Graduate Program

The “Graduate Group in Ethnic Studies” was co-founded in 1984 by the faculties of the Departments of Ethnic Studies and African American Studies. Over time, areas of study have expanded to include less historically studied or newer minority populations and include the study of newer forms of mixed race, as well as the construction of whiteness in the history of Euroamerican groups as part of the complex processes of racialization.


Broad theory-focused ES seminars include surveys of post-colonial theory; oppositional thought; transnational feminisms; queer feminist thought; visual culture and racialization; poetics of alterity; radical political thought; psychoanalysis and phenomenology; philosophies defining the human; sex and the body of meaning; and the cultural politics and economics of art worlds.  The Department of ES has long offered seminars on “Third World” or women of color feminisms within the U.S. or transnationally, that include the foundational contributions of queer feminists of color. 

Training for graduate students in comparative and interdisciplinary methods is ensured through two years of core courses required of all graduate students, regardless of their principal disciplinary interests. Thus, a primarily social sciences-oriented graduate student must study foundational and key critical theories and methodologies of the humanities, and vice-versa.  All students must ground themselves in the critical terms and issues of comparative and interdisciplinary ethnic studies in their first semester (ES 200) and in interdisciplinary and comparative studies of history and narrativity in their second semester (ES 201).  During the second year, two simultaneous courses on theories and methods, ES 202 “Cultural Texts” and ES 203 “Social Structures,” meet together three to six times a semester to discuss joint readings.

Masters Exam

The two-year sequence ends with a comprehensive take home examination focused on the content of this interdisciplinary, comparative ethnic studies sequence of courses. In addition to these courses, ES 230 and 240 courses are advanced studies of ethnic studies transdisciplinary and comparative theories and methodologies, respectively.  The 250s, the research seminars with varying and specific topics, may  reflect comparativity and/or interdisciplinarity within one umbrella group or across groups, or be primarily theoretical in nature, such as post-colonial, cultural studies, and oppositional theory and philosophy courses. 

Doctoral Qualifying Exam

Graduate students demonstrate their readiness to embark on the dissertation project by showing mastery of their primary fields during an oral exam, generally taken at the end of the third year of study.

Prospectus and Dissertation

Upon advancement to candidacy, graduate students present a dissertation prospectus to their doctoral committee. The dissertation must reflect original research on a topic of significance in Comparative Ethnic Studies and analytical in nature. Upon final acceptance of the dissertation by each of the committee members and approval by the Dean of the Graduate Division, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is awarded. There is no requirement of a dissertation defense.

More information

See the Curriculum page for more details on each of these areas.

Graduate program

Ethnic Studies Department
506 Barrows Hall #2570
Berkeley, CA 94720-2570
510-642-6456 fax

Office Hours: Mon - Thurs 9-12, 1-4, Fri 9-12