Ethnic Studies

This article was written by the NAU Ethnic Studies Department. We do not own any content in this article. Click here to read the original article.

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Ethnic studies is …

… the interdisciplinary study of race and ethnicity, as understood through the perspectives of major underrepresented racial groups in the United States. As a student, you will draw upon many disciplines and areas of thought to comprehend the sociocultural, intellectual, and historical experiences that inform the construction of racial, gender, and cultural identities.  You will question the origin and continuity of race and racism, and perhaps discover your own area of research and action that can affect social justice for all.

The beginning

Ethnic studies emerged in universities across the nation during the 1960s as a result of social reform movements for equity and empowerment of racial minorities.  Scholars developed research perspectives shaped partially by histories of oppression in the U.S. as well as by the intellectual and cultural resources and traditions of Black, Asian, Chicano, and Native American groups.  Fifty years ago there were virtually no courses reflecting the literature, art, culture, and politics of these racialized groups, and what was taught was negative or harmful.  Since the conclusion of the Civil Rights movement, ethnic studies programs have provided the means to address racial and ethnic concerns in a productive manner, and have contributed to critical analyses of such traditional fields such as:

  • history

  • literature

  • political science

  • anthropology

  • psychology

  • law & criminal justice

Why Ethnic Studies is Important Today

Ethnic studies is critical because it provides a multidisciplinary lens through which new approaches to learning will emerge. It produces culturally competent, global citizens; provides graduates and scholars a professional, competitive advantage in the workforce; and represents diverse perspectives of reality in a globalized world. 

Being an effective citizen in today’s world means:

  • understanding worlds different from your own

  • engaging with the community for partnerships

  • integrating social justice in whatever you do

  • applying diplomacy, awareness, and respect to your work

  • valuing your own cultural identity and appreciating the differences around you

Benefits of Ethnic Studies

  • enhancing your skill base and career potential

  • challenging you to think in more complex ways about identity and history and avoid cultural stereotyping

  • strengthening your understanding of diversity, equity, and justice, which may provide a competitive advantage in future employment

  • preparing you for a more globalized world

But more importantly, a background in ethnic studies will:

  • teach you to value and appreciate diversity

  • make you more aware of global experiences and opportunities

  • give you skills for working with a variety of people

  • prepare you to make a difference

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What is Ethnic Studies?

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When did Ethnic Studies emerge and why was it created? 

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How do Ethnic Studies classes prepare students for their lives outside of the classroom?