1 IDIM: Cultural Pluralism and Social Justice When I was fourteen years old, I spent a week during the summer in Chicago s Englewood neighborhood on the South Side, engaged in volunteer service. I tutored in a public school and worked with my peers to create a recreational afternoon program in a public city park which happened to be on the list of the twenty most-dangerous areas for children in all of Chicago. Thinking about the program now, I find it quite problematic twenty-some white suburban teenagers marching into a park in a historically African-American neighborhood, unaware of cultural norms or traditions, oblivious to their own enormous privilege, prepared only to help a community who had not invited them to be there. Those are serious concerns, and they mar the memories I have of my time there. However, it was a lifechanging experience for me. It was my first experience outside of the middle-class, white, suburban bubble I had been raised in, and it opened my eyes to the persistence of racism, white privilege, and segregation in American society. I returned every summer throughout high school, and during the school year I read voraciously, learning about racism, segregation, the white flight, urban poverty, public education funding - everything I could about the lives of the children I met and loved during the summer and kept in touch with for years afterwards. My naïve confidence in the United States as a place where liberty and justice for all applied to everyone, everywhere, shattered. And as I learned more about the reality of poverty, inequality of opportunity, and systemic injustice, my unquestioning faith in our American system was replaced by an intense desire to change the system and make the ideals it upholds true and meaningful for every citizen. My vague dream of someday being a teacher crystallized into a goal of gaining experiential knowledge of institutional problems, particularly in the public education system, and pursuing opportunities to create lasting, systemic change. Today as an undergraduate student I crave knowledge and understanding of the world and my place in it. At the University of Minnesota, I
2 hope to gain the education I seek. Toward that end, I am proposing an interdepartmental major titled Multicultural Studies and Social Justice. The first component of my program is titled U.S. Race Relations. Race relations within the U.S. is an enormous field of study and inquiry, and I will not pretend that I will explore or understand all of it, rooted as it is in centuries of complex global history and policy. However, I believe that I will be able to gain a basic introduction to this area of study and to achieve a better understanding of both historical and contemporary understandings of race and racism within the United States. This will prepare me for further study and exploration. In SOC 3251 Sociological Perspectives on Race, Class and Gender and ANTH 4047 Anthropology of American Culture, I will study the role of race and racism in American culture in a broad societal context. Sociological Perspectives presents theories of social stratification and social construction of difference, and discusses structural causes of racism and other forms of discrimination. Since race does not exist on its own, but works in conjunction with other elements of human identity, this course also examines the meaning of intersectionality and its effects on individuals and systems. The anthropology course is essentially a semester-long ethnographic study of United States culture, focusing on salient issues such as immigration, homosexuality, racism, and urban planning. Again, this course emphasizes the connections between various identities and social roles. The two courses combined provide a well-rounded introduction to modern American culture and the institutions and structures which maintain certain systems of power and dominance, especially those designed to perpetuate white supremacy. The preceding courses supply a foundation of knowledge about general patterns in contemporary American society related to stratification, discrimination, and inequality. Building on that foundation, I
3 would like to delve more deeply into the particular issue of race and its role in the United States, both at this point in time and throughout American history. First, I will take CHIC 4231 The Color of Public Policy. This course will examine in depth the ways that race affects, and is affected by, various federal policies and programs in the U.S. The course will include an overview of public policy from colonialism to the present day, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, school segregation, and immigration. This course will also include a community engagement component, giving me an opportunity to work with an organization doing research related to race and policy. After studying the role of race and racism in the U.S. government and public policy, I will take two other courses to examine race in other contexts. In SOC 3211W American Race Relations, I will consider various ways of studying race and ethnicity within the U.S., once again in both a historical and a contemporary context. The sociological perspective of this course will bring an understanding of methods of social analysis to my studies. In HIST 3875W Comparative Race and Ethnicity in U.S. History, I will study the evolution of the concept of race and its role in different historical periods in the U.S. This course will enhance my understanding of race as a social construction as well as the purposes of its creation and continued existence. This course will provide valuable historical depth to the knowledge I have gained in other courses of contemporary American understandings of race and privilege. The second section of my program is titled Multicultural Literature. I have chosen to include this section for several reasons. First, and most simply, I have always loved language and literature, both for its beauty and for its transformative possibilities in individuals and entire societies. I welcome the opportunity to study literature of any genre for this reason alone.
