Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

SOCL 122 Race & Ethnic Relations

Spring 2016


Sociology 122

Period: Spring Semester 2016               Professor: Sarah F. Maclaren Ph.D

Lessons: Monday                                 E-mails: sar.maclaren@gmail.com; smaclar@luc.edu

Time: 9.30-12.00                                             Office hours: Monday 12.00 – 1.00/ by appointment.


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 its 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: Social and Cultural Knowledge

Skills Developed: Critical Thinking Skills and Dispositions

Values Requirements satisfied: Understanding Diversity in the World



Learning Objectives:

Knowledge Area (Social 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, hypothesis, 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.


Course Requirements



Students will complete the assigned readings and participate in class discussions and activities. The assigned reading materials should be read before (not only after) the lessons as the grade on class participation depends on demonstrating that the texts have been studied and the discussions on the topics dealt with are highly encouraged and are an integral part of the course. At the beginning of every lesson, key questions on the reading assignments will be proposed to the whole class.


Midterm exam:

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


Book or Film Review:

Each student will write review on a book, a film or a documentary. Each student will select a topic of interest related to aspects of race and ethnic. This provides an opportunity to either explore a subject from the course in more depth, or to pursue material not otherwise covered in the course. The review will be 6,000 characters long. Deadline March  2016.


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). Deadline: April  2016.


Final exam:

The final exam will include questions based on the readings and discussions covered in the second part of the course.



Course grading:

The final grade will be calculated as follows:

Attendance and class participation                                                                                 30%

Midterm                                                                                                                       20%

Research project                                                                                                          20%

Review                                                                                                             10%

Final examination                                                                                                          20%


Grading scale:

93 – 100% A;                  90 – 92% A-;               87 – 89% B+;                  83 – 86% B       80 – 82% B-;   

77 – 79% C+;                  73 – 76% C;                     70 – 72% C-;   67 – 69% D+;                  63 – 66% D;

0 - 62 % F


Attendance and Deadlines Policy


Students are highly recommended to attend the lessons regularly, as the course does not only address theoretical issues but also the social and cultural experience of living and learning about Italy. The success of this course depends on interaction among all the members of the class. Given, however, that fact that we meet twice a week, no more than TWO unexcused absences are permitted. Each additional absence will incur a 5% lowering of final grade. If the student is ill and notifies the dean and me, that, of course, is an excused absence.


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).



We will use the Sakai site for this course. Students are expected to check the site regularly, also because emails will be sent to the class.



Learning Activities:


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

In this extensively revised edition, Steve Fenton updates his concise and accessible introduction to ethnicity, drawing on new published work and recent social and historical changes. Discussing an extended range of theorists and illustrations from around the world, Fenton explores and clarifies the core meanings and the shifting ground of this contested concept. More space is given to ideas of ′threat′ and ′competition′ in conceptualizing ethnicity, as well as to recent issues in migration, especially increased migration to the US from Central and South America. Fenton situates ethnic identities and interest in the changing modern world, and seeks to explain the contemporary conditions of delineation along ethnic and racial lines. Without assuming the centrality of ethnic difference, this book asks: Does it matter? When does it matter? Is it as important as many have assumed?


Films and Documentaries:

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




            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:

  1.  Presentation of the course and Fenton, Introduction
  2.  Fenton, Chapter 1
  3.  Film/Docum ‘And They Came to Chicago’
  4.  Fenton, Chapter 2
  5.  Fenton, Chapter 3
  6.  Fenton, Chapter 4
  8.  Fenton, Chapter 5
  9.  Fenton, Chapter 6 – Deadline REVIEW
  10.  Fenton, Chapter 7
  11.  Fenton, Chapter 8
  12. Fenton, Chapter 9 – Deadline Research Project
  13. Review
  14. Apr. – Final exam –