January 12, 2010

Okihiro, Gary Silver_nugget and Ikoku, Alvan Silver_nugget
Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

If you're looking for something groundbreaking and awesome, you've found it. Intro to Comparative Ethnic Studies is a fantastic course, covering the manifestations and articulations of power and power structures. In the U.S., such power structures historically have been based around some form of ethnicity (race, gender, class, sexuality, citizenship status, etc.), and this course covers them all.

The first half of the semester deals with important historical terms, definitions, and movements (colonization, miscegenation, Black Power, etc.). The VERY EASY midterm (Prof. Okihiro gives you the short list of terms you'll need to know) makes sure you understand these. The second half of the semester focuses on specific articulations and manifestations of these terms, as well as on pedagogical movements in ethnic studies (feminism, experience, Latino/a Studies, Critical White Studies, etc.). We were supposed to have a final similar to the midterm, but instead we had a (somewhat creative) final paper that most students found fun and rewarding.

Prof. Okihiro is a really cool person--the epitome of a wise, liberal intellectual who loves to challenge his students to think in new ways. That being said, he really wants everyone to do well, and the class is pretty easy as a result.

I don't normally review TAs, but Alvan may be the best one ever. He has a Bachelor's from Stanford in human biology, a doctorate in medicine from Harvard, a master's thesis from Oxford on the history of malaria control in colonial Kenya--and now he's a Columbia English & Comparative Literature PhD candidate, as well as a kick-ass TA. He quickly learned everyone's name, took an interest in each student's response papers, and was a very fair (if not lenient) grader.

In short, take this class, no matter what major you are. It's not difficult at all, fulfills the Global Core requirement, and is one of the most eye-opening courses you'll ever come across.

Workload:

About 100 pages of really interesting reading per week, but you can get away with reading almost nothing. Weekly 1-page response papers, graded on the Check/Check-plus/Check-minus system. REALLY EASY midterm (you get a study sheet, and almost everyone got an A- or higher). Easy final paper. STRONGLY recommended.