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Ethnic Studies

Ethnic Studies is an interdisciplinary, comparative concentration that examines the construction of race and ethnicity in social, cultural, historical, political, and economic contexts. Concentrators develop individual programs based on areas of focus in consultation with faculty advisors, drawing from courses in the humanities and social sciences. Typical areas of focus are social issues (such as inequality, education, or health), cultural production and the representation of racial groups, processes of racialization, the historical formation of transnational communities and of diaspora, and the history of particular ethnic or racial groups.

The Ethnic Studies concentration at Brown emphasizes the histories of diverse racial groups within and across the borders of the United States, including examining issues of diaspora, migration, social movements, and the political economies of social inequality and racial formation.  Concentrators strive for intellectual fluency in a range of critical approaches to race and ethnicity across disciplines, and demonstrate this fluency through the composition or creation of a significant piece of original research or creative work.

Brown University established an Ethnic Studies concentration in 1996, originally within the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA). In the Fall of 2013, as part of changes to the CSREA and to better support students, Ethnic Studies joined a long established Brown department, American Studies.  Many American Studies faculty members work in the areas of race and ethnicity and have held joint appointments in Ethnic and American Studies while American Studies PhD students have done some of the most exciting Ethnic Studies research on campus.  

As an academic field, Ethnic Studies is rooted in the protests of the 1960s and 1970s, out which emerged the very first Latino/a Studies, Asian American Studies, African American Studies, and Native American studies programs.  Organized around straightforward political goals – the enrichment through diversification of the curriculum and the systematic, multi-disciplinary, and the often comparative study of racial and ethnic inequality – Ethnic Studies has become an important feature of major research universities.

Faculty, both core and affiliated, create and participate in groundbreaking Ethnic Studies scholarship.  Areas of faculty research include borderlands history, Latina/o literary studies and visual culture, indigenous movements, migration and African American cultural studies as well as the intersecting fields of gender and sexuality, queer theory and critical race theory.  Students can focus their study on specific populations (e.r. Latina/os, Asian Americans) and choose a thematic interest including such current examples as : "social issued affecting radicalized groups" (students have looked at health disparities or educational inequality); "the study of cultural production or cultural representations;" "the theory of a particular racial or ethnic group;" and " the study of comparative processes of radicalization."


The concentration requires 10 classes.  A maximum of 2 courses may be counted toward multiple concentrations.

ETHN 1000Introduction to American/Ethnic Studies1
Any two courses from the ETHN 1200 "Topics in Ethnic Studies" or ETHN 1750 "Advanced Topics in Ethnic Studies" sequence, or similar electives in AMST, as approved by the advisor2
Five classes that address the student's focus area and that prepare them for the capstone experience. At least two of these classes must bear an ETHN designation. 5
Of the other three classes, only one may be a Departmental Independent Study Project (DISP). If a student pursues that option, the class must be undertaken with core faculty, all of whom are listed on the department website, and must be offered under an ETHN course number. Students may count two lower-level classes (below 1000-level) offered under the AMST or ETHN prefix - or cross-listed with either American Studies or Ethnic Studies - towards the focus area.
Students must take any two classes under either the AMST or ETHN prefixes that have been tagged with a specific method. Each class must be tagged with a different method. These classes can count for any other concentration requirement.
An AMST 1700 Junior Seminar1
ETHN 1900 the "Ethnic Studies Senior Seminar"1
Total Credits10


Students who hope to pursue Honors are encouraged to take AMST 1800, the Honors Seminar, in the Spring of their Junior year, in preparation for submitting an Honors thesis proposal. Admission to Honors candidacy requires an academic record providing evidence of the student's ability to do Honors work. At least half of the student's grades in courses counted toward the concentration must be grades of A or "S with Distinction", and Honors proposals must include a recommendation form completed by a faculty member who has taught a class requiring a significant research paper. Students pursuing Honors are required to take two independent study courses (ETHN 1910) in their senior year, in addition to the regular concentration requirements (for a total of 12 credits), in order to write their Honors thesis. Guidelines for completion and submission of the thesis are on the department website.