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Race and Ethnicity Studies

Race and Ethnicity Studies

For more than four decades, Penn State’s English Department faculty have embraced the theory and practice of critical race studies. Penn State faculty have been leaders in challenging ingrained and institutionalized structures and attitudes about what constitutes literary and cultural study. We advance scholarship in diverse ways: by creating transformative pedagogical resources such as the 1990s Heath Anthology of American Literature; by founding award-winning journals such as Verge: Studies in Global Asias and Studies in American Jewish Literature; and by establishing innovative centers and initiatives for scholarly inquiry and building pipelines for underrepresented students in higher education, including the Center for American Literary Studies (CALS), the Center for Black Digital Research (#DigBlk), the Global Asias Initiative (GAI), and the Cooper-Du Bois Mentoring Program.

We are a dynamic group of scholars and teachers whose research comprehends a wide range of global concerns regarding race, ethnicity, class and culture. Often employing methods associated with critical race theory and postcolonial studies, our faculty write and teach about the structures of imperialism and nationalism, identity formation, racial capitalism, settler colonialism, and the ethical and social problems underlying the study of the literary canon. We examine how literature represents the role of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous dispossession in the formation of the modern world, and we are deeply invested in examining structural inequity from diverse perspectives.

Our scholarship, some of it employing a global and intersectional perspective, ranges across several fields, including British and American literatures, Asian literatures, Black literatures, Native studies, hemispheric studies, comparative literatures, philosophy, cultural studies, media studies (including print, film, and visual culture), and sex/gender studies, among others. Our projects examine a wide array of literary and cultural materials that comprise our diverse and important fields. For example, we study Black and colonized people’s organizing histories and intellectual activism, documents authored by supporters and detractors of empire building, early modern writings about race and nationalism, Jewish and Arab writings, the role specifically of the Caribbean in U.S. empire-building, and early modern and modern racial formations.

Our faculty have published in many top academic presses, including Oxford University, Cambridge University, Stanford University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Pennsylvania, NYU, University of Virginia, and the University of Illinois. Our articles have appeared regularly in such academic and popular journals as Callaloo, MELUS, African American Review, Journal of Asian American Studies, Journal of American Folklore, Journal of Asian Studies, Legacy, Early American Literature, American Literature, American Literary History, American Quarterly, and the New England Quarterly.

Recent Grad Courses

  • African American Literature and Folklore
  • African American Literature Proseminar
  • African American Poetry
  • African American Rhetoric
  • Afro-futurism
  • AlieNation: the Literatures of Asian America
  • American Ethnic Rhetorics
  • Beyond Nation: Redrawing the Boundaries of Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies
  • Caribbean Literature
  • Contemporary American Political Novel
  • Early African American and Black Atlantic Literature
  • Gender and the Politics of Black Print Culture
  • Hemispheric American Studies
  • Imperial Eyes: The First British Empire, Race, and Enlightenment
  • Intellectual Theory/New York Intellectuals
  • Jewish American Literature
  • Postbellum, Pre-Harlem African American Literature
  • Race, Capitalism, and Abolition
  • Race, Rhythm and Resistance
  • Readings in the Black Digital Humanities
  • Reading Beyond Race: Contemporary Ethnic American Literatures
  • Rhetoric, Literacy, and Social Movements
  • Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Speculative Fictions
  • Whither Postcolonialism? 

Research Resources

The Penn State libraries house an important collection of Black studies materials (including artifacts, printed materials, and manuscripts) in the Charles L. Blockson Collection of African Americana and the African Diaspora. Additionally, the Allison-Shelley collection at Penn State provides manuscript and printed materials related to German diasporic cultures. In addition, the libraries provide access to major research databases typically found in comprehensive research institutions.

Penn State’s central location in Pennsylvania means that several important research archives are within a day’s drive. Our faculty and graduate students regularly perform research in several libraries, including (in New England and New York) the American Antiquarian Society, Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, the New York Public Library, the Gilder Lehrman Center, New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; (in the mid-Atlantic region) Princeton’s Firestone Library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institute; and (in the Midwest) the Newberry Library.

Graduate Faculty

Black Studies, Indigenous Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies

Asian American studies, Asian diaspora studies, Global Asias, contemporary multi-ethnic literatures, speculative fictions

Early African American studies, Native American Studies, Asian American studies.  Dissertations directed in these fields include those by Mathew RudeWalker, Youngsuk Chae, Cedrick May, Elizabeth Archuleta, Amy E. Winans, and Rochelle Zuck.

critical theories of race and ethnicity; comparative US literatures; Latin American literature; have taught African American, Asian American, Native American and Latino literature courses.

Jewish and Jewish American literature and culture; Theory of identity and identification; Arab American Literature; New York Intellectuals; National and nationalist discourse; Metropolitanism and Cosmopolitanism; Habits of thought and recognition; Aesthetics

Graduate Students

Racial Formations in the United States with emphases on Chicanx and Latinx literature and Culture.