Race and Public Policy (RPP) Subfield

In the Race and Public Policy subfield students use and interrogate social science methodologies in examining the condition of the American state and American institutions and practices. With an analysis of race and ethnicity at the center, students will examine the development of institutions and practices, with the growth and formation of racial and ethnic identities, including changing perceptions, measures, and reproduction of inequality.


AAS 235, SOC 236

Raceis Socially Constructed: Now What?

The truism that "race is socially constructed" hides more than it reveals. Have Irish Americans always been white? Are people of African descent all black? Is calling Asian Americans a "model minority" a compliment? Does race impact who we date or marry? In this course, students develop a sophisticated conceptual toolkit to make sense of such contentious cases of racial vision and division as the uprising in Ferguson. We learn to connect contemporary events to historical processes, and individual experiences to institutional policies, exercising a sociological imagination with the potential to not only analyze,but transform the status quo.

Ruha Benjamin

AAS 247, POL 382

The New Jim Crow - US Crime Policy from Constitutional Formation to Ferguson

This course explores the political development of America's racially disparate punishment regime. We trace the history of US crime policy, moving through US constitutional formation, Reconstruction and lynch law, and Jim Crow punishment in the South and urban North. We focus on punishment in post-civil rights America, and we devote special attention to policing, the death penalty, and the interconnected wars on crime, drugs, immigration, and terror. Our overarching goal is to understand the political construction of crime, colorblindness, and legitimate state violence.

Naomi Murakawa

AAS 301, SOC 367

Black to the Future: Science, Fiction, and Society

Designer Babies. Ancestry Tests. Organ Regeneration. Biometric Surveillance. These and more comprise our 21st centurylandscape. This interdisciplinary course examines the values and politics that shape science, medicine, and technology, asking who bears the risk and who reaps the benefit of innovations? Social inequality is legitimized, in part, by myths about human difference. And while course participants grapple with past and present stories that shape science and technology, we also apply a sociological imagination to the future, exploring how contemporary hopes and fears may give rise to "real utopias" that are more equitable and just.

Ruha Benjamin

AAS 302, SOC 303, ANT 378, GHP 302

Political Bodies: The Social Anatomy of Power and Difference

Students will learn about the human body in its social, cultural and political contexts. The framing is sociological rather than biomedical, attentive to cultural meanings, institutional practices, politics and social problems. The course explicitly discusses bodies in relation to race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age, health, geography and citizenship status, carefully examining how social differences come to appear natural. Analyzing clinics, prisons, border zones, virtual realities and more, students develop a conceptual toolkit to analyze how society "gets under the skin", producing differential exposure to premature death.

Ruha Benjamin

AAS 350, SOC 362

Rats, Riots and Revolution: Housing in the Metropolitan United States

This class examines the history of urban and suburban housing in the twentieth century US. We will examine the relationship between postwar suburban development as a corollary to the "underdevelopment" of American cities contributing to what scholars have described as the "urban crisis" of the 1960s. Housing choice and location were largely shaped by discriminatory practices in the real estate market, thus, the course explores the consequences of the relationship between public policy and private institutions in shaping the metropolitan area including after the passage of federal anti-housing discrimination legislation in the late 1960s.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

AAS 351, GSS 351

Law, Social Policy, and African American Women

Journeying from enslavement and Jim Crow to the post-civil rights era, this course will learn how law and social policy have shaped, constrained, and been resisted by black women's experience and thought. Using a wide breadth of materials including legal scholarship, social science research, visual arts, and literature, we will also develop an understanding of how property, the body, and the structure and interpretation of domestic relations have been frameworks through which black female subjectivity in the United States was and is mediated.

Imani Perry

AAS 362, WWS 497, POL 338

Race and the American Legal Process: Emancipation to the Voting Rights Act

This course examines the dynamic and often conflicted relationships between African American struggles for inclusion, and the legislative, administrative, and judicial decision-making responding to or rejecting those struggles, from Reconstruction to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In tracing these relationships we will cover issues such as property, criminal law, suffrage, education, and immigration, with a focus on the following theoretical frameworks: equal protection, due process, civic participation and engagement, and political recognition.

Imani Perry

AAS 368, REL 368, POL 424

Topics in African American Religion: Black Religion and the Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s is most often depicted as "the flowering of African American arts and literature." It can also be characterized as a period when diverse forms of African American religious expressions, ideologies, and institutions emerged. This course will explore the literature of the Harlem Renaissance, particularly the writings of Langston Hughes, to understand the pivotal intersection of race and religion during this time of black "cultural production."

