Using local ethnic communities to conduct large-scale surveys exploring the racial attitudes of major groups and providing opportunities for faculty and students to do international fieldwork about the impact of race and ethnicity on global modern societies are among the aspirations of a new University of California, Los Angeles center.
The Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics has both graduate and undergraduate students in the field, working on such issues as Salvadoran migrants in the United States, African migrants in France and the interaction between African-Americans and the Chinese in the Mississippi Delta.
“Issues of race and ethnicity are some of the most complex modern societies have to face,” says Dr. Mark Q. Sawyer, director of the center. “Our idea of who is or who is not a member of a race, nation or neighborhood is understood through the lens of race.”
The center is housed in UCLA’s public policy building and enjoys the full support of Scott Waugh, dean of the social sciences division.
“Race and ethnicity have been critical issues at the center of American life from the inception of the Republic and have at times played a dramatic role in politics,” Waugh says. “It is only fitting that a major research university in one of the most socially and politically dynamic cities in the United States should focus on the interplay of race and ethnicity in politics. I expect the center to be a powerful magnet for scholarship and ideas on these issues.”
“Opening this center is the culmination of an attempt to move racial issues to the center of scholarly study,” says Sawyer, a professor of political science and African-American studies. “It has been an objective of mine since I entered the profession. Beyond that there is finally a space where people can study race and ethnicity in the United States and internationally under the same roof.”
The center will officially open on Feb. 24, when Sawyer will be joined by professor Dr. Michael Hanchard of Northwestern University, an expert on issues of race in Brazil, for a lecture titled, “Mixed Race vs. the Color Line: Racial Valuation and Transnational Black Politics.”
“The center will move the understanding of race in the United States, with its constantly changing ethnic makeup, beyond the Black/White paradigm,” Sawyer says. “It also will push the study of race beyond the boundaries of the United States and into an international and comparative context.”
In addition to directing the new center, Sawyer also is the author of the recently published Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba, which explores the ways in which the Cuban revolution was both successful and unsuccessful at incorporating Afro-Cubans into society. The book also delves into racial politics in Miami and the experience of Black nationalists exiled in Cuba.
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