4 However, I have not chosen to include this particular section simply because I enjoy it. I would like to focus specifically on multicultural literature because I feel it fits well with the larger context of my studies. The coursework in the preceding section will provide me with a more analytic and historical understanding of multiculturalism in the U.S. Literature is another lens through which to view that same reality. I believe the most important facet of studying literature, particularly literature from traditions that have historically been marginalized, is, again, the possibilities for transformation it creates. In Mediating Politics and Aesthetics in Multiethnic Literary Pedagogy, Laurie Grobman writes: I suggest that the multiethnic text comprises a transformative space through which diverse aesthetic and cultural forms intersect and crosspollinate and that this space becomes a way to expand readers literary and aesthetic sensibilities beyond what they already know. It is through the creative power of this space that new possibilities for aesthetics arise and bring readers to consider objectivity in aesthetics and ethics in the pursuit of political ideals of acknowledging human worth and dignity. (146). Elsewhere, Grobman clearly delineates the difference between imaginative literature and real life, which is particularly challenging for students when reading texts by writers from unfamiliar cultures (149). As one of those students, I want to be especially careful of making this distinction. I believe that having sociology and anthropology courses which do focus on real life will be helpful, as will the presence of several academic advisors and instructors who will be quick to remind me of the differences. One of my main goals for my literary study is to examine and explore how a literary text imagines possibilities beyond the real, beyond what the author, readers, and society already know (151). Paying close attention to the intersections and divisions between historical reality and imaginative literature will enhance my literary study and my understanding of our society. This section is problematic, and I have devoted much thought to how I should shape it. I will continue to think about the problems created by this field of study, and to discuss them with instructors, advisors, and peers. In Towards a Multicultural Pedagogy: Literary and Nonliterary Traditions,
5 another article by Laurie Grobman in which she discusses in great detail many of the problems created by trying to establish a multicultural course of study, she concludes: To chose only one among the positions within multiculturalism ignores the valid other perspective and undermines the theoretical, moral, and intellectual basis of the field; honestly addressing conflicts helps students to learn that multiple perspectives exist and broaden[s] their visions (237). Studying multicultural literature, and all of the conflicts which accompany it, will enrich and inform my entire academic course of study, and thinking about and working through the challenges that arise will continue to be a crucial part of my learning and development as a reader, a student, and a citizen. ENGL 3001V Honors: Methods of Textual Analysis provides a theoretical foundation for this component of my program, preparing me to read, interpret, and write critically about other texts. This course explores basic literary analysis and includes literary theory, linguistics, and literary criticism. Theoretical analysis will be put into practice in the reading of literature from often unheard voices in combination with traditional canonical texts. The fundamental idea behind this particular course is that one story can and should be told again and again, from diverse perspectives. For example, after reading Joseph Conrad s The Heart of Darkness, we read Chinua Achebe s Things Fall Apart and Tsitsi Dangerembga s Nervous Conditions, both responses to the racism and imperialism prevalent in Conrad s work. This type of comparative study has prepared me to think and write critically about texts and to consider various methods of interpreting and responding to the world in which one finds oneself. However, my coursework will not be limited to a comparative view. Other courses will focus on the writings of particular cultural groups, reading the texts for themselves rather than focusing on how they intersect and conflict with traditional canonical works. My literary studies will continue with AFRO 3598W Introduction to African-American Literature and Culture. This course will provide me with an overview of African-American writings in
6 both a historical and modern context. Given that African-American history is a key part of the history of race relations in the United States, this course will complement the sociology and public policy courses that I have taken. In addition, I simply hope to learn more about African-American writing, its history, common themes and tropes, and role in American society. I then plan to explore Asian-American literature in AAS 4311 Asian-American Literature and Drama. Asian Americans are at once revered as model minorities and yet still considered the Other in American culture, a theme I m interested in learning about and finding out how it is discussed in literature. This course will also begin with a historical perspective and move to include contemporary Asian American writing. Of course, while many groups within the United States have come here as immigrants (whether or not by choice), possibly the most marginalized and oft-forgotten minority group is made up of people who were here long before any others arrived American Indians. AMIN 3201 American Indian Literature will include literature from various tribal cultures around the U.S. A significant facet of this course is the consideration of a largely oral tradition and its impact on self-expression and authority in the U.S. In CHIC 3507W Introduction to Chicano Literature I will learn about the role of literature and other forms of written expression in establishing and maintaining cultural, intellectual, and political movements within the Mexican-American community. This course, like the others, will be arranged chronologically, beginning with a history of native peoples and moving through colonization, the Mexican-American war, and on to the present day. Finally, in GWSS 3303W Writing Differences: Literatures by Women of Color, I will consider the intersection of race and gender. This course will consider women s writing in conjunction with social