Wallace D. Best

AAS 370, AMS 374

Policing Racial Order: The History of U.S. Police Power from Slave Patrols to Drones

This course investigates the role of police power in reinforcing or challenging racial order in all of its economic, spatial, and gendered manifestations. We pay particular attention to the ways in which commonplace notions of safety and security develop in relation to the history of territorial expansion, war, wealth accumulation, and the racialized distribution of private property.

Naomi Murakawa

AAS 375, PSY 375

Social Stigma: On Being a Target of Prejudice

Individuals subject to social stigma possess,or are believed to posses, an attribute that marks them as members of a group that is devalued within a particular social context. In this coursewe will attempt to understand the psychological impact of being stigmatized by reading and discussing social psychological research and theories that illustrate central ideas and debates on this topic. Specifically, we will examine how social stigma affects academic performance, health, interpersonal interactions andself-understanding, as well as how people cope with stigma.

Stacey Sinclair

AAS 380, AMS 382

Public Policy in the U.S. Racial State

This course explores how ideas and discourses about race shape how public policy is debated, adopted, and implemented. Black social movements and geopolitical considerations prompted multiple public policy responses to racial discrimination throughout the twentieth century. Despite these policy responses, discrimination persists, raising theoretical concerns about the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, political representation, the role of the state (meaning government or law) in promoting social justice, and the role of social movements and civil society in democratizing policymaking and addressing group oppression.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

AAS 386, AMS 386

Race and the City

Race and the City examineshow the politics of race and racialization shaped the development of American cities over the course of the 20th century. The course covera diverse array of topics including:ghettoization, urban renewal, the creation of public housing, popular music (Jazz, Motown, Hip Hop), public art and graffiti, literature of urbanity, the fair housing movement, deindustrialization andgentrification. We will have particular foci on the following cities: Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles andPhiladelphia.

Imani Perry

AAS 404, GSS 419, POL 429

Intersectional Activisms and Movements for Social Justice

Examines the role of intersectionality roots as a political intervention growing out of and based in movement politics. Begins with early articulations of intersectional perspectives on the part of Black feminists and feminists of color, emphasizing its movement roots. Examines empirical research about social movements and political activism, focusing on scholarship that considers both the potential of and the challenges to movements that try to address the imbrication of racial inequalities with other forms of marginalization and domination, including (though not limited to) heteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, and the carceral state.

Dara Strolovitch

AFS 303

Governing Post-Colonial Africa: Family, Religion, and the State

This seminar addresses today's post-colonial Africa. It examines structural responses and strategies developed by African nations and communities upon insertion into the global political and economic world. What are these structural strategies? What traditional and or modern resources have African nations and communities utilized? What state are they in now? Themes to be investigated include political, social and religious structures, global economic interaction and women in society. The character of Africa before modern nationhood will form the backdrop to discussions of Africa as we know it today.

Christiana Agawu

AFS 320, ANT 421

The Resources Curse and Development in Africa

This course examines the relationship between natural resource wealth and development in Africa. The dominant discourse on resource wealth on the continent has largely been associated with the resource curse. The construction and reproduction of the resource curse thesis is explored, particularly against the backdrop of the recent resource boom and scramble on the continent, and the changes that have occurred in Africa's resource-rich economies. It seeks to address the following questions. Is resource endowment inimical to development in Africa? What causes the resource curse in Africa? How can the resource curse be overcome in Africa?

Godwin Onuoha

AFS 427

Conflict in Africa

Examines selected aspects on conflict in Africa. The concept "conflict" is used to mean organized and/or collective political violence that causes the death of about 1,000 people per year. The course will focus on the following issues: analytical debates about conflicts in Africa; actors/participants such as guerrillas, warlords, and child soldiers; continental politics about conflict; the politics of humanitarian intervention; wars in the Great Lakes Region; the war and warlords of West Africa; the genocide in Rwanda, and the aftermath of wars, especially those of Southern Africa.

Annette Seegers

AMS 311

Education and Inequality

In Education and Inequality, students examine the relationship between inequality and public schooling in the United States. Students explore the educational practices and organizational structures through which inequality is produced and reproduced inside schools and how social class, race, ethnicity, gender, and other social differences shape educational outcomes. Additionally, we consider students' different experiences in schools and the ways in which individuals and groups respond to inequality. With a few exceptions, the focus is on K-12 public education with emphasis on urban schools in low-income communities.

