Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

socl 122 race and ethnic relations

Spring 2012

Course Description

This course focuses on the development of cultural, society, and self-understanding by exploring the social construction of race, and how these ideas of race affect interpersonal relations and influence laws, policies, and practices which differently affect racial and ethnic communities. A primary goal of this course is to help you learn sociological theories of race and ethnicity and how these theories differ from psychological, biological, and anthropological theories of race. You will learn how the ideas of race and ethnicity have been shaped by past and present cultural images, and how these ideas affect economic and legal policies.

In this course, we examine how racial categories are constructed and reified; how various racial groups have been affected by this socially constructed concept of race; the commonalities and differences of each race’s experiences; how race affects the identities of individual; and efforts to fight against racial oppression and for social justice. By studying race and ethnic relations, this class help us to better understand the economic, political, and cultural contexts which foster racial oppression and the tools various social movements have used to eliminate oppression.

In this course we will study the main theoretical concepts of race and ethnic relations from the field of Sociology. The course aims to make the students knowledgeable of the main issues related to race and ethnic relations and it’s theoretical history. In the first part of the course, we will focus on the most important sociological theories on the subject, thus enabling the students with a framework for any substantive study of race and ethnic relations. In the second part, we will analyze race and ethnic relations in Italy, dealing with its history and transformations. We will study emigration, immigration and the recent debates on ethnicity in Italy.

By the end of the course, you should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the conditions which have influenced racial and ethnic relations as well as an understanding of when and how social movements have worked towards a just society.


Knowledge Areas satisfied: Societal and Cultural Knowledge

Skills Developed: Critical Thinking Skills and Dispositions

Values Requirements satisfied: Understanding Diversity in the World

Learning Objectives:

Knowledge Area (Societal and Cultural Knowledge)

By the end of the semester, the students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of sociological theories of race and ethnicity, and how we use these theories to assess the development of racial and ethnic categories.

2. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the relationships among cultural, economic, political, and social forces, and their impact on human behavior.

3. Demonstrate an understanding of differences of class, gender, and race in societies, states, and cultures.

4. Demonstrate awareness that human values and behavior, ideas of justice, and methods of interpretation are influenced by culture and time.

5. Demonstrate an understanding of race and ethnic relations in Italy and how they have changed over the time.

6. Demonstrate an understanding of the relationships among historical events, culture, and social forces.

7. Demonstrate awareness that human values, ideas of justice, and methods of interpretation influence and are influenced by time, culture, and personal perspective.

8. Differentiate among historical and contemporary perspectives about the world with a view to fashioning a humane and just world.


Skills (Critical Thinking Skills and Dispositions):

In this course, you will employ or practice the following skills:

1. Demonstrate the ability to analyze a reading selection, newspaper/magazine article of film/movies for sociological content.

2. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of varying points of view.

3. Generate new ideas, hyphotheses, opinions, theories, questions and proposals, and develop strategies for seeking and synthesizing information to support and argument, make a decision or resolve a problem.

4. Monitor individual thinking or behavior in order to question, confirm, validate, or correct it.


Values Area (Understanding Diversity in the World):

In this class, we will study the formation of racial categories. Through films, textbooks, and articles, we will learn how various social categories have changed through history, as well as, the social, political, and economic reasons why these racial categories were defined and re-defined.



Learning Activities:


Fenton, Steve, Ethnicity (Key Concepts), Polity Press, 2010 (2nd edition).


Articles will be posted on Blackboard.

Films and Documentaries:

Film and documentaries on race and ethnic relations will be watched and analyzed.




Attendance and class participation:

            Students are strongly recommended to come to class. After more than 2 absences, the grade drops. Your active participation in lecture is also strongly encouraged. Not only will it allow me to assess your level of understanding, but it will also facilitate the development of critical thinking skills necessary to engage the course material. In order to better facilitate classroom discussion of concepts and theories, small group discussion will be a consistent theme of the course. Each discussion group will be assigned questions that are relevant to course readings and lectures. Classroom participation will be based on students’ participation in small group discussion.

Students must take the examinations and tests when they are set, because make up sessions will not be given, except for very serious reasons and authorized by the Academic Dean.

Cheating or dishonesty of any kind on an examination will be penalized by an F (0 points).


Midterm exam:

            The midterm exam will be based on a selected questions drawn from the assigned readings and topics covered in the first part of the course.


            There will be 1 test based on the readings and topics of the second part of the course.

Research project:

            The students are required to write a critical essay. This is NOT an opinion paper. Your paper must be supported by theory and/or substantive research that has been considered in class. The essay will be 10,000 characters long (including spaces, footnotes and bibliography) to be handed in no later than April 18.

Final exam:

            The final exam, question form, will be based on the topics covered in the second part of the course.

Grade distribution

The final grade will be calculated as follows:

Attendance, assigned readings, class participation                                                     30%

Midterm                                                                                                                      20%

Test 1                                                                                                                          10%

Critical Paper                                                                                                              10%

Final examination                                                                                                        30%


Grading scale:

A = 96-100; A- = 93-95; B+ = 89-92; B = 85-88; B- = 81-84; C+ = 77-80; C = 73-76; C- = 69-72; D+ = 65-68; D = 61-64; F = 60 and below



            Students with disabilities who wish to discuss academic accommodations should contact me the first week of class, as well as the Learning Assistance Center.


Semester Schedule:


Week 1

Introduction to the class

Week 2

Basic concepts

What is race? What is ethnicity?

Week 3

Discourses on ethnicity and race

Week 4

Race versus ethnic groups

Week 5

Film on race and ethnic relations

Week 6

The Primordialism Debate

The Constructionist Approach

Week 7

Midterm exam

Week 8

Film on Ethnic and race relations

Week 9

Race and ethnicity in Italy

Week 10

Documentary on ethnic relations in Italy

Week 11

Migration and ethnicity in Italy

Week 12

Concepts of race and ethnic relations in Italy Today

Week 13


Week 14

Final exam