The New Millennium Mix: Crossings of Race & Culture

ENGLISH 15SC

Prerequisites: None

Photo is a characterization of a mixed race family tree. Recently, The New York Times and the National Geographic have hailed the "new face of America" as young, global, and hybrid. The NY Times gave this demographic a name: Generation E.A. (Ethnically Ambiguous). Our course examines the political and aesthetic implications of Generation E.A., and the hot new vogue for all things mixed. Galvanized by the 2000 census with its "mark one or more" (MOOM) racial option, dozens of organizations, websites, affinity and advocacy groups, modeling and casting agencies, television pilots, magazines, and journals--all focused on multi-racial/multi-cultural experiences--have emerged in the last few years. We will analyze representations of mixed race and multiculturalism in law, literature, history, art, performance, film, comedy, and popular culture. These cultural and legal events are changing the way we talk and think about race.

Importantly, our seminar also broadens this discussion beyond race, exploring how crossings of the color-line so often intersect with other aspects of experience related to gender, religion, culture, or class.

Field trips, films, communal lunches, and interactive assignments help us explore the current controversies over mixed-race identification and, more generally, the expressive and political possibilities for representing complex identities. Requirements include three two- to three-page analytical writing assignments, a presentation that can include an optional artistic or media component, and a final group-designed project.

If you are a citizen of the 21st century, this class is for and about you.

Instructor Bio

Photo of Michelle Elam

Michele Elam, Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor and Olivier Nomellini Family Bass University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, is Professor of English at Stanford University. She is an affiliate with the Michelle R. Clayman Insitute for Gender Studies, African & African American Studies, and Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. Elam is the author The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium (2011), Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 (2003), Editor of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (2014), and is currently working on editing an interdisciplinary Critical Mixed Race Studies Reader. Elam has served as Director of the Program in African & African American Studies (2007-10), Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of English (2006-8), and Director of Curriculum in the Department of English (2011-13). Elected member and then Chair of the Executive Committee for the Black Literatures & Culture Division of the Modern Language Association (2009-13), she is now on the Advisory Committee for the American Literature Society at MLA. A founding member of the Critical Mixed Race Studies Association, she also serves on the Editorial Boards for the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies and African American Review and is Advisor for the Mixed Race Initiative, 100 universities worldwide joined in a multi-institution synchronous teaching program centered around the Asian American Literary Review, Special Issue on Mixed Race (2013).

Elam is twice the recipient of the "St. Clair Drake Outstanding Teaching Award" (2004, 2006) and the "Outstanding Faculty Recognition Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Students as a Teacher, Advisor and Mentor” from the Program in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity (2013).