Kathleen Nolan

AMS 342, HIS 442

Race, Racism and Politics in Twentieth-Century America

In this seminar, we will explore the relationship between race, racism and politics throughout twentieth-century America. Topics will include segregation; immigration and assimilation; the role of racial politics in World War II and the Cold War; the civil rights movement and white massive resistance; Black Power and the white backlash; and contemporary politics up to the election of Barack Obama.

Kevin Kruse

AMS 379, GSS 349

Race and Living Laboratories

In this course we will trace the intersecting discourses of race, nation, and disease throughout US history. We will examine various “living laboratories” or sites of state-sanctioned medical experimentation on populations deemed to harbor disease. In doing so, we will consider the ways in which science has shaped (and continues to shape) the meaning of race as well as other categories of social difference.

Tala Khanmalek

ANT 210

Cross-Cultural Explorations of Gender in Film and Ethnographic Texts

Through visual and written ethnographies, this course will explore cross-cultural conceptions of gender. Specifically, this course will address the relationship between religion, sexuality, and social reproduction; and the salience of gender to issues of oppression, empowerment, and social change.

Carolyn Rouse

ANT 301

The Ethnographer’s Craft

What are social and cultural facts? And how do we identify these facts using anthropological research methods? This field methods course is for students interested in learning how to work with complex and often contradictory qualitative data. Students will examine how biases and beliefs affect the questions we ask, the data we collect, and our interpretations. Key topics include objectivism, interpretation, reflexivity, participant-observation, translation, and comparison.

Carolyn Rouse

ANT 304

Political Anthropology

A cross-cultural examination of collective action, power, authority and legitimacy. Topics will include the diversity of systems of leadership and decision making, the sociocultural contexts of egalitarianism and hierarchy, contemporary contests over power-sharing and state legitimacy, forms of power outside the state, and human rights struggles.

Bridget Purcell

ANT 322

Cross-Cultural Texts

This seminar closely reads descriptive and fictive works replete with cross-cultural representations and juxtaposed histories. What makes a given comparative account--whether colonialist or postcolonialist--compelling? Various genres--ethnographic essays, intense travel narratives, translated tales and myths, and novels--receive concerted attention.

James Boon

ANT 350

Economic Anthropology and Pop Culture

This course explores the idea of consumerism and commodities in cultural life, particularly as it affects various segments of the American population. Using as background the theory of exchange and the development of both pre-capitalist and capitalist economies, topics will include race and fashion, religion and materialism, and the social value of reciprocity. Students will also engage in a semester-long project aimed at understanding the cultural context of the American desire for things.

Carolyn Rouse

ANT 403, AAS 403, GHP 403

Race and Medicine

Why do certain populations have longer life expectancies? Is it behavior, genes, structural inequalities? And why should the government care? This course unpacks taken-for-granted concepts like race, evidence-based medicine, and even the public health focus on equalizing life expectancies. From questions of racism in the clinic to citizenship and the Affordable Care Act, "Race and Medicine" takes students on a journey of rethinking what constitutes social justice in health care.

Cecilia Rouse

ARC 305

Urban Studies: Analysis of Contemporary Urban Form

Studies of the contemporary problems and process of urban design and physical planning. Analysis of the design and organization of space, activities, movement, and interaction networks of the urban physical environment.

Sarah Whiting

ARC 401

Theories of Housing and Urbanism

The seminar will explore theories of urbanism and housing by reading canonical writers who have created distinctive and influential ideas about urbanism and housing from the nineteenth century to the present. The writers are architects, planners, and social scientists. The theories are interdisciplinary. One or two major work will be discussed each week. We will critically evaluate their relevance and significance for architecture now. Topics include modernism, functionalism and social change; technological futurism; social critiques of urban design, the New Urbanism; the networked city; and sustainable urbanism.

Andrew Laing

ECO 351

Economics of Development

Surveys development economics including current issues, historical background, growth theories, trade and development, markets and planning, strategies for poverty alleviation, agriculture, technology, employment, industry, population, education, health, and internal and external finance. Selective attention to particular countries and regimes.

Thomas Fujiwara

ENV 325, AAS 326

The Perpetual Plantation: Race, Environment, Resistance

What is environmental racism? What is environmental justice? This course will explore those questions, focusing on the plantation as a key site for understanding the complex relationship between race and the environment in the U.S. and in other global contexts. We will trace the environmental legacies of the plantation through literature, film, and popular media from the eighteenth century to the present day, and will also examine histories of resistance in and against plantation geographies, from the antebellum cotton plantation to the contemporary prison complex.

