In the United States and many other countries, civil society contains cleavages rooted in race, ethnicity, and religion. Indeed, the truly homogeneous polity is a rarity. This course will explore the political dimensions of cultural pluralism, and examine policy formulas aimed at achieving collective goals and values such as equality, justice, and democracy in culturally plural polities.
Although the particulars of race, ethnicity, and religion as political vectors vary, there are common aspects which make comparative analyses of these phenomena fruitful. Solidarities grounded in these forms of affinity offer a powerful basis for political
mobilization. In the United States and many other multi-cultural polities, historically unequal treatment of particular groups—in the American case, racial minority categories, or African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans—creates dilemmas ensuring that the values of equality, justice and democracy are realized. It also calls into question the norms that underlie the constitutional order and are assured to all racial groups. In different ways, most multi-
cultural states face the challenge of assuring to all racial, ethnic and religious groups that they enjoy equal standing and that their aspirations can be met within the framework of the polity.
This course will first seek to understand race, ethnicity, and religion as political phenomena. Doctrines and ideologies of incorporation and solidarity normally associated with states (or communities claiming the right to form states) will then be considered, in particular the powerful creed of nationalism. Cultural identities are not static, unchanging patterns of solidarity; they are dynamic, changing orientations whose processes of formation and activation require examination.
We will consider in detail the United States as a multi-cultural polity. The formation of a national society will be reviewed as an historical process, and the various sources of the American population explored. Particular attention will be given to the situation of racial minorities, who, in various ways at different periods, have experienced discriminatory or unequal treatment at the hands of the state or the dominant society.
We will conclude with a review of various policy issues arising in multi-cultural societies. Accommodation of difference in multi-cultural polities is a compelling challenge; closely examined, the great majority of contemporary nation-states are diverse in the ethnic, racial and religious composition of their citizenries. Catastrophes such as Syria and Rwanda are grim warnings of the consequences of a failure to meet this challenge.