We understand our department as being an important setting within the curriculum for the College’s efforts to grapple with the effects of systemic racism and to develop new approaches to anti-racist work, both within the broader society and in the college community. At the heart of our mission as a joint department is to cultivate in our students an understanding of how lives and relationships take shape within, as they also reproduce, broad structural forces and dynamics. In this regard, the study of power, inequality, and oppression is an important point of convergence between our respective disciplines. Just as important, each of our disciplines offer perspectives on anti-racist theory and practice, liberation, social and environmental justice, and how communities empower themselves to make change and build alternative worlds. These themes both bring us together as a department and represent a key contribution of the department to the College’s educational mission. This contribution is reflected in the ways we center marginalized perspectives, race and racism, liberation and justice, and global/transnational perspectives in the courses we offer, as well as in our research and service to the college and our disciplines.
Our attention to anti-racism works in tandem with our department’s goal of fostering in students an understanding of the globally interdependent and unequally structured world we live in. Reflecting a central priority of the College’s recent Strategic Plan, the department is deeply committed to “providing a global outlook and global capabilities as a dimension every graduate should possess, regardless of career path” (Strategic Plan for Amherst College , 2015). Drawing on our rich disciplinary histories, we undertake this work along several fronts. Reflecting a guiding principle—of “making the strange familiar and familiar strange”—our courses introduce students to the remarkable diversity of ways of being in the world and, in the process, challenge students’ assumptions about the centrality or normativity of North American and European perspectives. Critical to this work of developing an appreciation of human difference, our courses cultivate in students an understanding of how colonialism, colonialist frameworks, and the white supremacist ideologies upon which they were erected continue to shape the world.
In addition to teaching many courses that address racism and anti-racism, as well as approaches to liberation and justice domestically and globally, we regularly bring guest speakers to campus, organize campus wide roundtables, symposia, teach-ins, and performances related to these issues. Beyond these curricular and co-curricular contributions, we have also worked with student organizations in their efforts to bring to light and struggle against the multiple ways that systemic racism manifests on campus and contributed to the work of campus resource centers.
Finally, our anti-racist work on campus and in our teaching is informed by the research of our faculty members, much of which addresses issues of inclusion/exclusion and, for some, specifically race and anti-racism. The faculty are also involved in anti-racist work through service to their disciplines by dedicating time and expertise to professional organizations, namely, American Anthropological Association, American Sociological Association, International Sociological Association, Association for Asian Studies, and so forth.