Ethnic Studies is the study of the histories and cultures of different races all over the world. The field arose and evolved in the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s in response to the growing data that the traditional disciplines in the social sciences were Eurocentric—that is mostly focusing on Europe and the Western world. In the same period, people of color such as African-Americans, American Indians, American Asians and Latinos had stretches of greater self-awareness and radicalization.
Ethnic Studies departments were accordingly established in many educational institutions in the United States and worldwide. Both public and private colleges and universities across the United States offer courses in Ethnic Studies, so that any interested student should not find it very difficult to come across a program that will best suit his or her interests.
The best and most comprehensive courses in Ethnic Studies can still be found in colleges and universities, where programs are being offered for a vast array of ethnicities including Asian Americans, Chicanos, Latinos, Native American Indians and African Americans. The thrust of each program is driven to a large part by the training and specialization of the faculty.
In the University of California-Berkeley’s Department of Ethnic Studies, the approach to Ethnic Studies is interdisciplinary in nature. Students are encouraged to explore the relationships among society, literature and culture practices, to critique traditional assumptions, and to understand classes, gender and sexuality in other races. The University of California-San Diego, on the other hand, also focuses on internal and external factors shaping ethnic relations and influencing ethnic identity.
While the programs of the University of California system are inclined towards the political and social dimensions of different races and ethnic groups, other colleges offer courses leaning towards the art of different ethnic groups. For instance, the College of Arts and Sciences of Lewis and Clark University offers elective courses on Pre-Columbian Art that include studies on architecture (palaces, temples and urban planning), decorative art (jewelry, necklace, silver work), and ceremonial art (funerals).
Yet other programs on Ethnic Studies focus on the cooking and cuisine of different races. Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University offers a training program in Thai cuisine, where enrollees would be exposed to Thai eating culture (regional Thai cooking as well as ceremonial and traditional foods), Thai cookery (methods of cooking, main ingredients, famous dishes), and medicinal Thai food (herbs and healing).
While the most comprehensive programs on Ethnic Studies could, no doubt, be found in universities, some potential students are skeptical of enrolling despite the tremendous interest, because of the costs involved with university education. In other cases, would-be students are discouraged by the necessity of moving to a completely different city or country for their education.
It is therefore a welcome development that certain institutions are offering online degree courses in Ethnic Studies. The California State University in Fullerton is offering on-line Afro-Ethnic Studies, with courses on music appreciation, socialization patterns, and psychology to interested students. Enrolled students would simply need to connect to the internet via a web interface to interact with their professors and fellow students using special software. Information technology has made education easier and more convenient for all.
Ethnic Studies is a burgeoning field, and educational institutions are adding more cultures to their roster, and discussing more disciplines in their syllabi. And with the advent of online courses, the field not only gets more fascinating, but also more accessible and convenient for all.