Britt Rusert

GHP 409, AAS 410

Mortality at the Margins: Race, Inequality and Health Policy in the United States

This course will critically examine the unequal distribution of disease and mortality in the United States along the axes of race, ethnicity, class and place. Through in-depth engagement with case studies, critical historical texts and public health literature we will explore why individuals from some race/ethnicities, class backgrounds, and geographies are more vulnerable to premature death and adverse outcomes than others. Student work will culminate in a policy memo and a presentation, allowing them to hone valuable skillsets for future participation in the research and policy processes.

Alecia McGregor

GSS 345, AAS 355, ENG 399, AMS 373

Pleasure, Power and Profit: Race and Sexualities in a Global Era

Pleasure Power and Profit explores the intimate ways that sexualities and race are entwined in contemporary culture, historically, and in our own lives. Why are questions about sexuality and race some of the most controversial, compelling, yet often taboo issues of our time? Exploring films, popular culture, novels, social media, and theory, we engage themes like: race, gender and empire; fetishism, Barbie, vampires and zombies; sex work and pornography; marriage and monogamy; queer sexualities; and strategies for social empowerment such as: Black Lives Matter, the new campus feminism, and global movements against sexual and gender violence.

Anne McClintock 

HIS 393, AAS 364, WWS 389

Race, Drugs, and Drug Policy in America

From "Chinese opium" to Oxycontin, and from cocaine and "crack" to BiDil, drug controversies reflect enduring debates about the role of medicine, the law, the policing of ethnic identity, and racial difference. This course explores the history of controversial substances (prescription medicines, over-the-counter products, black market substances, psychoactive drugs), and how, from cigarettes to alcohol and opium, they become vehicles for heated debates over immigration, identity, cultural and biological difference, criminal character, the line between legality and illegality, and the boundaries of the normal and the pathological.

Keith Wailoo

HIS 474, AMS 474

Violence in America 

This course considers the history of collective violence in America. We will define "collective violence" broadly to encompass people acting on behalf of the U.S. government (i.e., police, soldiers, militiamen, and immigration officers) and people acting as civilians (i.e., slaveholders, vigilantes, terrorists, and protestors). A series of case studies (drawn primarily from the 19th and 20th centuries) will introduce disparate forms of violence, including vigilantism, slavery, massacre, imperialism, riot, segregation, and terrorism.

Beth Lew-Williams

POL 319, AAS 316, AMS 391

History of African American Political Thought

This course explores central themes and ideas in the history of African American political thought: slavery and freedom, solidarity and sovereignty, exclusion and citizenship, domination and democracy, inequality and equality, rights and respect. Readings will be drawn, primarily, from canonical authors, including Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Martin Delany, Booker T. Washington, Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B. Wells, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Ralph Ellison, Kwame Ture andCharles Hamilton, and Martin Luther King, Jr. This is an introductory course, which emphasizes both thematic and historical approaches to political theory.

Desmond Jagmohan

POL 344, AAS 344

Race and Politics in the Age of Obama

This course focuses upon the evolution, nature, and role of black politics within the American Political System, in the post- civil rights era. The concern is with black people as actors and creators and initiators in the political process. Specifically, this course will examine various political controversies that surround the role of race in American society. These controversies or issues, affect public opinion, political institutions, political behavior, and salient public policy debates. Thus this course will assess and evaluate the contemporary influence of race in each of these domains while also exploring their historical antecedents.

LaFleur Stephens-Dougan

POL 366, AFS 366

Politics in Africa

A comparative approach to African political systems. The meanings of the concepts of modernization, national integration, and development are explored. Topics include the inheritances of colonial rule, independence and the new tasks, political patterns in the postindependence period, prospects for political change, and African interstate relations.

Leonard Wantchekon

POL 421

Seminar in American Politics

Investigation of a major theme in American politics. Reading and intensive discussion of selected issues in the literature.

Christopher Achen

PSY 252

Social Psychology

The scientific study of social behavior, with an emphasis on social interaction and group influence. Topics covered will include social perception, the formation of attitudes and prejudice, attraction, conformity and obedience, altruism and aggression, and group dynamics.

Diana Tamir

SOC 201

American Society and Politics

An introduction to changing patterns of family structure, community life, economic relations, voluntary associations, moral beliefs and values, social and political movements, and other aspects of civil society and politics in the United States.

Paul Starr

SOC 210, LAS 210, URB 210, LAO 210

Urban Sociology: The City and Social Change in the Americas

By taking a comparative approach, this course examines the role of social, economic, and political factors in the emergence and transformation of modern cities in the United States and selected areas of Latin America. The class considers the city in its dual image: both as a center of progress and as a redoubt of social problems, especially poverty. Special attention is given to spatial processes that have resulted in the aggregation and desegregation of populations differentiated by social class and race.

