Seton Hall University
Department of Sociology/Anthropology


SOCI 2515 AA: Intergroup Relations: Race, Religion, Ethnicity, and Social Class in American Life 
Prof. Philip M. Kayal
Spring, 2002
Office Hours: MTR: 10:00-11:00am 12:00-1:00am; 2:00-2:30pm, and by Appt. 
Office: A&S Hall 214

Course Outline and Objectives

The approach to intergroup relations in our society varies tremendously overtime.  Women and gays, for example, were rarely considered fit topics in such courses, the emphasis being on race and ethnicity.  As you know, issues concerning these populations are now in the news daily.  "Race courses" normally were limited to ethnic and race relations, rarely religious or gender relations. Never mind social class interactions, which today, constitute the bulk of interest---at least for sociologists..

Studying the social, economic, and political relationships of so-called "ethnic groups" changes regular-ly.  Recently, the great question is whether ethnic differences matter at all, since social class is believed by many to be the major variable affecting both inter-group relations and behavior. Intersecting these ideas with the questions of gender and sexual orientation makes our efforts more timely and exciting, if not more difficult. A quick (and immediate) read of the introduction to unit I of your reader by Rothenberg will eloquently illustrate this point.

In terms of ethnicity and race, the methods used to learn about the different peoples who have populated this continent has been inconsistent.  From short stories and novels, even autobiographies, to in-depth studies by "outsiders" (and more recently of insiders), the field of ethnic studies has varied in content and intent with the overall political climate of the period.  Ethnic and racial studies have either described or explained, supported or changed, and/or divided or mended the relations between different groups of Americans.  Like everything else, group relations are political relations.

Our goals are:
a) to see how political and economic realities affect race, gender, and ethnic (and personal) relations, and
b) how social structure organizes relations between different social groups.

In any study of ethnicity, gender and race in American life, we can use auto-biographies, ethnographic studies, anthropological data, or sociological approaches. We can look at behavior and relations from either the dominate or the subordinate group's position or experiences.  All these perspectives have been used at different times, for different purposes, and with varied consequences. Most will be utilized in this course.  It is another of our goals (a latent function) to become fluent with all these perspectives and to use them to understand our own lives and relationships.

Our objective in this course is to understand sociologically the classic issues of prejudice, institutional racism and sexism, and the continuous confusion in the public mind between race, culture, and class,  as explanatory variables.  Students are expected to master the functions and dysfunctions of racism, sexism, and homophobia in American society.  There is a sociology of the sociologies of race and ethnic relations which also need to be examined.  On the broader societal level, we are interested in the organization of American society, that is, how do we as a nation maintain diver-sity, pluralism, unity, integration and privilege all at the same time.

One way of approaching these questions is through the Arts, such as the movies:

Driving Miss Daisy
The Godfather(s)
Hester Street
The Color Purple
The Lion King
Paris is Burning
Longtime Companion
Go Fish
Gods and Monsters
Life is Beautiful
Titanic(social class)
As Good As it Gets
Mississippi Burning
Bonfire of the Vanities*
True Love
Come See The Paradise
Waiting to Exhale
Malcolm X and the Movie ALI
Spike Lee films
*the book is better;    **recommended

 Ideally, students should at least become conscious of their own identities, both participationally and historically.  The emphasis could be on how you combine and use different identities (lesbian Catholic Cuban) and in what circumstances you do so.  This means being aware of the history of your own ethnic/racial/religious, group(s) over time in this country.  Indeed, these histories are readily available and part of our general store of information.  Anglo scholars, however, have been known to ignore unpleasant and embarrassing historical events which tarnish their reputation for fairness, so ethnics don't fair to well in the literature, unless they (we) themselves (ourselves) write their (our) own history.  Because of prejudice and self-hate, people are denied access to the truth, their identities, their pasts and the real facts of intergroup relations.  They begin to accept their "otherness" as natural and depoliticize themselves.  More importantly, they get a distorted view of American history and how society operates.  Marx would say we suffer as a society from false consciousness.  History, of course, will set us free.  This situation is true of ethnics, women and gays.

For this reason (and to understand the phenomenon of "otherness" and stratification) immediately begin reading and finishing within 3 class periods, the Introduction in The Ethnic Myth and the readings referred to above..

It is these "others" (outsiders) -the names or groups changing over time-that deserve our attention. In the past, your grandparents or even your parents were or are considered outsiders, foreigners, threats, subversives, and liabilities.  Now, for reasons to be explained in class, the word ethnic is applied, often negatively (ethnic clothing, food, looks, etc.) to any group of culturally distinct Americans, especially to new immigrants.  Today's scapegoats and outsiders are, of course, gays and lesbians (normally lumped together with child molesters, druggies, and "sinners.".

The course, therefore, will concentrate on several important (and new) issues in race, gender, class, and ethnic studies: the meaning of what it means to be an American; the debate over multiculturalism; the emergence of new, black ethnic groups in American society (Haitians, Jamaicans, etc), the rise of a stratified black American ethnic group which substitutes or integrates class identities with racial ones, the entrance into the United States of highly competitive and entrepreneurial Asian immigrants, and finally, the presence of distinctive Hispanic ethnic groups, all adapting differently to American society, and lastly your identity as 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation Americans.   How all these conditions intersect with gender and sexual orientation is the question emphasized in the class.

 Course Requirements

Students are expected to attend all classes (unless excused by the professor).  Participation in class is expected and students are encouraged to seek out and contribute news items of special interest to the class either in the form of news reports, films, or other readings.

Students should monitor their behavior at all times, avoid talking and whispering and any other disruptive behavior.  All students are expected to work alone on their projects except in cases permitted by the instructor. It is dishonest and unfair to represent another's work as your own or to use sources as your own without giving due credit.  Doing so constitutes a serious breach of academic process, normally resulting in course failure and dismissal from the university.

Discussion Groups:  There is a discussion group be set up for this course that is accessed through Blackboard. You are expected to make two contributions to our class discussion on various related topics. You can posit a question or respond to student commentary. No flaming or insulting remarks are permitted everything else. . . even absurd thoughts. . . are allowed as long as you can defend yourself.

See attached  Project Sheet  for Specific Assignments.

Required Texts:
Steinberg, Stephen
     1989  The Ethnic Myth. Boston: Beacon Press.
Rothenberg, Paula  
      1998   Race, Class and Gender. New York: St. Martin's Press
Required Articles:

You should read the following articles with an eye towards how the theory and problems raised in them can apply to contemporary ethnic and/or immigrant populations like Koreans, Indians, Jamaicans, Filipino, Haitians, or the new Irish.

.N. B. The question of the relationship between race, class, sex and poverty is the most current issue in sociology and has been released in book form by Wilson entitled The Truly Disadvantaged, the thesis of which I will review in class.  There will also be periodic handouts on this and other topics.

Students are expected to have an operating Seton Hall e-mail account by the beginning of class next week. No excuses accepted.  You can establish this account or resolve problems by either calling x2222 or visiting the helpdesk in the basement of Corrigan Hall.You are also expected to be proficient in Blackboard.  We will be having our discussions on topical issues via this medium. 

You also are expected to be familiar with surfing the net in terms of finding relevant information and sites on topics of interest to this course. As will be indicated on the Project Assignment sheet, you can stay current with intergroup relations "literature" and news by using ProQUEST, InFoTrac, and the NYTimes websites found through our (SHU) library homepage. We most likely have a demonstration of "search engines" by the library staff. To do this effectively immediately begin thinking about some intergroup relations' question that interests you.

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