discrimination illegal, and remains both an expression and an instrument of change at the intersection of race and equality. As you study this evolution, you will reflect on relevant current events, and explore your own responses to the kind of everyday encounters that continually arise in our pluralistic society. Can race be used as a factor in hiring, in college admissions? Is race a factor for you in dating, marriage, adoption? We explore issues like these on both broad social and personal dimensions.

Classics of African American Theater

In part because of its development, initially, as a consequence of enslavement, African American theater is both entertaining and potentially volatile. We will look at some of the most important African American plays from the late 1700′s through to the present, and explore the problems, contestations and the nature of race, class, and gender as exemplified in these dramatic texts. From Ira Aldridge’s The Black Doctor in 1847, through to August Wilson’s Radio Golf (2007), we will investigate the historical emergence and institutionalization of race thinking and practice on the American stage. As we consider this span of performance literature, we will analyze debates about race and social justice, investigate the collaborative nature of theater and develop oratory skills in provocative discussions.

Dimensions of Diversity: What’s Brewing in the Melting Pot?

Are we really living in a melting pot? How important are the differences and similarities among individuals? The purpose of this course will be to focus on a variety of issues related to the nature of personal and cultural identify within a diverse American society. Specifically, this course will explore critical factors that shape one’s place or standing in society (e.g., race, disability, age, gender, and sexuality). The meaning and significance of these dimensions will be explored as they relate to the societal and technological complexities of the 21st Century. The best practice and research in racism, inequality, and social injustice in industries such as sport, leisure, tourism and healthcare will be explored.

Embodying Pluralism

DANCE 0828
Dance and the arts are vehicles of societal change. As you challenge and extend your perceptions of “self” and “other” in a pluralistic society, you will explore aspects of identity, difference, and diversity from aesthetic and ethical perspectives. Race, ethnicity, gender, class, and other social phenomena will be studied as elements that form the fabric of American society. Theory from lectures on historical and philosophical perspectives will be thoroughly integrated in immersive, active studio practices. The purpose of this course is to illuminate personal, social and cultural dynamics of race and diversity in the United States.

Ethnicity and the Immigrant Experience in the U.S.

SOCIOLOGY 0835, 0935
How do immigrants learn to become American? How does living an ethnic identity vary for different groups? When does ethnicity become a chosen identity or an unwanted label? How do we learn to value some aspects of ethnicity but not others? What are markers of ethnicity? How do language, food, music, family and community work to provide authenticity to the American immigrant experience? What happens to ethnicity with assimilation to the American way of life? Can ethnicity combat the tidal social expectations to conform to the dominant culture? Using a variety of written materials including novels that explore the ethnic identity of different groups, this course raises questions about how ethnicity and American identity are connected.

History & Significance of Race in America

Why were relations between Native Amer-icans and whites violent almost from the beginning of European settlement? How could slavery thrive in a society founded on the principle that “all men are created equal”? How comparable were the experiences of Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigrants, and why did people in the early 20th century think of them as separate “races”? What were the causes and consequences of Japanese Americans’ internment in military camps during World War II? Are today’s Mexican immigrants unique, or do they have something in common with earlier immigrants? Using a variety of written sources and outstanding documentaries, this course examines the racial diversity of America and its enduring consequences.

Immigration and the American Dream: Hearing the Immigrant Voice

As a Temple student, you go to school and live in a city full of immigrants. Perhaps your own relatives were immigrants to the United States. But have you ever listened to their stories? With an historical and sociological framework as a basis, we will take an in-depth and more personal look at the immigrant experience as expressed through the immigrants’ own voices in literature and film. Topics explored include: assimilation, cultural identity and Americanization, exploitation and the American Dream, ethnic communities, gender, discrimination and stereotyping.

Politics of Identity in America

Gay or straight. Black or white. Male or female. What do these different group identities mean to Americans? How do they influence our politics? Should we celebrate or downplay our diversity? This course explores how we think about others and ourselves as members of different groups and what consequences it has for how we treat one another. Our fundamental social identities can be a source of power or of powerlessness, a justification for inequality or for bold social reform. Students learn about the importance of race, class, gender and sexual orientation across a variety of important contexts, such as the family, workplace, schools, and popular culture and the implications these identities have on our daily lives.

