Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race

Administrative Information

Program Director: Prof. Frances Negrón-Muntaner, 422 Hamilton; 854-0507;

Executive Commitee

Catherine Fennel
     452 Schermerhorn Extension; 854-4552

John Gamber
     English and Comparative Literature
     416 Hamilton; 854-2058

Claudio Lomnitz
     422 Hamilton; 854-0195

Mae Ngai
     611 Fayerweather; 854-4646

Frances Negron-Muntaner
     English and Comparative Literature
     425 Hamilton; 854-2058

Ana Maria Ochoa
     701C Dodge; 854-3825

Gary Okihiro
     School of International and Public Affairs
    Room 514 Knox Hall; 854-0508

Gray Tuttle
     East Asian Languages and Cultures
    407 Kent Hall; 854-4096

Afilliate Faculty

Nadia Abu El-Haj (Anthropology, Barnard)

Rachel Adams (English and Comparative Literature)

Carlos Alonso (Latin American and Iberian Cultures)

Janaki Bakhle (History)

Christina Burnett (Law School)

Steven Gregory (Anthropology)

Evan Haefeli (History)

Kim Hall (English, Barnard)

Jean Howard (English and Comparative Literature)

Wen Jin (English and Comparative Literature)

Ira Katznelson (Political Science)

George Lewis (Music)

Natasha Lightfoot (History)

Manning Marable (History; Political Science; School of International and Public Affairs)

Greg Pflugfelder (East Asian Languages and Cultures)

Pablo Piccato (History)

Caterina Pizzigoni (History)

Elizabeth A. Povinelli (Anthropology)

Bruce Robbins (English and Comparative Literature)

Samuel Roberts (History)

Audra Simpson (Anthropology)

Founded in 1999, the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER) is an interdisciplinary intellectual space whose mission is to advance the most innovative teaching, research, and public discussion about race and ethnicity. To advance its mission, the Center organizes conferences, seminars, exhibits, film screenings, and lectures that bring together faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students with diverse interests and backgrounds. Moreover, CSER partners with departments, centers, and institutes at Columbia as well as with colleagues and organizations on and off campus, in order to reach new audiences and facilitate an exchange of knowledge.

Located at CSER and taught in cooperation with Barnard College's Interdisciplinary Concentration on Race and Ethnicity (ICORE), the ethnicity and race studies major encompasses a variety of fields and interdisciplinary approaches to the critical study of ethnicity and race. What makes CSER unique is its attention to the comparative study of racial and ethnic categories in the production of social identities, power relations, and forms of knowledge in a multiplicity of contexts including the arts, social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. In addition to the major, CSER also offers concentrations in Asian American studies, Latino studies, and comparative ethnic studies.

Faculty and students find this field exciting and important because it opens up new ways of thinking about two fundamental aspects of human social existence: race and ethnicity. Although various traditional disciplines such as history, sociology, anthropology, and literature, among others, offer valuable knowledge on race and ethnicity, ethnicity and race studies provides a flexible interdisciplinary and comparative space to bring the insights of various conceptual frameworks and disciplines together in critical dialogue.

Overall, the major introduces students to the study of ethnicity and race, and the deep implications of the subject matter for thinking about human bodies, identity, culture, social hierarchy, and the formation of political communities. The major encourages students to consider the repercussions of racial and ethnic identifications to local and global politics, and how race and ethnicity relates to gender, sexuality, and social class, among other forms of hierarchical difference.

Students majoring in ethnicity and race studies may focus their work on specific groups, such as Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans; or a comparative study of how race and ethnicity are formed and how conceptions of race and ethnicity transform and change over time and place. Students also have the option of designing an individualized course of study. Individualized courses of study may encompass a wide variety of themes. Among the most studied are those involving the relationship between race, ethnicity and law; health; human rights; urban spaces; cultural production; visual culture; and the environment.

Due to its rigorous curriculum, which trains students in theory, history, and a wide range of modes of inquiry, the major enables a student to follow multiple directions after graduation. According to our internal surveys, nearly half of CSER students continue to Ph.D. programs in history, anthropology, and ethnic studies, among other areas. A second significant number of students continue on to professions most notably related to law, public policy, medicine, human rights, community organizing, journalism, and the environment.

Study Abroad

Students are highly encouraged to participate in study abroad programs, as they represent an exciting opportunity to learn new languages and live in countries that are germane to their areas of study. In addition, travel abroad can enrich every student's intellectual experience by providing an opportunity to learn about other perspectives on ethnicity and race.

In the past, students have participated in study abroad programs in Australia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and South Africa. To ensure that study abroad complements the major and integrates effectively with the requirements of the major, students are encouraged to consult with CSER's undergraduate adviser as early in their academic program as possible. The director of undergraduate studies can advise students in what may be exciting programs for their areas.