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Department of American Studies College of Arts and Sciences

Ph.D. Minor in Critical Race and Postcolonial Studies

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Stephanie Li, English Professor, will teach the anchor course ENG-L 648 in spring 2017.


This minor introduces students to key debates and theories in Critical Race and Postcolonial Studies (CRPS). It replaces the minor in Comparative Ethnic and Postcolonial Studies (CEPS), reflecting the changing frames and content of these fields. Critical Race and Postcolonial Studies is the interdisciplinary humanities study of the complex process of racialization. It is dedicated to parsing power relationships constituted by webs of social categories (race, ethnicity, nation, gender, sexuality, etc.) at multiple degrees of scale, seeking to map the ways power is structured in social relation as well as through the range of categories in play in any given historical context. Work in this field is attentive to questions of material production, class, capital, and power, and is oriented transnationally and diasporically to global histories of indigeneity, colonialism and empire.

The composite title of this minor reflects the emergent nature of the field, known in some fora as Critical Ethnic Studies, elsewhere as Critical Race Studies. Deploying critical theory to analyze representation and subject formation, CRPS integrates tools generated under the aegises of several related fields. It is rooted in Cultural Studies, particularly the strain of Black British Cultural Studies (Birmingham School) associated with Stuart Hall's analysis of culture as a site of political struggle, and inflected by Postcolonial Studies toward the transnational geopolitcs that shape the nature and experience of race. It is indebted to the model of Ethnic Studies developed in the U.S. in the 1960s and '70s, and subsequently shaped by new advances in the discipline of American Studies. CRPS comprises the cutting edges of these fields as they have evolved in conversation with each other and with poststructuralist theory, integrating feminist and queer of color critique at the turn of the millennium. This umbrella offers, today, an interdisciplinary field with a distinctive historiography, methodology, and expanding canon. As analytical framework, CRPS highlights dynamics of social categories as they relate to power dedicated to critiques of inequity and exclusion in the U.S. and the world.

The CRPS minor seeks to familiarize students with this complex genealogy and to involve students in the current debates and methods of this growing field. Jointly administered by the departments of English and American Studies.


Students must complete four courses (minimum of 12 credits):
  • ENG-L 648 Readings in Comparative Ethnic and Postcolonial Studies (4 cr.)
    Introduction to the major works, methods, issues, and development in comparative ethnic and postcolonial cultural studies OR
  • AMST-G 620 Colloquium in American Studies (with approved topics) (3-4 cr.)

    Three additional courses drawn from at least two departments, chosen in consultation with the CRPS supervisor, Ranu Samantrai (rsamantr A list of courses that may qualify for credit can be found here.
To complete the minor, the student must present her/his research in a forum organized by the CRPS Advisory Committee, which is comprised of CRPS Affiliate Faculty.