Patricia Fernandez-Kelly

SOC 216

The Ghetto

This course will examine the ghetto as a social form and as a "concept" in the United States. We intend to explore the phenomenon as it moved from European cities to American communities and became what might be described as a hyper-ghetto today. We intend to pay close attention to both the macro social forces that make a ghetto a place of contempt and the everyday aspects that makes it not only a livable space but one that thrives and survives in a multitude of micro-social ways. We will explore how the social form came to exact such a distinct imprint on our collective imaginations.

Terry Williams

SOC 221, AAS 221, GSS 221

Inequality: Class, Race, and Gender

Inequalities in property, power, and prestige examined for their effects on life chances and lifestyles. Primary focus on socioeconomic classes in modern societies. Special attention to the role of religious, racial, and ethnic factors. Comparisons of different systems of stratification in the world today.

Bonnie Thornton Dill

SOC 227, URB 227

Race and Ethnicity

An introduction to the sociological study of race and ethnicity which begins by encouraging students to exercise some critical distance from the core concepts of race and ethnicity. Topics will include comparative racism, immigration, the experiences of the second generation, whiteness, the culture of poverty debate, slums and ghettos, and the debate over the "underclass."

Patricia Fernandez-Kelly

SOC 345

Money, Work and Social Life

The course offers a sociological account of production, consumption, distribution, and transfer of assets. Examining different sectors of the economy from corporations and finance to households, immigrants, welfare, and illegal markets, we explore how in all areas of economic life people are creating, maintaining, symbolizing, and transforming meaningful social relations. Economic life, from this perspective, is as social as religion, family, or education.

Viviana Zelizer

SOC 359

Higher Education and Society

Is higher education still a pathway to opportunity? This course will examine issues related to college access, aid, and accountability. We will begin by reviewing recent research on topics such as: the changing demographics of students, the definition of "merit" in admissions, the challenges of assessment, and student loan debt. We will consider how college is increasingly associated with later outcomes such as income, occupation, health, and family formation. We will also discuss the politics of higher education reform and whether innovations like online courses can reshape the future of postsecondary schooling.

Matthew Lawrence

SOC 361, GSS 361

Culture, Power, and Inequality

An introduction to theories of symbolism, ideology, and belief. Approaches to the analysis and comparison of cultural patterns. Emphasis on the social sources of new idea systems, the role of ideology in social movements, and the social effects of cultural change. Comparisons of competing idea systems in contemporary culture.

Amin Ghaziani

SPA 360, AAS 361, AMS 375, LAO 360

Urban Diversity and Segregation in the Americas

Diversity has sometimes been viewed as a source of vitality and strength, other times as a threat to cultural or national cohesion. This seminar explores histories of segregation and debates about diversity in a hemispheric framework, asking: how can Latin American perspectives inform our understanding of the U.S.? How has the U.S. shaped urban developments in Latin America, as a model or cautionary tale? What is the interplay between identity politics and moral values? Urbanism and ethics? How does diversity relate to inclusion, difference, and inequality? Topics include immigration, globalization, social justice, planning, race and racism.

Bruno Carvalho

WWS 331, AAS 317, SOC 312

Race and Public Policy

Analyzes the historical construction of race as a concept in American society, how and why this concept was institutionalized publicly and privately in various areas of U.S. public life at different historical junctures, and the progress that has been made in dismantling racialized institutions since the civil rights era.

Douglas Massey

WWS 345, AAS 384, PSY 384

Prejudices: Its Causes, Consequences, and Cures

Prejudice is one of the most contentious topics in modern American society. There is debate regarding its causes, pervasiveness, and impact. The goal of this course is to familiarize students with the psychological research relevant to these questions. We will review theoretical perspectives on prejudice to develop an understanding of its cognitive, effective, and motivational underpinnings. We will also discuss how these psychological biases relate to evaluations of, and behavior toward, members of targeted groups. In addition, research-based strategies for reducing prejudice will be discussed.

Stacey Sinclair

WWS 370, POL 308, CHV 301

Ethics and Public Policy

This course examines basic ethical controversies in public life. What rights do persons have at the beginning and end of life? Do people have moral claims to unequal economic rewards or is economic distribution properly subject to political design for the sake of social justice? Do we have significant moral obligations to distant others? Other possible topics include toleration (including the rights of religious and cultural minorities), racial and gender equity, and just war.

Stephen Macedo