The Department of Ethnic Studies offers four undergraduate degrees in discrete fields and one Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies.
The Department had its origins in the demands of students and others in the Third World Liberation Front in 1969. In response to these demands, as well as a resolution from the faculty Senate, the Ethnic Studies Department was established. Undergraduate degree programs in African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano Studies, Native American Studies, and comparative Ethnic Studies were introduced in the subsequent five years. In 1974, African American Studies became a department in the College of Letters and Science.
The Ethnic Studies Graduate Group was founded by faculty members in Ethnic Studies and African American studies in 1984, and was gradually incorporated into the Ethnic Studies Department as a fully-departmentalized PhD program.
The Ethnic Studies Library was founded in 1997 out of reading rooms established by students, faculty, and staff in Asian American Studies, Chicano Studies, and Native American Studies. Materials uniquely held by the ES Library have provided the key primary material for doctoral dissertations and scholarly books and other publications.
It is also important to recognize that the Department and the individual programs have relationships with ethnic communities, particularly in the Bay Area. Our programs and Department are rooted, historically and structurally, in the struggles of people of color for inclusion and recognition in American society, and we see this rootedness as both a strength and an obligation, in both epistemological and ethical terms. We hasten to add that this is not at all unusual in the academy, and we would point out the “rooted” nature of many academic departments in the long history of agricultural colleges in the land-grant tradition.
The Ethnic Studies Department offers undergraduate degrees in the following areas: Ethnic Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, and Native American Studies.
The group major in Ethnic Studies provides a core curriculum designed to develop a comparative and multidisciplinary understanding of the experiences and communities of African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicano/Latinos, and Native Americans.
Students majoring in Ethnic Studies study the history, culture, politics, and sociology of Third World communities in the United States within the general context of American society and institutions. Thus, they pursue knowledge vital for a critical understanding of contemporary society and for social changes to improve the lives and communities of racial minorities. Ethnic Studies majors also prepare themselves for advanced graduate study in either academic or professional fields.
Asian American Studies
The Asian American Studies Program is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of historical and contemporary experiences of Asian-ancestry groups in local, national, and global contexts. "Asian American" is a panethnic term designating a racialized population made up of various groups of Asian ancestry, and encompassing both the foreign-form and the U.S.-born.
As initially constituted as a component of the emergent field of ethnic studies in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the AASP centered on domestic U.S. concerns. It continues to be part of a national activist effort to increase the political, economic and cultural representation of people of color in American life, more specifically, to improve the educational relevance and ethnic diversity of institutions of higher learning. However, the AASP has also been responsive to the shifting geopolitical, economic and sociocultural forces most conveniently summed up by the term globalization, and is now increasingly attentive to issues of transnationality and diaspora while retaining its original commitment to community empowerment.
The Chicano/Latino Studies major offers an interdisciplinary curriculum of academic study that critically examines the historical and contemporary experiences of people of Mexican descent in the context of American society and institutions. Moreover, in light of continuous immigration from Mexico, and now Central America, the Chicano studies major curriculum includes the study of particular aspects of Mexican history, culture, and politics as they bear upon the Chicano community, past and present.
Emphasis is given in the major to the student developing a broad knowledge of the Chicano experience. Thus, the major stresses the analysis of the interrelationships in the historical background, cultural patterns, and artistic expressions of the Chicano community in order to acquire a well-rounded, in-depth understanding of the contemporary interface between Chicanos and American society. In this connection, the major strives to incorporate various disciplines in its approach, such as political science, sociology, anthropology, history, literary criticism, and art.
Through the interdisciplinary nature of our curriculum, the major is aimed at preparing students for incorporation into the world of work and for a wide range of advanced graduate work and/or professional training in various fields.
Native American Studies
The Native American Studies Program exists to broaden the understanding of students interested in the history, culture, and contemporary situations of Native Americans in the United States.
The curriculum has been structured to provide courses that deal with both historical and cultural analysis of Native American cultures and contemporary legal and social institutions that affect Native American life. The program not only stresses sound academic preparation in the classroom but also allows students the flexibility to take part in community-oriented education through field work or studies directed towards community situations and problems.
The Department offers a Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies. The program is interdisciplinary by nature, and graduate students draw upon the expertise and mentorship of faculty within and beyond the department.
The Ethnic Studies graduate program focuses on the historical and sociocultural study of the core groups racialized in United States history: African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanos and Latinos, and Native Americans; areas of increased interest include Pacific Islander and Muslim American communities. Transdisciplinary in approach, the program encourages students to adopt a broad range of theories and methods to analyze the construction of these racialized ethnocultural groups in relation to each other, in the EuroAmerican context, and in a transnational context.