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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2009

T C 357 • Diaspora and Identity: The Roots of Ethnicity - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
42810 MW
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
CRD 007A

Course Description

Patterns of origin and dispersal have occurred continuously over the course of human history as people have spread throughout the world and spontaneously developed definitions of group identity in new and changing environments. Scholars are now engaged in innovative multidisciplinary approaches to the study of human diaspora, synthesizing the knowledge and methodologies of individual disciplines such as archaeology, cultural and physical anthropology, linguistics, geology, and genetics, aided by sophisticated computer simulations. In fact, diaspora and the reinvention of group identity in a new environment is the norm, not the exception, and it continues before our eyes.

The course begins by looking at the grand-daddy of diasporas, the spread of our species beginning 50-60,000 years ago, from its origin in Africa throughout the globe. The idea is to understand the mechanisms by which, in simpler times, ethnic and other group identities developed and were transmitted over time. In the second half we will `apply' these principles to their modern analogues in our more complex environment: immigration, life in diaspora, and the confrontation of indigeneous peoples with their conquerors. An important element of modernity is the creation of administrative states and the ideology of nationalism, designed to reinforce, suppress, or manipulate more spontaneous self-identities of social and ethnic identity. While we will read sociological, anthropological, even legal texts, the focus will be on artistic genres of literature and even film, marshaled to confront issues of origin and identity in diaspora as individuals and groups continue to negotiate who they are ... and aren't.

The class will be conducted in seminar format with an emphasis on synthesizing information from various sources, formulating a position, and presenting that position effectively in both written and oral form.

Grading Policy

Papers: 60%
Two shorter papers (~1000 words each)
Term paper (at least 3000 words, expanding on one of the shorter papers)
Oral presentations (summaries and interpretation of the readings): 25%
General active class participation: 15%


Cavalli-Sforza, L. L. 2000. Genes, peoples, and languages. New York: North Point Press.
Olson, Steve. 2002. Mapping human history: Discovering the past through our genes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Renfrew, C. 1990. Archaeology and language: The puzzle of Indo-European origins. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wells, Spencer. 2002. Journey of man: A genetic odyssey. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Several films will be viewed, including 'Do the Right Thing' (1989) or Jungle Fever (1991) by Spike Lee, Mississippi Masala by Mira Nair, El Norte (1983) by Gregory Nava, and The Gods Must be Crazy (1981), by Jamie Uys.

About the Professor
Dr. Rappaport has written extensively in the area of Slavic linguistics, but has also published on the language and cultural maintenance of the Silesians of Central Texas and on Holocaust literature. His several prestigious lecture awards include being selected a Fulbright Distinguished Professor to lecture in Dubrovnik (Croatia). In addition to frequent trips to Poland and Russia, he has travelled to China, India, and Slovenia, and spent sabbatical years in Australia and Canada. Athletic diversions and the usual reading (but not mysteries!) are supplemented by a love for music, primarily Western and Indian classical, and jazz.


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