Comparative Race & Ethnicity Studies (CRES), recognized as a fundamental area of inquiry in contemporary academics, is an interdisciplinary major at Reed through which students examine the history, processes, and complexities of race and ethnicity. A selection of foundational core courses and an interdisciplinary upper-division core seminar treat specific categories of race and ethnicity as the central object of inquiry and teach approaches (including theories and methods) to the study of race, ethnicity, or both within given disciplines.
While the questions probed within the program cross disciplinary boundaries, they also draw directly on methodological tools rooted in particular disciplines, including historical and historiographical knowledge; quantitative skills for engagement with empirical data; analysis of cultural texts, whether visual, sonic, kinetic, or literary; and foundational critical theories and philosophical approaches in the humanities. Students choose a home department in anthropology, dance, English, history, music, sociology, or theatre, and complete courses across disciplines categorized into two groups: literature and performing arts and history and social sciences.
Because the program focuses on the comparative study of race and ethnicity across borders and boundaries, proficiency in a foreign language and study abroad are encouraged and supported.
Professor Yaejoon Kwon
Sociologies of the Military, State, Race, and United States Empire
Assistant Professor of Sociology & Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies Yaejoon Kwon (she/they) is a historical sociologist and Asian Americanist. Her teaching and scholarship focus on the sociologies of the military, state, race, and United States empire. Central to her research is how race and gender are organizing principles of institutions and state power. She examines how anti-Asian racism and sexism in the continental United States and overseas military bases are interrelated and, thus, need to be understood within the context of the historical origins and evolution of United States military occupations and colonialisms in Asia.
“I was really drawn to Asian American studies and ethnic studies in general,” says Yaejoon, “because it was the first time in my educational journey that I encountered material that felt relevant to my own life and my family’s history.” Yaejoon grew up in Minnesota as a child of immigrants and, she says, often felt very much like an outsider. “It was through Asian American studies and ethnic studies that I began to understand how the long history of racialized citizenship has shaped the legal and cultural definitions of what it means to be an ‘American,’” she explains.
A forum for Reed faculty, guest scholars, and students to engage in conversations around key texts, recent scholarship, and contemporary issues of race and ethnicity. Featured guests have included the following:
Joao Costa Vargas, Professor of Anthropology, UC Riverside, “The Cyborg and the Slave: Confronting AntiBlackness Through Multiracial Political Blocs”
Omari Weekes, Assistant Professor of English, Willamette University, “Alice Walker’s Mestiza”
Nicole M. Jackson, Associate Professor of History, Bowling Green State University, “Black British Women at The Heart of the Race”
Catherine Ming T’ien Duffly, Associate Professor of Theatre, Reed College, and Jaclyn Pryor, Assistant Professor of Integrative Arts, Penn State Abington, “The Couple in a Cage”
What Makes a Course a CRES Course?
CRES courses examine questions of race and ethnicity, covering topics such as the history and politics of racial and ethnic categories; the construction of race and ethnicity in social, economic, and cultural organizations; and the experiences of racialized peoples. Some courses also teach approaches to the study of race, ethnicity, or both within or across disciplinary boundaries.
Music and the Black Freedom Struggle, 1865–1965
Through close study of primary and secondary historical texts and musical repertory, this course explores ways in which ideas about musical sound and musical performance, from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of World War II, articulated the stakes of the Black freedom struggle.
Contemporary Global Dance
This course considers how contemporary global dance practices challenge neat distinctions between Western and non-Western traditions and destabilize the ethnic and racial identities most readily associated with each.
Race and Ethnicity in the Andes
Beginning with the ethnic pluralism of the Inca Andes, this course focuses on the creation of the colonial categories of “Indian” and “Spanish” and the imposition of two racialized legal republics from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.
Race and Migration
This course focuses on issues of identity formation, particularly the ways in which immigrants are incorporated into and excluded from processes of nation formation and the national imagination through their racialized bodies.