7 and political movements, and will examine the intersecting forces of gender, race, and class in determining a person s place in American culture. Grobman writes, Inspired change in the public sphere is simply not possible without fostering creativity, adding that attending to the creativity in literature is one way to accomplish this objective. (140). The overarching goal of my program of study is to prepare myself to work with others toward inspired change, and in the final section of my program, Justice and Peace Studies, I will learn about the many ways to do so not just through creative literature. For me, this is the most important section. While studying U.S. Race Relations from an analytic perspective will give me a better understanding of race and privilege, and Multicultural Literature will provide a chance for me to learn about writing from diverse cultural traditions and social groups, I ultimately dream of being in some capacity a social change agent, working to create a more just and peaceful world. This course of study will allow me to explore ways of doing so, and prepare me for future learning and working opportunities here in the United States and around the world. I am very aware of, and interested in, the connections between injustice and violence; violence is often necessary to enforce a system of inequality, to quell rebellion and ensure cooperation. The struggle for justice is also a struggle for peace, and vice versa. I don t think one can exist without the other, and for that reason I chose to begin my coursework with SW 3810 Introduction to Peace Studies, a course which explores ideas of peacemaking and conflict resolution, in conjunction with CHIC 4275 Theory in Action: Social Justice and Community Engagement, a course which delves into social justice theory and explores strategies of implementation through community involvement, specifically within the Latino community. Peace Studies examines sources of individual and collective violence in American society and the world as a whole. It then considers methods of nonviolent conflict resolution
8 and the steps necessary to create positive peace. Theory in Action combines an intense study of social justice philosophy including critical race theory, critical pedagogy, and liberatory education with volunteer service within the community, focusing on putting concepts into practice. Taken together, these courses supply a solid foundation for the further study of social justice. Understanding ideas and theories of justice and peace is one thing; implementing them in an unwilling or uninformed society is quite another. In a study abroad course, CAS 329E Comparative Social Movements, I will learn about campaigns for social change around the world including Tanzania, India, New Zealand and Mexico. I will consider the commonalities and differences between them, looking at strategies and tactics in addition to the surrounding social conditions. Upon returning home, I will study the methods of creating positive social change in SW 3501 Theories and Practices of Social Change Organizing. This course considers various answers to the following questions: How does one mobilize people and resources? How does one influence politicians and policymakers? What methods have worked in the past, and what haven t? How can we transition from theory to reality? Through case studies and theory I will explore these topics in great depth, and I will have the chance to practice what I m learning through engagement with a community organization working for social change. Because I m also very interested in youth and public education, and the place for justice and peacebuilding work with young people in schools, I ve chosen to include YOST 4317 Youthwork in Contested Spaces and PHIL 4325 Education and Social Change. Youthwork in Contested Spaces will focus on the effects of violence on youth and the role of people working with youth in violent areas. These topics are very much related to peace studies and conflict resolution, and will be an important preparatory course for work I hope to do in the future as an educator. Similarly, Education and Social Change will help to prepare me for future work with students. In this course I will study the ways in
9 which education can be used as a means to create positive social change, as well as theories related to public education in a democracy. I will finish my course of study with SW 4501 Senior Seminar in Social Justice, where I will bring together all of the issues and topics that I have explored in the preceding courses. Social justice unites all of the issues I ve mentioned: poverty, race, education, peacemaking, public policy, and literature. In this capstone course, I will explore the connections between those issues and create a cohesive final project. My coursework at the University of Minnesota will be complemented by a year abroad as a student in the International Honors Program. While I have only included one course from this year in my formal academic plan (Comparative Social Movements), I feel that the experience will be an invaluable addition to my undergraduate studies. The program will allow me to travel to at least four countries on as many continents to learn about perspectives from outside the U.S. and to consider issues of concern to me from other viewpoints. Traveling and living in other countries will provide me with an opportunity to expand my moral imagination, my ability to accept and to some degree comprehend points of view very different from my own. Perhaps the most important part of the experience, however, will be the opportunity it will give me to reflect on my own cultural identity and the place in which I exist at this particular moment in our world. After completing this study abroad program in conjunction with the rest of my coursework, I will have a better understanding of significant issues related to multiculturalism in the United States. I will have a better understanding of my own identity and role as an American and a global citizen. I will be prepared for further study of issues that interest me, as well as work in an educational setting. Above all, I will have a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning and discovery, both about myself and about the world in which I live.
10 BIS/IDIM Program Course Worksheet Name: ID#: Total # of credits in proposed program (see Page 2 for credit requirements): 56 Total # 3xxx-5xxx level credits in proposed program: 52 Total credits in program left to complete: IDIM Title: Cultural Pluralism and Social Justice Title: U.S. Race Relations Dept. Course Code Course Title Complete: Credits (Grade) Not Complete: Credits (Term) SOC 3251 Sociological Perspectives on Race, Class, and Gender 3 ANTH 4047 Anthropology of American Culture 3 CHIC 4231 The Color of Public Policy 3 SOC 3211W American Race Relations 3 HIST 3875W Comparative Race and Ethnicity in U.S. History 3 TOTALS: 3xxx-5xxx level credits in Area: 15 Total Credits in Area: 15 Title: Multicultural Literature Dept. Course Code Course Title Complete: Credits (Grade) Not Complete: Credits (Term) ENGL 3001V Honors: Methods of Text Analysis 4 AFRO 3598W Introduction to African-American Literature and Culture 3 AAS 4311 Asian-American Literature and Drama 3 AMIN 3201 American Indian Literature 3 CHIC 3507W Introduction to Chicano Literature 3 GWSS 3303W Writing Differences: Literature by Women of Color TOTALS: 3xxx-5xxx level credits in Area: 19 Total Credits in Area: 19 Title: Justice and Peace Studies Dept. Course Code Course Title Complete: Credits (Grade) Not Complete: Credits (Term) SW 3810 Introduction to Peace Studies 3 CHIC 4275 Theory in Action: Social Justice and Community Engagement 3 SW 3501 Theories and Practices of Social Change Organizing 3 CAS 329E Comparative Social Movements 4 SW 4501 Senior Seminar in Social Justice 4 YOST 4317 Youthwork in Contested Spaces 3 PHIL 4325 Education and Social Change 4 TOTALS: 3xxx-5xxx level credits in Area: 24 Total Credits in Area: 24