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Willamette University

900 State Street
Salem, Oregon 97301

503-370-6300 voice

American Ethnic Studies View this department's website

The American Ethnic Studies minor is an interdisciplinary program focusing on the rich cultural heritage of peoples of color in the United States as well as the body of scholarship and theory that has emerged around global and national issues of race and ethnicity. One focus of the program is the study of the broad historical, social, cultural traditions, and dynamics of race and ethnicity in America as a foundation for the exploration of more specialized topics.

College offerings cover a broad range of topics, primarily in the humanities, but also in contemporary areas of social, political and economic development. These include history, anthropology, art history, rhetoric and communications, politics, religion, sociology, and literature. A major focus of the program is the comparative experiences of various communities of color within the traditional Ethnic Studies categories: American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos/Latinas.

Requirements for the American Ethnic Studies Minor (5 Credits)

Core courses (2 credits)

  • AES 150 Introduction to American Ethnic Studies
  • AES 330 Methods & Theory in American Ethnic Studies

Elective Courses (3): NOTE: at least two of these courses must be at the 300-level or higher and no more than two of these courses can be drawn from the same department.

  • AES 144 Topics in American Ethnic Studies
  • AES 344 Advanced Topics in American Ethnic Studies
  • AES 491 (W) Independent Study in American Ethnic Studies
  • ANTH 090X (IT) Native North American Film
  • ANTH 211 (IT) Folklore
  • ANTH 231 (TH; US) Native North American Cultures
  • ANTH 303 Museum Studies Seminar
  • ANTH 351 (AR) Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights, and the Environment
  • ENGL 116 (IT; W) Topics in American Literature: Women Writer *
  • ENGL 242 (W) The Essay: Writing Race & Sport *
  • ENGL 242 (W) The Essay: Writing Hip Hop *
  • ENGL 253 (IT) Diversity in American Literature
  • ENGL 337 African American Literature
  • ENGL 344 Major Authors: Morrison & Bambera *
  • ENGL 357 Ethnicity and Race in American Literature
  • HIST 131 (TH) Historical Inquiry: Reconstruction *
  • HIST 307 American Immigration History
  • HIST 361 African American History 1619-1865
  • HIST 362 African American History 1865-present
  • IDS 205 Chemawa Indian School Partnership Program
  • IDS 209 Cross Cultural Communication (.5)
  • IDS 343 Field Studies in Chicago
  • POLI 303 (AR) Topics in Political Theory: Death in America *
  • POLI 379 Latinos in U.S. Politics [Crosslisted with LAS 379]
  • REL 214 (TH) Religion in America
  • REL 252 Soul Food: Eating and Drinking in Western Religion
  • RHET 244 (AR; IT) Latino/Latina Voices in the U.S.
  • RHET 350 Topics in Rhetoric/Media Studies: Race, Gender and the Public Sphere *
  • SOC 114 (US) Race and Ethnic Relations
  • SOC 332 Urban Sociology
  • SOC 358 Special Topics: Race/Class/Gender and the Media*

* Only when this particular topic is taught.


  • Thabiti Lewis, Assistant Professor of English
  • Sammy Basu, Associate Professor of Politics
  • Nathaniel Cordova, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies
  • Seth Cotlar, Associate Professor of History
  • Robert Dash, Professor of Politics
  • Rebecca Dobkins, Associate Professor of Anthropology
  • Emily Drew, Assistant Professor of Sociology and American Ethnic Studies
  • Ellen Eisenberg, Dwight and Margaret Lear Professor of American History
  • Steve Hey, Professor of Sociology
  • Deborah L. Loers, Dean of Student Development and Associate Professor of Psychology
  • Frann Michel, Associate Professor of English
  • Pamela Moro, Professor of Anthropology
  • Charlie Wallace, Chaplain and Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Course Listings

AES 090X Native North American Film (1)

[Crosslisted with ANTH 090X]

A study of films and videos about and/or by Native North Americans. It is intended to introduce the cultures of indigenous peoples of Canada and the U.S. through visual media, as well as to explore and critique the conventions employed by the filmmakers. Ideally taken concurrently with ANTH 231.
  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Dobkins

AES 114 (US) Race and Ethnic Relations (1)

[Crosslisted with SOC 114]

The nature of majority–minority relations in society are explored with a focus on the causes and consequences of prejudice, discrimination and racism, with special attention on the increasing importance of institutionalized racism in contemporary American society. Attention is also paid to how race relations have changed over time and the differences in the experiences of immigrant and racial minorities. Studies on race relations are explored from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Freshmen and Sophomores only.

Mode of Inquiry: Understanding Society.

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Hey, Drew

AES 144 (US) Topics in American Ethnic Studies (1)

This course provides the flexibility to offer introductory topics of interest in American Ethnic Studies. The course may study a particular topic within American Ethnic Studies, or offer a survey of topics within American Ethnic Studies. Prerequisite: Closed to junior and seniors, except by consent of instructor.

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

AES 150 (US) Introduction to American Ethnic Studies (1)

This course examines the historical, political and social dynamics of race and ethnicity in the United States. It investigates the creation and effects of these social concepts on the experiences, identities and relations of various peoples, as well as the culture and structures of society. The course will focus on the various ways race and ethnicity are recreated in society, particularly by the media, and the way these "social constructions" perpetuate privilege and social inequality. It will critically investigate the myths and contradictions of race and ethnicity, and will attempt to understand what purposes they serve in a "color-bound" contemporary U.S. society. Understanding Society.

Prerequisite: Freshmen and Sophomores only or consent of instructor.

