- Seton Hall University
- Department of Sociology/Anthropology
SOCI 2515: Intergroup Relations:
Race, Religion, Ethnicity, and Social Class in American Life
Professor Philip M. Kayal, e-mail: email@example.com
Spring, 2002 Office: A&S Hall 203;
Office Hrs. MTH, 9:00-9:45am; 11-12:45pm. & by App't.
Becoming aware of gender, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation
and social class in your own life and in the life of American society and
institutions, as well as in the "private" lives of all Americans,
is very exciting, if not challenging. Becoming informed about how society
structures social relations between different groups of people, and then
discovering how these social expectations impact on your own personal
relations and your own consciousness, can be a very liberating
experience. Since these six variables are central aspects of American life,
learning how they shape our expectations, knowledge, and behavior will
render "relative" some of our long term "absolute"
beliefs about how and why "certain people" act the way that they
do and what being an American citizen really means.
To encourage you to think intelligently about the reality of race,
religion, sexuality, class, and ethnicity in your own life, the following
exercises are required of all students. They should be thought about,
planned, and executed with "style" before being handed in.
Project I: Your own identity.
Project I is divided into three interrelated parts. Basically, it is about
the sociological imagination, that is, seeing how your "life
situation" is tied to some group. The question basically is to identify
yourself by answering the question "who am I," sociologically. To
do this project well, read the articles identified early-on in the syllabus
1) Think of the social variables that affect your identity, like your
religion, race, and social class. You may also identify yourself or be
identified by others by gender, sexual orientation and/or occupation.
Examine how your life is affected by these variables. Are some of them in
conflict with one another? Rank order these options in terms of importance
to you. Which is salient and why and when is this so? How and why do you see
yourself the way you do? Relate your identity (ies) to your position in the
social structure and how others define you. Now, write an essay on "How
your life would be different if you were in a different. . . . (you fill in
2) What groups do you and/or your family historically and/or
participationally identify with?
How does your family respond to this inquiry? How do they identify
themselves (by class, religion, ethnicity, occupation, etc.). How has this
changed overtime? What generation American are your parents and what
generation are you? How have they changed over time and how do your
identifications differ from theirs and why? Describe your family in ethnic
(racial), religious, and class terms. What group do they use as their frame
of reference to identify themselves.
Explain how and why your identity has evolved this way. If you are a
"half-breed" which group or "nationality" do you
identity with (if any) and why? (How do you answer the question "who or
what are you?" Does religion, sexuality, or race replace ethnicity for
you? What do you feel about your own group(s) identity? Why do you feel this
way? Discuss the SOCIOLOGICAL reasons that you have the
"knowledge" or opinions that you do have of your own group and
some other racial, ethnic, sexual and/or religious group? Relate how your
knowledge is a function of demographic, experiential, and institutional
3) After identifying the differences between cultural assimilation, social
assimilation and structural assimilation, determine your family's degree of
assimilation. How American is your family? Create a Bogardus Social
Distance Scale for yourself and the family (more on this in class). What
you are being asked here is to describe the degree of integration of your
family (which has a specific ethnic, racial, religious and class history)
into American society? You can do this by observing their marriage patterns,
social netwo/rks, organizational affiliations. What is their overall value
system like relative to American culture? (Can you identify either or both
generational or ethnic differences between you and them or your
grandparents, etc? The theory states that over time your social contacts
should be broader than your ancestors. Is this true for you?).
More specifically, you can describe the racial, ethnic, religious, and
class characteristics of people who visit your home, and contrast this to
the people that you work with, go to school with, and/or "party"
with. How do you explain this apparently natural distribution (assuming, as
I do, that birds of a feather flock together)? Does it tell you anything
about your real social location in society?
Project II: Current Issues
Follow the NEW YORK TIMES for a story on some aspect of race
and ethnicity and religion in American society. In other words, follow a
story about some group or some problem or some issue for about a month in
the New York Times. Summarize the problem/situation/issue and
analyze it in terms of some concept or theory learned in the course. This is
a critically important assignment and needs to begin NOW!
