The Ethnic and Third World Literature specialization in the Graduate Program of the Department of English was established in 1988. The program of study was a pioneering one, inspired by the contributions of peoples and cultures long neglected by the traditional disciplines of literature within the academy and enabled by critical developments in literary studies over the previous several decades. Situated within the English Department, the study of Ethnic and Third World Literatures at the University of Texas at Austin benefits from the already developed study of English and American literatures and languages from the medieval period to the contemporary era, and the critical practices elaborated within these areas of research. Ethnic and Third World Literatures, maintaining its innovative mandate, characteristically questions the relation of aesthetics to political and social practices and to group and national cultural identities in an international context. Such questions continue to play a necessary and dynamic role in reconstituting prevailing definitions of literary and cultural production and its critical study.
The Department of English and the University of Texas at Austin are particularly well provided to meet the challenges of critical inquiry in Ethnic and Third World Literatures. The English Department's courses in Third World literature and theory, African writing, modern and postmodern African American, Asian American, and Chicano/a literatures and ideology, the Latin American novel, ethnographic literature, Third World women, Irish literary nationalism and global cultural studies are complemented by the larger departmental curriculum in English and American literatures, women and gender studies, and critical theory. The University itself has abundant resources for research in the fields of Ethnic and Third World Literatures. The Centers for Asian American Studies, East Asian Studies, African and African American Studies, Mexican American Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies, and the Institute of Latin American Studies maintain internationally renowned research libraries and archives which extend the facilities offered by the Perry Castañeda Library, the Barker Texas History Center and the collections of the Harry Ransom Center. In addition, curricular cooperation among the various departments of the College of Liberal Arts, together with the Colleges of Communications and Fine Arts, have been important in directing students and faculty to the interdisciplinary facilities and opportunities provided by the University of Texas at Austin.
Over its two decades of teaching, learning and research, E3W has graduated a distinguished roster of PhD students. Its alumni have joined the academic profession around the world, from South Africa and Saudi Arabia to Canada, and across the United States, from Massachusetts to Hawaii. These alumni are now instructing graduate students of their own and publishing distinguished scholarly books and academic articles, as well as presenting papers at professional meetings and hosting conferences at their respective institutions of higher education. In 1998, the Ethnic and Third World Literatures specialization was ranked 3rd in the U.S. News and World Report assessments of graduate programs nationally.
While international and national geographies altered dramatically in the last decades of the twentieth century, E3W has sought to develop its research and instructional priorities accordingly, in order to continue to contribute to the public and pedagogical discussion of current events and their historical precedents as represented in literary genres and cultural forms. From border studies, to histories of imperialism and orientalism and globalization debates, students and faculty alike have addressed in their classrooms, in their research, and in their dissertations and publications the changing parameters of a dynamic and challenging world. With the advent of a new century indeed, a new millennium and its various crises and promises, the study of "ethnic and third world literatures" remains more vital and critical than ever.