Sociology 46N Syllabus



"Race, Ethnic and National Identities:  Imagined Communities"


Spring 2014

Class Meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11A-12:15

Thornt 209


Michael J. Rosenfeld

Associate Professor

Department of Sociology

McClatchy Hall (Building 120) room 124




What does it mean when someone identifies themselves as White? or Black? or Irish? or American? or Irish American? or Tibetan? or a Man?  How do new identities get created and legitimated?  What does it mean to try on a different identity, i.e. to 'pass'?  National groups and ethnic groups are so large that one individual can only possibly know an infinitesimal fraction of the other members of the group.  What then explains the seeming coherence of the groups?  If identities are a product of the imagination, why are people willing to fight and die for them? 



1 Class Presentation                20%

3 Short Papers                         60%

Class Participation                  20%



This seminar will require careful reading, consistent class participation, 3 short papers, and one class presentation (which will be based on that week's reading assignment).  There are no exams.  Depending on class size, you may be able to make a second in-class presentation, and substitute that for the third paper (so 2 presentations and 2 papers instead of 1 presentation and 3 papers). Every reading assignment will be accompanied by 2 or more questions to guide your reading.  These questions will be posted on my website (  These questions should guide your reading, your writing assignments, and your class presentation.  Papers should be short- 2 or 3 pages- and should answer the questions I pose about the reading.  The length restriction on papers is designed to force your essays to be concise. You may hand in essays in any 3 of the 9 weeks of class.  You may hand in written assignments in more than 3 weeks, and in that case your grade will reflect the best 3 assignments you turn in.  Because the written assignments are designed to stimulate class discussion, no late papers will be accepted and no incompletes for the course will be granted.  Class presentations will be 10-15 minutes in length.


Books to be Purchased at the Stanford Bookstore:

Ignatiev, Noel.  1995.  How the Irish Became White.  New York:  Routledge .   0415963095, $21


F. James Davis.  1991.  Who is Black:  One Nation's Definition.  Pennsylvania State University Press.  0271021721, $24


·         Benedict Anderson.  1991.  Imagined Communities:  Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.  London:  Verso. ISBN-10: 1844670864, $16



·         Gould, Stephen Jay.  1996.  The Mismeasure of Man.  New York:  W.W. Norton. ISBN-10: 0393314251, $15



Tatum, Beverly. 2003. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity. New York: Basic Books.  0465083617, $13



Stoler, Ann Laura.  1997.  "Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power"  Ch 1 in The Gender/ Sexuality Reader, edited by Lancaster and di Leonardo.  Routledge. ISBN 0415910056, $44. Plus further readings from the book TBA.



Other Readings, available  at the Stanford Bookstore, or on Library Reserve, or linked from Rosenfeld’s website:


Gans, Herbert.  1979.  "Symbolic Ethnicity:  The Future of Ethnic Groups and Cultures in America" Ethnic and Racial Studies 2: 1-20 (note: Stanford library does not have free access to this article online, so you will either have to pay $39 for it, or else go to the library reserve and borrow the physical copy)


·         Garfinkel, Howard.  1967.  "Passing and the Managed Achievement of Sex Status in an 'Intersexed' Person part 1" p. 166-185 in Studies in Ethnomethodology.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice- Hall (either buy the book or borrow it from the library) ISBN-10: 0745600050. $30





Reading Assignments:




Week 1:


Apr 1

Introduction to the class

Apr 3

Symbolic Ethnicity:  The Future of Ethnic Groups and Cultures in America



Week 2:


Apr 8

Imagined Communities Ch 1-4

Apr 10

Imagined Communities Ch 5, 6



Week 3:


Apr 15

Imagined Communities finish the book

Apr 17

How the Irish Became White, Introduction + Chapter 1



Week 4:


Apr 22

How the Irish, Chapters 2, 3, and 4

Apr 24

How the Irish, finish the book



Week 5:


Apr 29

Who is Black? Ch 1-5

May 1

Who is Black? Finish the book



Week 6:


May 6

Why Are All the Black Kids... Chapters 1-4

May 8

Why Are All the Black Kids... Chapters 5-8



Week 7:


May 13

Carnal Knowledge (by Stoler, in the Gender/Sexuality reader)

May 15

Passing, and the Managed Achievement of Sex Status, (By Garfinkel)



Week 8:


May 20

The Mismeasure of Man Chapter 2 (on craniometry)

May 22

The Mismeasure of Man Chapter 5 (On IQ), plus P. 264-269 on Cyril Burt



Week 9:


May 27

Additional Readings from the Gender/Sexuality reader, TBA

May 29

Additional Readings from the Gender/Sexuality reader TBA



Week 10:


June 3

No assignment, last class