Professors Discuss Role of Ethnic Studies

Five professors gathered in Boylston Auditorium yesterday afternoon to debate the changing role of ethnic studies on college campuses.

The panel discussion, titled "Encounters Between Ethnic Studies and American Civilizations," focused on the relationship between ethnic studies and the broader discipline of American studies. The event is part of "The Foreigner Within," a two-day conference focusing on different American identities.

Throughout the debate, each of the professors took slightly different stances on the issue.

Professor of Romance Languages and Literature Doris Sommer said the two programs needed each other to co-exist.

American studies programs examine the history and culture of people living in the United States.


Ethnic studies curricula offer a comparative focus on groups viewed as minorities in American society.

"For Ethnic Studies and American Studies to prosper, they have to work together in tight coalition," Sommer said.

Cabot Professor of English Litera- ture and Afro-American Studies Werner Sollors suggested that ethnic studies should contain American studies.

The discussion followed upon the heels of a rising interest in ethnic studies over the past few years at Harvard.

The discussion, however, did not enjoy the same high attendance of others in the past.

"This has not been a packed house but it has shown remarkable staying power," said moderator and Professor of English and American Literature and Language Lawrence Buell.

Today more than 700 ethnic studies programs and departments exist in the United States.

The College currently does not offer an Ethnic Studies concentration. There is, however, a Faculty committee on Ethnic Studies within the College.

The Ethnic Studies Action Committee, a group of Harvard undergraduates, has been actively advocating the implementation of an ethnic studies program at Harvard for much of the decade.

The Harvard Foundation presented the debate, which was sponsored by the Black Students Association, Education for Action, the Chinese Students Association, Diversity and Distinction, the Ethnic Studies Action Committee, Korean Americans for Culture and Community and the South Asian Association.

The three other panelists were Cornell's Assistant Professor in Anthropology and Latino Studies Vilma Santiago-Irizarry, Associate Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies and English at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor Stephen Sumida, and Associate Professor of American Literature at UMass-Amherst Ron Welburn

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