The Department of Ethnic Studies (ES) encourages the comparative study of racialization in the Americas, with a focus on the histories, literatures, and politics of Asian Americans, Chicanos/Latinos, Native American Indians, and African Americans. ES seeks to situate these core groups within national and transnational contexts, and to understand how racial and ethnic formation articulate with other axes of stratification such as class, gender, and sexuality.
Our approach is interdisciplinary in nature. Studies interrogate the relationship of social structure to those of literary and cultural practices, and in so doing question traditional disciplinary boundaries and assumptions. Our scholarly concerns are explicitly linked to the development of a social practice. Inquiries into the nature of racial, ethnic, and gender inequality are informed by a commitment to social change and social justice.
The undergraduate programs in Asian American, Chicano/Latino, and Native American Studies (along with the Department of African American Studies) investigate the social, political, and cultural factors that shape the core groups' formation and transformation. Research on these specific core groups lays the foundations for the overall comparative project of ES.
As one of the oldest programs focusing on race and ethnicity, the Ethnic Studies Department is committed to understanding more deeply the multiple meanings of racial diversity in the Americas.
It’s a Racialized World After All: A Transnational Study of Oakland, California and Durban, South Africa as Racialized, Yet Resistant Geographies
Traditional, Western geographers have theorized a separation between land, capital, and labor, which naturalizes a conception of geography as completely independent of sociohistorical factors. This conventional ideology strips the landscape from its ongoing relationship with capital and labor, isolating the land from its white supremacist histories, which—according to Andrea Smith—are embodied through processes of anti-black racism/slaveability, genocide, and orientalism. Scholarship in critical geography has revealed that forces of colonialism and imperialism transcend conventional spatial-temporal limitations, constructing geographies of confinement for people in contemporary times. In focusing on Moms 4 Housing—a collective of Black, marginally housed mothers in Oakland, California—along with Abahlali baseMjondolo (Abahlali)—a Black, South African grassroots movement run by and for shack dwellers in Durban, South Africa—this paper investigates how racial capitalism maps onto the lives of Black peoples in localized regions. More particularly, it offers a transnational study that works to illuminate how African peoples are able to transform racialized sites into sites of resilience. Drawing from Henri Lefebvre’s theory of the production of space, my work contributes to a spatial understanding of how neoliberal capitalism confines Black peoples to particular racialized landscapes across the diaspora. Rooted in the Black Radical Tradition, along with Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s conceptualization of abolition geographies, I examine what pushes distinct African peoples to mobilize around humanity in ways that advance a transformative and inclusive politic of Freedom. Ultimately, this study reveals similarities in processes and practices, as well as “slippages, openings, and contradictions” between Black peoples in relation to a global fight against racial capitalism and white supremacy.
Between the years 2005-2010, 1.4 million Mexican migrants residing in the US migrated back to reside in Mexico. The state of Oaxaca, a primary return destination, holds the highest and most diverse population of Indigenous nations in Mexico, with especially strong forms of communal organization locally and in diaspora. This project consists of both a documentary film in progress and an Ethnic Studies honors thesis composed of interviews with migrants who have returned to their ancestral homelands in Oaxaca after living in the US for several years. In the record of migration literature, theorizations of return migration have centered around settler colonial, nation-state forces of immobilization and confinement, thus, overlooking and oversimplifying the complex affective experiences of return. In contrast to such literature, my methodology and theoretical framework, grounded in Cine Comunitario (communal filmmaking) and Border Abolition, intentionally facilitate relationship building and long-form storytelling, politically structuring individuals within community knowledges and histories–rather than in state-centered approaches–as means for self-representation. This study is formed around several core enquiries, such as: What are the contradicting affective processes that Indigenous Oaxacan migrants experience when returning to their ancestral homelands? and How do they (we) understand concepts of home, ancestry, identity and belonging?
Discursive Deployments: Mobilizing Support for Municipal and Community Wireless Networks in the U.S.
This paper examines Municipal Wireless (MW) deployments in the United States. In particular, the interest is in understanding how discourse has worked to mobilize widespread support for MW networks. We explore how local governments discursively deploy the language of social movements to create a shared understanding of the networking needs of communities. Through the process of "framing" local governments assign meaning to the MW networks in ways intended to mobilize support and demobilize opposition. The mobilizing potential of a frame varies and is dependent on its centrality and cultural resonance. We examine the framing efforts of MW networks by using a sample of Request for Proposals for community wireless networks, semi-structured interviews and local media sources. Prominent values that are central to a majority of the projects and others that are culturally specific are identified and analyzed for their mobilizing potency.