Become an expert on a contemporary news item that will sustain your
interests after college, for example, the Amillion
man march," @immigration,
the ABell Curve,@
undocumented aliens, Korean green-grocers, Irish homophobia, The Haitian
Refugees, green cards, sweatshop labor, class action suits, gay-bashing, etc
The news item/article you select should be interpreted in terms of some
concept taught in class. It should illustrate something about intergroup
relations. Let me know what you learned from this set of articles. Remember,
following a story is not the same as reading one article.
The New York Times can be accessed via the net at http://www.nytimes.com/
It can also be read on-line from the SHU library homepage. This is a new
development, making it possible for you to find a topic and follow a story
on-line. Now there is no excuse for not being informed about issues
affecting intergroup relations.
When you get to The Times, review the site and story lines. You can
probably click on news by category for a review of current issues. This is
especially true of the Week in Review, found in every Sunday edition.
There is an Education Section and a Religion section as well. The Sunday
revew is of the latest stories of the week. (No sense getting an education
if you don't know anything about current events). In some search engines for
The Times, you can select Search on the top of any and all pages and
type in your topic. But you must be inventive. Select all articles to see
what has appeared on your topic.
If you do not wish to follow a story as described above, you may
critically review one of the movies listed above or some current film (or
one approved by the professor). These films are all sociologically rich and
relevant and your review should indicate how the film illustrates the logic
of the course.
Use ProQUEST and InFoTrac on the library homepage to find one academic
article on or near to the subject matter you were reviewing in The Times.
You can search out any sociological topic relative to ethnicity or race,
etc. at www.copernic.com
Obviously, a specific contemporary "issue, group or problem" you
are focusing on in the newspaper can't yet have any specific academic
article on it, but there are topical areas that would apply. The murder of
Matthew Shephard, for example, has not been formally studied, but there are
academic articles on the topic of homophobia. Read the article chosen and
write a summary review of what you learned from it. Due date will be
Project III: Websites and Observations
This is a required project that could evolve into a final exam question,
so pay it some mind!
Check out 5 ethnic/racial/religious websites and summarize them. Let me
know what you learned from these sites. There are hundreds of black, latino,
Irish, gay/lesbian, etc., sites that are very rich in content. A few are
listed below, but they hardly exhaust the list. If the sites below interest
you, you can use one of them in your project. But you do the work, not me.
Use the sites you find to look at the stereotypes of others that you know
people have and that you may have or may have had. Prepare yourself for this
by making a mental list of or identifying 10 ethnic/racial/religious groups
Think about what you think about "them"
and try to find out what other people really say about these groups.
Wouldn't you love to know what the "Irish" really think about
"the Italians," etc., Maybe views have changed and that is good
and we can see where and when this takes place. Use your family and friends
in informal conversations to gather information.
Now despite what you think about yourself being "liberal" or
open minded or even "conservative," you have opinions and I want
you to share them with me.. . .no matter what they are! I have heard it
all and nothing you say will offend or surprise me and you will not be
punished because I disagree! Promise! But what I am really trying to do
is juxtapose what you say here to the reality of your everyday life.
What I mean is, despite or because of what you say or feel about certain
others, identify the situations that you interact with, meet, socialize,
work, play, etc. with other kinds of people. In truth how racially,
religiously or ethnically circumscribed are your relationships. And where
you are out of the loop, so to speak, what are the circumstances that bring
you together with others, and how "close" in fact do you get
Here is what I am asking you to do sociologically: Can you identify how
social class, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, and/or sexual orientation
has shaped your life experiences, your life chances, and your relationships.
Now I have been around the block a few times, and I do have eyes in my
head, so I do know what I see right before me in the public domain. I expect
you to be able to note the different ways you relate to different
demographic groups. Note the nature and context of these relationships or
interactions. Yes, you may pray with some of the "others" but are
they ever in your house!!!
