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

Spring 2005

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

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
41100 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
CRD 007B

Course Description

Patterns of origin and dispersal have frequently recurred 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. The original case is the spread of our species through the globe from its origin in Africa. One can look further at the “homeland” and subsequent dispersal of any of a number of ethno-linguistic groups, the best studied being the prehistoric spread of the Indo-European people from a compact homeland in Eurasia to extend from Ireland to Bengal. The last decade has seen the rise of innovative interdisciplinary approaches to dealing with such questions. Scholars are now synthesizing the knowledge and methodologies of individual disciplines such as archaeology, cultural and physical anthropology, linguistics, geology, and, most recently, evolutionary theory and population genetics (aided by computer simulations). An exciting story comes to life as investigators fit together pieces cut from the individual disciplines to assemble a complex jigsaw puzzle. The prehistoric models are but prelude: diaspora and identity definition is the norm, not the exception, and it continues before our eyes. The first half of the course focuses on the two paradigmatic diasporas mentioned and on developing our approach to defining identity and its transmission over time, under simpler conditions. In the second half we will “apply” these principles to their modern analogues: immigration, life in diaspora, and the confrontation of indigeneous peoples and 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. We will look at case studies in two ways. While we will read some sociological or 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.

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.

Grading Policy

This course contains a substantial writing component. Papers: 60% [Two shorter papers (~1000 words each) and a 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%


We will read excerpts from the following books and others, as well as recent articles that aim to present technical results to the educated general reader. There will be a course packet of selected readings for the second half of the course. L. L Cavalli-Sforza, Genes, Peoples, and Languages (2000) Steve Olson, Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our Genes (2002) C. Renfrew, Archaeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins Spencer Wells, Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (2002) 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.


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