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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 354 Racial Justice Movements in the U.S.
  • 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
  • ENGL 242 (W) The Essay
  • ENGL 253 (IT) Diversity in American Literature
  • ENGL 337 African American Literature I: Slave Narratives and Early African American Literary Tradition
  • ENGL 338 African American Literature II
  • ENGL 344 Major Authors
  • ENGL 354 The Novel, focusing on Chicago
  • ENGL 357 Ethnicity and Race in American Literature
  • HIST 131 (TH) Historical Inquiry
  • HIST 262 American Women's History
  • HIST 306 History Through Biography
  • HIST 307 American Immigration History
  • HIST 342 Studies in American 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
  • 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 232 (AR) Persuasion, Propaganda and the Mass Media
  • RHET 244 (AR; IT) Latino/Latina Voices in the U.S.
  • RHET 350 Topics in Rhetoric/Media Studies
  • SOC 114 (US) Race and Ethnic Relations
  • SOC 332 Urban Sociology
  • SOC/ANTH 358 Topics in Sociology/Topics in Anthropology

* Only when this particular topic is taught.


  • Ellen Eisenberg, Dwight and Margaret Lear Professor of American History, Chair
  • Sammy Basu, Associate Professor of Politics
  • Nathaniel Cordova, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies
  • Seth Cotlar, Associate Professor of History
  • Rebecca Dobkins, Associate Professor of Anthropology
  • Emily Drew, Assistant Professor or Sociology and American Ethnic Studies
  • Leslie Dunlap, Assistant Professor of History
  • Frann Michel, Associate Professor of English
  • Pamela Moro, Professor of Anthropology
  • Charlie Wallace, Chaplain and Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Course Listings

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 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 354 Racial Justice Movements in the United States (1)

Since the earliest stages of U.S. "nation-building," principles or white supremacy have been woven into the fabric of U.S. society. This course explores some of the most significant movements in U.S. history that sought to resist this dominant racial ideology and to promote social justice. It also considers some of the lesser-known protest efforts in which smaller coalitions of engaged people helped to build a culture of resistance and ultimately transform society. Students will analyze why, how and with what consequence movements for racial justice emanate, gain momentum, and ultimately seed new social struggle. Through examining social resistance, they will consider how movements for racial justice--historical and contemporary--contribute to identity construction, the re-writing of a "people's history," social justice struggles, and the reclamation of democracy. Closed to first-year students.

Prerequisite: AES 150, SOC 114, Closed to first-year students

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Drew

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 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; senior standing

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff