HSEM 3023H: Race: The History of an Idea in North America

3 CreditsHonorsRace, Power, and Justice in the United StatesSocial Sciences

This Honors seminar explores the roots and rationales presented when constructing and upholding the idea of race. This class examines processes of racial formation in science, law, history, immigration policy, education, leisure, adoption, marriage, and medicine. The course investigates how Americans came to mythologize, understand, identify, and codify the importance of race since the mid-nineteenth century. Racial formations and classifications shift according to political climates, such that immigration debates, changing gender norms and concerns over interracial marriage transform how we imagine racial groups. We will also look at how race has been used to pathologize, eroticize, vilify, fetishize, and medicalize purported ‘problem people,’ like immigrants, the poor, and the sick. For instance, seeing people of color as particular hazards during pandemics, like the 1918 Influenza or 2020 COVID-19 crises, has deep roots in longstanding racial theories. Using memoirs, legal cases, history of medicine, laws, photographs, oral histories, and secondary source readings, this class traces the history of America’s fascination with race and how race came to define so many aspects of American life during the twentieth century.

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All Instructors

A- Average (3.644)Most Common: A (77%)

This total also includes data from semesters with unknown instructors.

30 students
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  • 4.61


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  • 4.67



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