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:
Spring, 2002 Office: A&S Hall 203;
Office Hrs. MTH, 9:00-9:45am; 11-12:45pm. & by App't.
Term Projects
Becoming Aware
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 on identity.
1) Think of the social variables that affect your identity, like your family=s ethnicity, 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 the blanks).
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 variables?
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 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
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 announced.
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 "to them."
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: Praeger,

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 Books.

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 Press.

Foner, Eric 1989 Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution. New York: Harper Collins.

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 Press.

Gordon, Milton 1964 Assimilation in American Life. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Greeley, Andrew M. 1974 Ethnicity in the United States. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Greeley, Andrew M. 1974 Why Can't They Be Like Us New York: N.Y.: Inst. of Human Relations.

Haley, Alex and Malcolm X 1965 The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Grove Press.

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 University Press.

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: Collier-Macmillan.

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 Hyman.

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 and Co.

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.