Race & Ethnicity in American Cinema

FILM & MEDIA ARTS 0843, 0943
Movies have played a central role in how we understand race, racial categories, and ethnic cultural identities. We will study Hollywood’s, evolving portrayal of African-Americans, Asian-Americans and ethnic groups like Latinos and Italian-Americans. From Edison’s early films, through “Birth of Nation,” and to the present, commercial cinema has denigrated Americans of color and stereotyped its ethnic groups. How are stereotypes built up on century-old cinematic traditions and how do they function today? What self-images have minority filmmakers presented as an alternative to mainstream views? In addition to looking at the critiques, we look at more positive aspects of ethnic and racial images and examine the ways that these images speak to the history of the nation as a whole.

Race & Identity in Judaism

JEWISH STUDIES 0802, 0902, RELIGION 0802, 0902
Investigate the relationship between race and Judaism from Judaism’s early period through today, looking both at how Jews have understood their own racial identity and how others have understood Jews’ racial identity. You will explore the idea of racial identity in Judaism in order to examine the complex network of connections between racism and anti-Semitism, as you read primary and secondary texts in Jewish philosophy and history and in the study of race and racism. We hope to illuminate these complex issues as well as to engage with them on a personal and political level, examining the relationship between issues of race, religion, identity, and social justice and injustice, and inquiring into how we, as informed citizens in a global society, can affect change for the better.

Race & Poverty in the Americas

The transatlantic slave trade was one of the most brutal and momentous experiences in human history. Attitudes toward Latino, Caribbean, African, and Asian immigrants in the United States today can only be fully understood in the contexts of slavery and the “structural racism,” “symbolic violence” (not to mention outright physical violence), and social inequalities that slavery has spawned throughout the region. Although focusing primarily on the United States, we will also study the present entanglements of poverty and race in Brazil, Haiti, and other selected nations of “The New World,” placing the US (and Philadelphia in particular) experience in this historical context.

Race, Identity and Experience in American Art

TYLER 0805
Paintings of the New Frontier and 19th century folk art, the Harlem Renaissance and New Deal photography, Chicano murals and the art activism of the Civil Rights Movement, the digital spaces occupied by activist groups on the Internet–in the struggle to understand the relation between self and other, artists have critically engaged with the images that define our common sense of belonging—images that saturate the public sphere via mass media, advertising, textbooks, museums, and shopping malls. While taking a close look at individual artists and movements, we will locate them within their respective contexts, with the ultimate goal of finding ways of adequately imagine and image an American identity today.

Race in the Ancient Mediterranean

Learn about ancient thinking about race and ethnicity and how ancient thinking remains current and influential today. Investigate how categories of race and ethnicity are presented in the literature and artistic works of Greece and Rome. Our case studies will pay particular attention to such concepts as: notions of racial formation and racial origins; ancient theories of ethnic superiority; and linguistic, religious and cultural differentiation as a basis for ethnic differentiation. We will also examine ancient racism through the prism of a variety of social processes in antiquity: slavery, trade and colonization, migrations, imperialism, assimilation, native revolts, and genocide.

Race on the Stage: Social Construction of Identity through Drama and the Arts

A unique taste of artistic diversity, this course combines traditional and interdisciplinary content with the rich experience of “live art.” Learn how conventions of the past contribute to arts production and the dramatic presentation of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability today, and how those presentations continue to inform notions of identity. As you read classic and contemporary dramatic texts and critically analyze actual performances, you will be looking at diversity from multiple perspectives and acquiring the kind of understanding of “difference” and “tolerance” that will prepare you to live and work in a global world.

Representing Race

From classical Greece and Rome, who saw themselves under siege by the “barbarian hordes,” to contemporary America and its war on “Islamic extremism,” from The Birth of a Nation to Alien Nation, Western societies have repeatedly represented a particular group of people as a threat to civilization. This course will examine a wide range of representations of non-Western people and cultures in film, literature, scientific and legal writings, popular culture, and artistic expression. What is behind this impulse to divide the world into “us” and “them”? How is it bound up with our understanding of race and racial difference? And what happens when the “barbarian hordes” talk back?