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 Ethnic and National Identity  posted by  duggu   on 11/26/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Jackson, Jean, 21A.226 Ethnic and National Identity, Fall 2009. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 07 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Market day people in Mexico.

Market day people in Mexico. (Image courtesy of stock.xchng, by Tim Qulick.)

Course Highlights

This course features a full set of lecture notes and an extensive bibliography of required and supplementary readings.

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the cross-cultural study of ethnic and national identity. We examine the concept of social identity, consider how gender, religious and racial identity components interact with ethnic and national ones. We explore the history of nationalism, including the emergence of the idea of the nation-state, and discuss the effects of globalization, migration, and transnational institutions. We also look at identity politics and ethnic conflict.





[Criteria for HASS CI Subjects. Communication intensive subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences should require at least 20 pages of writing divided among 3-5 assignments. Of these 3-5 assignments, at least one should be revised and resubmitted. HASS CI subjects should further offer students substantial opportunity for oral expression, through presentations, student-led discussion, or class participation. In order to guarantee sufficient attention to student writing and substantial opportunity for oral expression, the maximum number of students per section in a HASS CI subject is 18, except in the case of a subject taught without sections (where the faculty member in charge is the only instructor). In that case, enrollments can rise to 25, if a writing fellow is attached to the subject.]

This course is an introduction to the cross-cultural study of ethnic and national identity. We examine the concept of social identity, and consider how gender, language, religious, national, and ethno-racial identity components co-interact. We explore the history of nationalism, including the emergence of the idea of the nation-state, and discuss the effects of globalization, migration, and transnational institutions. We also look at identity politics and ethnic conflict.

This subject examines the concepts of ethnic and national identity, looking at the evolution of these concepts over time both in social science and common parlance. Students are introduced to the substantial cross-cultural variation in the meaning of personhood and forms of social identity. We explore the history of notions about what constitutes a "nation," in the sense of a "people," looking at what it meant prior to the nation-state and imperial projects in Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and what it means in the present era of multiculturalism, postmodernity, globalization, and transnational trends such as migration. We examine how both ethnic and state nationalism work to invent a homogenized past in attempts to address a heterogeneous present. We also look at the related concepts of race, religion, gender, and culture, seeing how constructions of one usually entail the others. We also study how ethnic and national identity are seen in the West to consist of shared biological legacies, shared histories, and shared cultural content conceived in terms of 1) shared patterns of behavior-music, dress, food styles, embodied habits (e.g., posture), etc., and 2) such inner qualities as character, personality, talent. Language ideologies are briefly discussed, focusing on the way linguistic features (lexicon, phonology) can serve non-linguistic purposes such as signifying ethnic and national identity.


In addition to written work, students are expected to keep up with all assigned readings (approximately 150 pp. a week for the books; 100 pp. a week for articles). Students must attend class and participate; this part of the course, coupled with Reader Responses, will account for 20% of the grade. Students who miss more than 3 classes will lose credit. You will write 3 papers, each counting 25%; your in-class presentation counts 5%. Topics will be given out by the end of the third week of class.

The grading for the course in a nutshell:

Activities Percentages
Class Participation + Reader Responses 20%
3 Papers 25% each
In-class Presentation 5%

Reader Responses

Reader responses consist of a few sentences describing your reaction to one of the readings for that session. Do not give an analysis or summary, give us your response to it. These should take no more than 10 minutes to write. While these are not graded, they will be factored into the evaluation of your performance. You will write six over the course of the term.

There is no final examination.


You will write three papers, 7-8 pages (roughly 2000 words) each. You must rewrite the first paper in light of the comments you receive. The revised draft is the version which will be graded. Rewriting the second and third papers is optional, but highly recommended.

You will also be expected to participate in class discussions and presentations. Having written Reader Responses prior to class, students for the most part have no difficulty with this. If a student does not regularly volunteer, she or he will be called upon to speak. At the end of the course, students will present a 10-minute presentation of their third paper (these will be timed, so rehearsing is advisable).

The first two papers are due in session 11 and in session 19. You will get the papers back one week after they have been handed in (session 13 and session 21), and must submit your rewrite one week later in (session 14 [delayed because the previous week is Spring Vacation] and session 22). If you plan on revising the third paper, the first version must be handed in by session 20, and will be handed back in the session 22. The final version of the third paper is due on session 24.

You will automatically pass Phase 1 of the Writing Requirement if you receive a grade of B or better.

Several videos will be shown.

One class hour will be lecture, followed by 1/2 hour discussion


Plagiarism comes in two forms. The first involves using the words of a source, exactly or in very close paraphrase, without quotation marks. It does not suffice to footnote the source; if you use the words of the original, or closely paraphrase them, you must use quotation marks. The second form involves taking ideas from a source without footnoting the source. Although sanctions for plagiarism depend on its severity, failing the subject is a distinct possibility (I have failed students in the past).



Lec # Topics Key dates
1 Introduction to The Study of Ethnic and National Identity: The Stakes, and Why the Stakes are So High  
2 Ethnic Identity I  
3 Ethnic Identity II  
4 Ethnic Identity III: The Hui  
5 Nation and Nationalism I Reader response due
6 Nation and Nationalism II  
7 Ethnicity, State, Nation  
8 State, Nation, Culture Reader response due
9 Culture: Definitions  
10 Ethnic/State Conflict  
11 Ethnic/State Conflict II First draft of first paper due
12 Race I Reader response due
13 Race II First paper returned, with comments
14 Ethnic Identity, Nationalism and Gender Rewrite of first paper due
15 Ethnic Identity, State, and Sexuality  
16 Religion, Ethnicity, The Nation Reader response due
17 Language, Culture, Ethnicity  
18 State, Culture, Nation Reader response due
19 Culture Recovery Optional first draft of second paper due
20 Culture: Appropriations, Heritage, "Selling Culture" Optional first draft of third paper due

Second paper handed back, with comments (optional)
21 Human Rights, Collective Rights  
22 New Social Movements: The Indigenous Movement Final draft of second paper due

Optional first draft of third paper handed back with comments
23 Transnationalism, Globalization and Culture  
24 Summing Up Final draft of third paper due
25 Student Reports Reader response due
26 Student Reports (cont.)   Tell A Friend