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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."

Requirements (for students starting with the class of 2020)

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
Contemporary Indigenous Education in North America
Latinx Literature
Immigrant Social Movements: Bridging Theory and Practice
Treaty Rights and Food Fights: Eating Local in Indian Country
Transpacific Asian American Studies
Transpacific Popular Culture
Four classes (at least two in ETHN) that address the student's focus area and that prepare them for the capstone experience. Courses must be approved by the concentration advisor. 4
ETHN 1650 Methods and Approaches in Ethnic Studies1
American Studies seminar in the AMST 1700 series1
Race and Remembering
American Publics
Community Engagement with Health and the Environment
Race in the Americas: A Hemispheric Perspective
ETHN 1900Ethnic Studies Senior Seminar1
Total Credits10


Admittance to the Honors Program in Ethnic Studies requires:

  1. A 3.5 GPA in concentration courses
  2. A 3.0 overall GPA
  3. Completion of the standard concentration
  4. AMST/ETHN 1800 the Honors Seminar in the sixth semester
  5. An Honors Thesis Proposal and an application for the Ethnic Studies Honors Program
  6. Two independent studies, taken in the seventh and eighth semester, with the Director of your honors thesis
  7. A completed project, delivered the third week of April.
  8. A recommendation for honors from both readers. 

Students must define their honors project by April 1 or near the end of their sixth semester. The proposal is comprised of a two-page, single-paced project description along with a bibliography of relevant sources.  This proposal must be submitted for approval to the faculty along with the application for the Ethnic Studies Honors Program form.  The proposal should identify the problem, or question the student will focus on, and suggest approaches and possible hypotheses or outcomes. Students need to work with two professors - a director and a reader.  at least one should be Ethnic Studies faculty.  The proposal should name a confirmed director (who must sign your application form) and likely second reader (who will need to confirm at the beginning of your seventh semester).  If a student wants to work with two professors, neither of whom is Ethnic Studies faculty, then they should have a third deader who will read the final draft or consult on the final project and approve it for honors in the field.  

In their seventh and eight semesters, students seeking honors will enroll in an independent study class with their director during which they will follow through on the plan devised in the spring of their junior year. Students and thesis directors should plan on at least a monthly meeting to discuss the research, writing, and revision of sections of the thesis.  In addition to meeting with their director, student should also plan to meet their second reader during this time. 

In their eighth semester, the deadline for a finished full draft of their project is April 21. Students should turn in a completed (proofread, formatted, fully written) draft to their readers by that day. Of course, students will turn chapters to the director and reader before that, according to their recommendations, but April 21 is the absolute deadline to turn in the final draft. 

All official readers must recommend the project for honors.

When written as formal research papers, honors theses are generally between 50-100 pages. When there is a creative or public component, students should work closely with their faculty team to determine the appropriate length of the written accompaniment.

Students will make a public presentation of their work to the Ethnic Studies faculty during the first week of May.

Requirements (for students through the class of 2019):

ETHN 0500 Introduction to American/Ethnic Studies1
Any two introductory courses in Latino/a, Africana, Asian-Amerian, or Native American Studies. The courses in the list below are exaples of these courses. Other courses may be approved by the Advisor.2
An Introduction to Africana Studies
A course from the AMST 1610 series, as approved by the concentration advisor
From Coyote to Casinos: Native North American Peoples and Cultures
Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the Modern World
Race, Culture, and Ethnic Politics
Ethnicity, Race, and Gender in the Americas
Courses taught by core Ethnic Studies faculty may be recognized in consultation with concentration advisor.
Any three courses in Ethnic Studies that address the student's focus area (as approved by the concentration advisor), for example: 3
The Border/La Frontera
Critical Mixed Race Studies in the Twenty-First Century
Ethnic Writing
ETHN 0790A
Latina/o Literature
Native Americans and the Media
Theory Into Practice: Service Learning at a Dual Language Charter School
Race and Remembering
Hip Hop Music and Cultures
The Research Process: Qualitative and Ethnographic Methods
Race and Language in the United States
Race in the Americas
Ethnic Studies Practicum: Strategy, Tactics and Tools for Social Change
Immigrant Social Movements: Bridging Theory and Practice
Ethnic Los Angeles
Latino/a Communities Seminar
Native North Americans in the Media: Representations and Self Representations in Film
Chicana/o Fiction
Queer Latina/o Literature and Theory
Eating Cultures
Reading Race: Advanced Seminar in Critical Race Theory
Seminar on Latino Politics in the United States
Native American and European Contact in Early North America, ca. 1600-1750
Business, Culture, and Globalization: An Ethnographic Perspective
Indigenous Music of the Americas
Johnny, Are You Queer: Narratives of Race and Sexuality
Bad Boys and Bad Girls in Asian American Literature and Culture
Native Americans in the Media: Representation and Self-Representation on Film
Introduction to American Indian Studies
Native American Environmental Health Movements
Engendering Empire
(De)Colonizing Women: Writing the Third Space
ETHN 1890M
Treaty Rights and Food Fights: Eating Local in Indian Country
Thawing the "Frozen Indian"; American Indian Museum Representation
Introduction to Native American Literature
The Hispanic Caribbean and its Diasporas
Youth, Art, Engagement and Social Justice
Race, Class and Gender in Latino Communities
Any three courses drawn from a list of related courses (as approved by the concentration advisor). 3
A course from the ETHN 1900 series. 11
Alien Nation: US Immigration in Comparative Perspectives
Community, Language and Literacy: A Practicum
Contemporary Latino/a Education in the United States
Latino Communities Seminar
Senior Seminar in Ethnic Studies
Theory, Creativity, Activism
Race and Immigration in the Americas
What is Ethnic Studies?
ETHN 1900N
Transpacific Asian American Studies
Students in the concentration should also take a WRIT course from within the concentration, from a list of cross-listed courses, or from a course approved by their advisor.
Students should also be sure to take a methods course.
Total Credits10


Candidates for honors must have at least a B+ average in the concentration and be approved by the Concentration Committee. Honors candidates will propose a thesis project to be completed by the end of their final semester. The development of a thesis project will begin during the sixth semester. Honors candidates will have two readers, at least one of whom must be Ethnic Studies core faculty.

Concentrators who choose not to request consideration for honors will be required to complete a major essay or project by the end of their final semester. The essay or project can be the result of major work completed in the senior seminar.

Students seeking information about the Ethnic Studies Program or in need of advising should contact  (401-863-7034).