Some Classic Bibliographic Sources
Any student who so desires can substitute any assignment above with a book
report on any of the following books or any book on an American ethnic
group, preferably your own as you define yourself. The book report must be
sociological. It must reflect the application of some theoretical
perspective used in class and be focused on some problem or phenomenon
discussed in the course.
Abalos, David 1993 The Latino Family and the Politics of Transformation. Conn:
Adam. Barry 1987 The Rise of a Gay and Lesbian Movement. Boston: G.K. Hall.
Anson, Robert 1987 Best Intentions: The Education and Killing of Edmund
Perry. New York: Vintage Books.
Ashe, Arthur R. 1988 A Hard Road to Glory. Vols. 1-2. New York: Amistad/Warner
Bodner, John. 1985 The Transplanted. Bloomington: Univ. of Indiana Press.
Cleaver, Eldridge 1970 Soul on Ice. New York: Dell Publ. Co.
Daniels, Roger 1988 Asian Americans: Chinese and Japanese in America Since
1850. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.
Dinnerstein and Reimers 1982 Ethnic Americans. New York: Harper and Row.
Foner, Nancy 1987 New Immigrants In New York: New York: Columbia University
Foner, Eric 1989 Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution. New York:
Gans, Herbert 1996 The War Against the Poor, etc. NewYork: Basic Books.
and 1962 The Urban Villagers. Glencoe: Free Press.
Glazer, Nathan and Daniel Moynihan 1970 Beyond the Melting Pot. Boston: MIT
Gordon, Milton 1964 Assimilation in American Life. New York: Oxford Univ.
Greeley, Andrew M. 1974 Ethnicity in the United States. New York: John Wiley
Greeley, Andrew M. 1974 Why Can't They Be Like Us New York: N.Y.: Inst. of
Haley, Alex and Malcolm X 1965 The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York:
Handlin, Oscar 1959 Immigration as a Factor in American History. New Jersey:
Prentice-Hall. and 1951 The Uprooted. Boston: Little Brown.
Handlin Oscar and Orlov Thernstrom
1980 Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. Cambridge: Harvard
Irons, Peter 1983 Justice at War. New York: Oxford Univ. Press
Levin, Jack and William 1982 The Functions of Discrim. and Prejudice
Cambridge, Harper and Row.
Lincoln Eric and L. Mamiya 1990 The Black Church in the African Amer. Exp..
North Carolina: Duke Press.
Mangione, Jerre & Ben Morreale 1993 La Storia: Five Centuries of the
Italian American Experience. Harper.
Meister, Richard J. 1974 Race and Ethnicity in Modern America. Massachusetts:
D.C. Heath & Co.
Mormino, Gary and George Pozetta 1987 The Immigrant World of Ybor City.
Chicago: Univer. of Illinois.
Pettigrew, Thomas F. (ed.) 1980 The Sociology of Race Relations. New York:
Ploski, Harry A. and James Williams 1990 The Negro Almanac: A Reference Work
on African Americans. New York: Gale Research (5th edit.).
Rodriquez, Richard 1992 Days of Obligation: An Argument with My MexicanFather.
New York: Viking.
Rodriguez, Clara E. 1989 Puerto Ricans: Born in the U.S.A. Boston: Unwin
Ryan, Joseph A. 1973 White Ethnics: Life in Working Class America.
New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Russell, Midge Wilson and Ronald Hall 1992 The Politics of Skin Color Among
African-Americans.New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Shorris, Earl 1992 Latinos: A Biography of the People. New York: W. W. Norton
Silberman, Charles 1964 Crisis In Black and White. New York: Random House.
Wilson, William J. 1997 When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban
Poor. New York: Vintage Books
1990 The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, The Underclass, and Public
Policy. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
1980 The Declining Significance of Race : Blacks and Changing America.
Chicago: University of Chicago
Weiss, Nancy 1983 Farewell to the Party of Lincoln. New Jersey: Princeton.
West, Cornel 1993 Race Matters. Boston: Beacon Press.
Wyman, David 1985 The Abandonment of the Jews. New York: Pantheon Books.