Racial and Ethnic Relations/SS340

Racial and Ethnic Relations/SOCY 240
Course Syllabus
Spring 2014
Prof. Tricarico

This course looks at race and ethnicity in modern American society, especially New York City with its extensive and diverse experience of immigration. It relies on a perspective that emphasizes the social construction of ethnicity and race in historical circumstances. While racial and ethnic identities are not natural phenomena, they have real sociological consequences for identity, culture, and social relations including the formation of groups.

Instructional Strategies

The course utilizes a mix of instructional methods. New material will be introduced in lectures complemented by a variety of textual resources including video and the Internet; readings assigned outside of class reinforce topics. Lecture topics are geared to research projects. Projects are organized around questions that can be investigated using sociological research methods like observation and interviews. A first draft will be presented in class in a seminar format. Class presentations are intended to underscore key teaching points. In this writing-intensive class, students have the opportunity to revise this version and submit a second draft within one week of class presentations.

The course text is Ethnicity and Race 2d edition (2007) by S. Cornell and D. Hartmann although the 1st edition is acceptable and can be purchased online at a considerable saving. The book is an indispensable resource for the main themes of the course. It is supplemented by readings and other material available on the Internet (see below). Reading is essential for a higher level of understanding and must be incorporated into written submissions for a maximum grade.

Student Evaluation

Research projects that result in written reports are the basis for a course grade. As many as 6 projects are assigned which correspond to the topics in the course outline. Grades on written reports are 80% of the course grade. The remaining 20% of the course grade is for class participation. This component is measured by contributions to the whole group learning experience and is based on oral presentations of the first draft. Engagement in classroom work is negatively impacted by persistent lateness and intrusive personal technology.


Following college policy, students are allowed 6 hours of unaccounted absence. Persistent lateness must be remedied (see above).


Office Hours: TBA in M121


Topic Outline

Supplementary Readings:

Gordon, Milton 1964. Assimilation in American Life. New York: Oxford.

Portes, A. and Min Zhou. 1993. “The New Second Generation: Segmented Assimilation and Its Variants”. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 530 (November):74-97.

Tricarico, Donald 1984a. The Italians of Greenwich Village. Staten Island: Center for

Migration Studies

______ 1984b. “The ‘New’ Italian American Ethnicity” in The Journal of Ethnic

Studies (Spring):

______ 1991. “Guido: Fashioning an Italian American Youth Subculture” in The

Journal of Ethnic Studies (Spring):41-66.

______ 2001. “Read All About It! Representations of Italian Americans in the Print

Media in Response to the Bensonhurst Racial Killing” in Notable Selections in Race and

Ethnicity, edited by A.A. Aguirre and D.V. Baker: 291-319.

_____ 2008. “Dressing Italian Americans for the Spectacle: What Difference Does Guido

Perform?”, The Men’s Fashion Reader, edited by A. Reilly and S. Cosbey, New York:


2010. “Narrating Guido: Contested Meanings of an Italian American

Youth Subculture” in W.J. Connell and F. Gardarphe, eds., Anti-Italianism: Essays on Prejudice (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 163-199.

Waters, Mary 1990. Ethnic Options. Berkeley: U. of California Press

Video Used in Class

  1. “Farmingville” (DVD)
  2. “Carrier” (PBS): “Divisions” (Episode 4, Chapter 3)
  3. Race: Not Biological (Youtube)
  4. The Amish of Ohio (PBS/Youtube)
  5. “Italian Americans: Our Contributions” (Youtube)
  6. “African American Lives”, I and II (PBS)
  7. Interview with Elijah Anderson on “Cosmopolitan Canopy” (FOX Philly web site, 12 May 2011)
  8. “Magic and Bird” (ESPN/Youtube)
  9. “My American Girls” (DVD)

Project 1: Definitions

Discuss the concepts of ethnicity and race that have social scientific rigor. Rely on Cornell and Hartmann, class notes, and support materials like the video “Race: Not Biological”. Directly address the following points:

Project 2: Finding Ethnicity in Your Everyday Life

For this project, you will pair up with another student in class to conduct an interview. Interview questions are provided below. Your paper is based on responses to questions put to you during the interview. The interview is intended to find how ethnicity can matter in the social world. Take into account identities referenced to nationality, religion, and race. Also note “new ethnicities” like Latino, Caribbean, and Asian. Focus on:

  1. To what extent is ethnic identity explicitly or consciously invoked to define these relationships?
  2. To what extent is ethnicity implicit and taken-for-granted in these worlds?
  3. How does ethnicity matter in these relationships or groups? Consider the role of ethnicity a) as a credential of membership or social boundary; b) as a source of cultural content (i.e., a script referenced to a heritage), and; c) claims of invidious status (i.e., that one group is “better” than or superior to another in things that matter).
  4. To what extent does ethnicity matter less or become unimportant when measured against your parents’ and grandparents’ generation?
  5. In conclusion, assess how important is ethnicity in the overall scheme that is your life by comparing it to other identities that you hold.

Download the PDF version of the syllabus here

Social Sciences Disciplines

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