case western reserve university



Case debuts program in ethnic studies

Photo: Gilbert DohoCase Western Reserve University is introducing its first-ever program in ethnic studies.

The program will initially be offered as a minor with areas of concentration in African-American, Latino/a-American, African, Latin American, and global studies. It will largely draw upon existing courses and faculty from several disciplines including history, anthropology, sociology, and languages, but will also have several core courses specific to ethnic studies: “Introduction to the Study of Race and Ethnicity,” “Introduction to African-American Studies,” and “Introduction to Latino/a Studies”

Among other courses included in the program are “Race and Minorities in American Society,” “Postcolonial Literature: The Indian Novel in English,” and “Latin American Feminist Voices.”

Directing the program is Gilbert Doho, associate professor of French in the university’s department of modern languages and literatures. Doho, a native of Cameroon who earned his Ph.D. at the Sorbonne, said ethnic studies has long been an area of interest. “I’ve worked with ethnic minorities in the past, with Native Americans in northern Michigan; African-Americans in Albany, New York; and with Bororo, Fulani, and Mekong pygmies in my own country. I’m also interested in them as a writer and a filmmaker,” he said.

Doho said his goal is to have the program expand to become an area of major concentration after three years, and after that, graduate-level courses.

In addition to the classroom, the ethnic studies program will have an experiential component. Students will be encouraged to do field work with ethnically-based programs and organizations in the community. “I believe the students will be surprised at the variety of groups represented in Cleveland,” Doho said. When he came to the Cleveland area, he added, he was pleasantly surprised to find a group of Cameroonians who meet regularly and celebrate holidays together.

Although the program will initially focus on post-colonial, African and Latin American nations and immigrants who come from them, Doho said he hopes to expand it to encompass Native American, European, and Asian ethnics and their descendants living in the Cleveland area. “Since we’re just beginning we have to work with the courses that already exist,” he said. “But it will get larger. This program won’t be successful if we limit it to just a few specific groups.”

America’s and Cleveland’s racial and ethnic diversity are sources of strength and should be celebrated, Doho believes. He draws an analogy to food: “It’s wonderful when you can go out with a group of friends and have pizza one night and another kind of food the next night. But what would it be like if everyone were forced to eat only pizza. The idea of a great America does not exclude diversity. On the contrary, it is diversity which makes the nation great.”

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About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work.