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Drew

AES 231 (US; TH) Native North American Cultures (1)

[Crosslisted with ANTH 231]

This course offers a survey of the dynamic, changing cultures of Native North America, from the time of the first peopling of the continent to the present day. The approach emphasizes the diversity of these cultures, as well as the complexity of the relationships between Native American and non-native peoples. Particular attention given to Oregon and the Northwest.

Mode of Inquiry: Thinking Historically; Understanding Society; Indigenous Peoples and Cultures Cluster

Prerequisite: ANTH 150 recommended.

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Dobkins

AES 244 (AR; IT) Latino/Latina Voices in the U.S. (1)

[Crosslisted with RHET 244 and LAS 244]

This course is a historical-critical survey of the public discourse of Latino/Latinas in the United States from colonial times to the present. As such, we will focus significantly on such issues as language, establishment of identities, civil rights, immigration, the formation of communities, political participation, and cultural assimilation. In order to accomplish our task we will study the historical context of the discourse, prominent rhetors, and various pieces of discourse. Analyzing the environment out of which discourse springs, contributors to voice, and the arguments, styles, themes, and issues articulated is crucial for understanding Latino/Latina voices in the United States. This course will also count toward the Rhetoric and Media Studies major.

Mode of Inquiry: Analyzing Arguments, Reasons, and Values and Interpreting Texts

  • Offering: Annually
  • Instructor: Cordova

AES 244 Museum Studies Seminar (1)

[Crosslisted with ANTH 303]

This seminar is designed to introduce students to the field of museum anthropology and to the theoretical and practical dimensions of museum studies. As an applied research experience, it offers the opportunity to do hands-on work with the Native American collection and exhibition program at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Topics include the application of contemporary anthropological theory to work in museums, particularly in terms of issues of cultural representation, ethics, fieldwork, and museum display. Students will learn and apply skills in collections and archival management, exhibition development, and museum public programming.

Prerequisites: ANTH 231 or ANTH 351, and consent of instructor

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Dobkins

AES 330 Theory and Methods in American Ethnic Studies (1)

In this course, students will become familiar with the theoretical and methodological approaches in the interdisciplinary and evolving field of Ethnic Studies. It examines the key theories and methods that give voice to the realities of people of color, as well as group relations and resistance to inequality. This course analyzes the major theoretical paradigms for understanding race and ethnicity, evaluating the strengths and limitations for each framework in helping to bring about social change. It also explores and utilizes the methods of social science, recognizing the role, contribution and imitations of scientific inquiry for interpreting social reality. Other epistemological approaches will be assessed to determine what they bring to bare on empirical realities.

Prerequisite: AES 150; junior/senior standing; and at least one elective course in AES.

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Drew

AES 337 African-American Literature (1)

[Crosslisted with ENGL 337]

A study of modern/contemporary literature written by African-Americans. Formal and thematic analysis of the novel with secondary examples from folktale, lyric and drama.

Prerequisite: A 100-level Literature course and a minimum of sophomore standing

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Staff

AES 344 Advanced Topics in American Ethnic Studies (1)

This course provides the flexibility to offer special topics of interest in American Ethnic Studies. The course may study a particular topic within American Ethnic Studies, or a particular problem dealing with American Ethnic Studies methods and/or theory in depth.

Prerequisite: Prior coursework in American Ethnic Studies encouraged. Closed to first year students, except by consent of instructor.

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

AES 351 (AR) Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights and the Environment (1)

[Crosslisted with ANTH 351]

This course focuses upon environmental and human rights issues affecting indigenous peoples worldwide. Using the cross-cultural, comparative and field-based perspectives that distinguish anthropology, this course examines some of the most pressing problems facing the world’s indigenous peoples, explores strategies used by these groups in facing human rights and environmental violations, and offers students the opportunity to study about and take action on these issues. Case studies of specific indigenous groups will be drawn from different world areas, including North and South America, Africa, Oceania and Asia.

Prerequisite: Prior coursework in Anthropology or Environmental Studies required

Mode of Inquiry: Analyzing Arguments, Reasons and Values. Indigenous Peoples and Cultures Cluster, Environmental Cluster

  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: Dobkins

AES 357 Ethnicity and Race in American Literature (1)

[Crosslisted with ENGL 357]

Exploration of traditions in America's multicultural literatures: literary representations of relations between and within different ethnic and racial groups. Texts and emphases will vary.

Prerequisite: A 100-level literature course

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Michel

AES 361 African American History 1619-1865 (1)

[Crosslisted with HIST 361]

This course examines the experience of African Americans in the United States from 1619 to the end of the Civil War. Course topics will include the Atlantic Slave Trade, the relationship between slavery and racism, the development of free black communities in the North and South, slave religion, patterns of slave resistance and accommodation, the emergence of a shared African-American culture in the 18th century, and the African-American role in both the abolitionist movement and the Civil War.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Cotlar

AES 362 African American History 1865-Present (1)

[Crosslisted with HIST 362]

This course examines the experience of African Americans in the United States from Reconstruction to the present. Course topics will include Reconstruction, the Jim Crow period, the Great migration, the urban experience, the Civil Rights Movement, and African American leadership.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Eisenberg

AES 491 (W) Independent Study in American Ethnic Studies (1)

This course provides an opportunity for students to engage an area or topic of their choice in American Ethnic Studies, through a program of directed reading, research and writing, discussion and peer review. It involves developing and presenting a major research paper under the close supervision of an AES faculty member, sometimes in consultation with faculty teaching senior seminars outside of the AES program. This process is intended to deepen students' insight into the perspectives, theory and methods of AES; hone their skills of critical thinking; sharpen their abilities to analyze theory and test ideas through research; and ensure that their research designs and methodologies are effective and appropriate.

Prerequisite: AES 150 and AES 335; senior standing

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff