Ethnic Studies

Identity and Transformation

Arlene Petty, Lecturer

Course: ETHNIC 192, SEM 001
Class Number: 47441
Credits: 3 HU
Time: MW 3:30 PM – 4:45 PM
Place: HON 190

Course Description:

Whether you come from a small town, a big city, the farmlands, from outside the USA, or someplace in between, where you are from is one way to identify yourself for others. But places of origin, like other “identifying” codes, can give others a false sense of knowing who you are, because people want to simplify, generalize, stereotype. Notions of identity are complex, and identification with gender, family, race, custom, and nationhood adds to it. Forming and sustaining a sense of identity is problematic for most everyone.

This First-Year Seminar investigates notions of personal, social and cultural identity. What do we mean by identity? How are ideas of identity both meaningful and limiting? How does globalization affect our sense of identity? Do we need to be alike to get along?

Our thoughtful attempts to work through these difficult questions will help bring a new and more profound understanding of who we are—individually and culturally—in 21st century America. We’ll examine literature that addresses the concerns and challenges of “fitting in” and mine our personal experience, background, ethnicity and beliefs to share with our classmates a notion of “who we are.” Together we’ll provide a supportive and instructional space in which to discuss, explore, investigate and navigate the complex issues of identity.

Work Involved:

In-class learning activities, discussions, and assigned readings (35%). The writing for this class will consist of five short responses to readings (25%), and two peer-reviewed, revised essays (20%). Some of the writing will be analytical, and some will be reflective, or memoir-type writing. Two informal research projects (10%): one will investigate some aspect of your own ethnicity or background, and the other will involve research into a group with which you do not identify ethnically or culturally. These projects can be delivered in writing or orally. Our final project (10%) will consist of a creative exploration of identity through various lenses: visual, dramatic, written or spoken word. Ongoing small and large group discussions will engage students to become active learners in their own course experience. There will be no formal examination.

Sample Reading:

“Dumped (But Not Down),” by Carlin Flora, Psychology Today, July 2007. Excerpt from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, “Who Shall I Be?: The Allure of a Fresh Start” by Jennifer Crichton, Gloria Anzaldua’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” poetry by Gary Soto and Rita Dove, two films: Invasions of the Body Snatchers (1956) and Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She, NPR website “This I Believe”

About the Instructor:

Oody Petty is a lecturer at UWM where she received her Ph.D. in English. Oody teaches courses in English and Ethnic Studies, and has served as Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry Editor for The Cream City Review, UWM’s literary magazine. Her academic interests include women’s literature, gender and migration, and the influence of culture on knowledge, particularly in its effect on race and gender. Oody is a poet and enjoys mentoring her writing students, many of whom continue to send her poems and stories years after they are done with classes.