Undergraduates concentrating in History and Literature will now be able to specialize in an ethnic studies field, following months of student efforts aimed at establishing an ethnic studies curriculum at Harvard.
The new field was announced Thursday in an email to History and Literature concentrators from the department’s Director of Studies, Lauren Kaminsky.
“There are many people across many departments including faculty, students, and administrators who have been working to make it possible for students to concentrate in Ethnic Studies at Harvard,” Kaminsky said in an interview. “History and Literature emerged as a place to incubate an ethnic studies program because it reflects the work that History and Literature students have already been doing.”
According to the email, students with an Ethnic Studies focus will examine how “slavery, diaspora, migration, and colonialism” shape cultural and social movements, especially as they relate to topics including “Asian American Studies, Latinx Studies, African American Studies, Indigenous Studies, and Muslim American Studies.”
The announcement comes at the end of an academic year filled with advocacy efforts for increased opportunities for ethnic studies. Last November, a group of students referring to themselves as the Ethnic Studies Coalition circulated a petition calling for the formation of an ethnic studies department and research center. During Wintersession, some students returned to campus early for an event aimed at planning spring advocacy efforts.
“I think it’s the first step in the right direction and there’s a lot more to be done,” Juhwan Seo ’17, a member of the Ethnic Studies Coalition, said. “ I think there’s a lot to be done especially in the social sciences when it comes to Ethnic Studies.”
Should students elect to enter the new field, they will be required to take eight courses focusing on ethnic studies, along with the six other required courses necessary for a degree in History and Literature. The department’s website was updated to include a palette of dozens of potential course offerings based on the past academic year.
However, Kaminsky noted that more classes are likely to be added in the upcoming school year with faculty who specialize in these fields.
“There’s been a group of faculty who teach ethnic studies courses already who have been part of the committee that has put this together from the beginning,” Kaminsky said. “These faculty are in high demand.”
Members of the Class of 2019 can choose Ethnic Studies when they select one of now seven options for a field of study in May, and juniors will have the option to switch into the new field after meeting with advisers.
History and Literature has often been a home for students pursuing topics related to ethnic studies. In her email, Kaminsky congratulated senior concentrators who pushed for the new field and said this is only the beginning of efforts to make ethnic studies more accessible across multiple departments and disciplines.
“It was a natural fit to be the first place to begin,” Kaminsky said. “This is much bigger than History and Literature.”
—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.
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