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Unit information: Theories of Ethnicity and Racism in 2015/16

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Unit name Theories of Ethnicity and Racism
Unit code SOCIM3107
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Fox
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines key theoretical debates on racism, ethnicity and nationalism, critically assessing the ways in which these concepts are used in social science, political and everyday discourse. It explores competing explanatory frameworks and links analyses of ethnicity, racism and nationalism to theories of social change and modernity. Debates on multiculturalism, assimilation and integration are situated and there is an emphasis on the intersections of ethnicity and social inequalities. Drawing on historical and comparative examples, the unit develops a critical engagement with conventional understandings and current concepts including 'cultural racism' and 'new ethnicities'.


  • to examine critically the key theoretical debates concerning racism, ethnicity, and nationalism
  • to link understandings of ethnicity, racism, nationalism to theories of social change and modernity

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, students should be able to:

  • argue for a preference for one definition of ethnicity as against competing definitions
  • argue similarly for preferred definitions of racism, nationalism
  • demonstrate a critical knowledge of key theories of racism, ethnicity and nationalism, drawing from key works in social theory
  • develop a view of modernity into which theories of ethnicity and racism, and nationalism, may be fitted
  • have a clear understanding of the debates about multiculturalism, assimilation and integration
  • understand the intersections of class, social inequalities and ethnicity

Teaching Information

The main method of teaching will be weekly face-to-face seminar sessions which will involve a combination of lecturing, group discussion and student presentations.

Assessment Information

The assessment wil l relate directly to one of more of the learning outcomes specified above in 15 and will be an extended essay of 4000 words (or equivalent) showing an in-depth understanding and integration of key aspects of the unit.

Reading and References

  • Fenton S., (2003) Ethnicity (Polity)
  • Rex, J. and Guibernau, M. (1997). The Ethnicity Reader (Polity)
  • Smith, A. & Hutchinson, J. (1994). Nationalism (OUP)
  • Fenton S (1999) Ethnicity: Racism Class and Culture (Macmillan)
  • Benhabib S. (1996) ed ., Democracy and Difference, New Jersey, Princeton University Press.
  • Pilkington A., (2002), Racial Disadvantage and ethnic diversity in Britain, Pal grave