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phalangingle in theoryishotcrew

Can I just substitute an interpretive dance in place of a list?

Although I am generally of the opinion that I would never be a member of a club that would have someone like me as a member, I decided to give this a try.

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  1. "Foucault" in "Dictionnaire des philosophes" 1984, - Maurice Florence


  1. Distinction - Bourdieu


  1. El Laberinto de la Soledad - Paz


  1. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life - Goffman


  1. Borderlands/La Frontera - Anzaldua


  1. The Interpretation of Cultures  - Geertz


  1. Aberrations in Black - Ferguson


  1. Ain't I a Woman  - bell hooks


  1. Giving an Account of Oneself - Butler


  1. Selections from the Prison Notebooks - Gramsci

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Ethnic studies departments often have the most diverse faculty.

OK, I'll bite. How are you defining "diverse"? One of the biggest problems with "diversity" in academia is that it is almost defined as "ethnic diversity." And when "diversity" means "this one specific thing," we've pretty much just failed at diversity. Sure, you may have a variety of ethnicities represented on the faculty, but too often such programs are not ideologically, politically, or methodologically diverse. One common complaint about such programs is that you have all the colors of the rainbow saying the exact same thing.

I think that such programs may try to be as you describe them, but they often fail.
"almost always"
In terms of the institutional function of an ethnically diverse faculty it doesn't matter whether it amounts to a rainbow that espouses the same ideology, politics, and methodology. Faculty of ethnic studies often serve on diversity committees, mentor minority students, and participate in activities that promote diversity. Highlighting this aspect of ethnic studies was part of my response to the idea that it is just an "intellectual fad." These programs are not just an intellectual movement, but also perform much needed institutional functions on campus. A priori pushed me on this and pointed out that this may be so, but it doesn't provide a compelling reason to buy into the intellectual work of these programs. If all ethnic studies programs do is fulfill this function, then their justification for existence is on shaky grounds because other departments could just higher more faculty from historically underrepresented communities. To this I would say that while theoretically, yes, this would logically make sense. However, most departments are making slow progress on these fronts (number of minority faculty members in many social science and humanities programs still seems to be low) and it remains the case that ethnic studies programs are to carry the burden of fulfilling the above mentioned functions.

Kurt_Hampson, you raise a good point about diversity. When I wrote diversity I had in mind ethnic diversity (especially minorities from historically underrepresented communities). This kind of diversity is especially important because America is a highly racialized society. Of course other forms of social location should be considered. As far as ethnic studies programs being relatively homogeneous in terms of ideology, politics, and methodology, I don't find this to be the case. In my experience ethnic studies programs have been departments most open methodologically. Also, while ethnic studies fashions itself as "anti-disciplinary," I do think a case can be made for an emerging canon of works. To the extent that common perspectives are emerging there is validity to the idea of rainbow homogeneity. This perspective, however, is one that I think is unique to ethnic studies and emerges as a critique of established disciplines. I attempted to convey this with the Moynihan report example citing two works that are common in ethnic studies (the hooks and Ferguson) that are not considered in a mainstream social science journal's recent reevaluation of the report's legacy. While the criticisms of the report by hooks and Ferguson are contestable (as Max_ambiguity's critical questioning of my example shows) they represent a perspective (women of color feminism) that is almost completely excluded from consideration in the journal. Politically ethnic studies may be more homogeneous than mainstream social science and humanities, but methodologically and theoretically I don't think it is.
We had this conversation in a workshop the other day: that there is a cannon for "ethnic" courses as much as there has been a traditional cannon. This is from the mouth of a number of our ethnic studies (and non-American, mind you) faculty. Also, our school is pushing invisible diversity a lot--first generation college students, socio-economic diversity.We participate in a number of recruitment programs for ethnic minorities but have discovered that good financial support and recruitment of socio-economic diversity actually has brought more total diversity to the campus--both ethnic and socio-economic. We have also been working on religious and sexual orientation, other forms of diversity that aren't worn on one's skin and which bring diversity in ways that focus on ethnicity alone. The diversification of the faculty, however, even in programs like Black Studies and Latino/a, has not happened as such. In fact, 2 of the last hires for those programs have been white men. Also, methodologically, ethnic studies programs on multiple campuses I have been to have been dominated by po-co while women's studies has been dominated by variations on Marxism. There seems to be little methdodological diversity among the practitioners in such programs though their may be a diversity among the theories themselves.

And "Ethnic" studies programs are, in many ways, so focused on what we call "Third World" studies or hyphenated American studies that they often ignore ethnic diversity among so-called "whites" who are NOT in places other than present day America privileged and who has histories of repression and under-representation (even in American history) as strong as what we flippantly and uncritically call "ethnic" groups in present-day America. I was reminded of this quite vividly the other day when we were asked to fill out a new "race and ethnicity" survey for faculty. There were two ethnicities listed "Latino/a, not Latino/a" and then 6 or 7 "races" including "white" "black" and "pacific islander." Right. This focus and limiting of what "ethnic" studies are is reductionist and leads to a narrowing of methodologies and approaches since they become focused on repression and colonialism. Oddly, non-Western cultures frequently get excluded if they don't fit this profile--even programs like Middle Easter Studies and Asian Studies are often not included in"ethnic" studies.
I work in Native American Studies, and one of the biggest complaints by many Native scholars and students is that "ethnic studies" often equals "African American." I teach at a university near two reservations, and Native American faculty and students are dead last in terms of numbers compared to the rest of the population. One complaint is that, by painting "ethnic studies" with a broad brush, we have allowed African American Studies to dominate the field (one phrase I have heard to describe Native American Studies is "minority within minority studies").

That said, in your "emerging canon of works," which Native American scholars are in your opinion most fundamental? Which have most helped shape your opinions of ethnic studies as methodologically open?