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SOC 211: Ethnic and Race Relations

Suzanne Strickland

(Submission #164)

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the study of race and ethnicity. In the first part of the course we focus mainly upon the U.S. experience of blacks/whites because this experience has been so central to U.S. development and because the black/white social structure has been a model for how racism was applied to other non-white and inferior white races in the U.S. Our focus on race develops a sociological and historical analysis of race as a social structural relationship that entails social practices and ideology. We begin by an analysis of the 19th century pseudo-scientific biology of race, and contrast those ideas with the current biological and anthropological criticism of the 19th conceptualization in order to emphasize the race relation as a social construction, i.e., a product of political, social and economic history. Then we examine and theorize the origins of slavery, the origins of racism, the development of caste, and the civil rights movement. We analyze how the social structure of race-as-status forms and how it sheds and acquires meanings in response to: the developing economy, the needs of dominant classes, the actions of the state, the status hungers of subordinate white classes, and the social struggles of subordinate groups, mainly blacks. We compare the experience of African Americans with the experience of Jews and Italians who were perceived as inferior white races at the turn of the 20th century, but who, in the post-WWII period, become “white” ethic groups. Finally, we examine both the persistence and moderation of race and racism since the Civil Rights movement with a special focus on the labor market, the housing market and residential segregation, the wealth gap, and whiteness, including white race projects and white privilege.

Our goal is to teach students how the relationship and practice of race is socially constructed over time, and to teach the differences between race and biology, race and ethnicity, and race and class.

The second part of the course focuses upon and theorizes ethnicity as a changing process affected by the interaction of sub-cultural groups with surrounding social institutions. Assimilation/ resistance to assimilation is our central problematic. We examine aspects of the immigration and ethnic development of the late 19th and early 20th century and the sociological theory used to account for ethnicity and assimilation. We examine a new sociological theory of assimilation that incorporates and revises the older sociological theory and is primarily a response to the “new” immigrations that begin around 1970. We compare the social conditions faced by the descendants of early and new immigrants as well as how their ideas and values changed and are changing. We compare the experience of the second generation of three different “new” ethnic groups and how their assimilation rates are affected by the diverse social, human and financial capital of their immigrant parents, U.S. laws and political institutions, and U.S. capitalism in the light of a globalized economy, the ease of international transportation and communication, and their non-whiteness.

Our goal is to enable students to reflect upon the changing nature of ethnicity and why groups assimilate at different rates, the changing nature of theory in relation to new experience, and, given the ethnic diversity of QC, we want to provide students with some tools to reflect upon their own experience.


Area of Knowledge and Inquiry: Analyzing Social Structures (SS)
Context of Experience: United States (US)
Extended Requirement: Not Applicable

Additional Course information

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: NONE
Existing Course: Existing
Existing Course Number: Sociology 211
Course Anticipated to be offered: Every Semester
Other (if specified): 
Number of Sections: 3
Number of Seats: 35


[Justification, Materials, Assessment, Administration (DOCX)]   [Syllabus/Syllabi (DOCX)]  

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