Ethnic Studies

The secondary field in Ethnic Studies offers students an opportunity to pursue sustained, interdisciplinary study of issues related to ethnicity, migration, indigeneity, and human rights, particularly in Asian American/Transpacific, Native American/Indigenous, and US Latino/American hemispheric topics, with an American focus as well as a transnational one. Ethnic Studies courses address race critique in the social sciences and in the humanities, and consider the role of mobility, diasporas and migration as well as of indigeneity in the configuration of group identities and power formations. An overarching concern is the study of the historical, political and cultural forms through which individuals inhabit the political space of the nation and of the transnational sphere, frequently in the wake of colonialism and displacements that have created stateless people. Bringing to bear the discourse of human rights, Ethnic Studies courses consider the ethics of responsibility that the university must try to foster as it trains citizens and leaders to deal with the construction of political communities as well as the situation of those who are deprived of their legal status.

Ethnic Studies is inherently comparative: those who wish to understand the uniqueness of a particular people can do so most effectively by comparisons with others. Scholars and students seek to understand why the boundaries of particular ethnic groups change and why this process of ethnic group formation is so fluid. The study of ethnicity at Harvard is focused on the broad canvas of the human experience. While it includes the United States at its center, it is enriched by being situated in a broadly comparative and transnational context. Moreover, the focus of many courses is explicitly historical, making for a better understanding of the changing ways in which individuals choose to affiliate or have been coerced into categories by others.

The secondary field in Ethnic Studies allows students to explore these questions from a variety of different angles and disciplinary perspectives. Students who choose to pursue the secondary field in Ethnic Studies will choose from a wide range of courses under the guidance of a faculty adviser from the Committee on Ethnic Studies. Given the relevance of Ethnic Studies to both local and global issues, the secondary field encourages, and provides through a number of its courses, opportunities for interacting directly with local communities and working outside of the traditional classroom. These courses provide a useful bridge between theory and practice, connecting students’ academic studies with local and global issues.

The secondary field in Ethnic Studies is intended to provide students with a foundational course and a general, overarching structure for taking a variety of meaningfully related courses in the four areas of ethnicity, migration, indigeneity, and human rights. Students may take courses in several of these areas or choose to focus on one or two of these tracks.

Requirements: 5 half-courses

  1. One introductory half-course to be selected from a number of portal courses that are offered as part of the General Education curriculum. A list of portal courses is available on the Ethnic Studies website.

  2. Four additional half-courses to be drawn from a wide range of courses offered across departments and schools and cross-listed under Ethnic Studies. At least two of these courses must be above the introductory level, ordinarily numbered in 100/1000 level or above. A list of courses is available on the Ethnic Studies website.

Other Information

Four of the five courses must be taken for a letter grade and passed with a B- or better. One course, including approved Freshman Seminars, may be taken for Pass/Fail or SAT/UNS. Approved courses in the field of Ethnic Studies from study abroad, Harvard Summer School, and other Harvard schools will count toward the secondary field. Students should consult with an Ethnic Studies faculty adviser for guidance in choosing appropriate courses.

Advising Resources and Expectations

tudents considering a secondary field in Ethnic Studies should contact Stephanie Macaris Alusow ( for further information and to be put in contact with a faculty adviser. All students interested in pursuing a secondary field in Ethnic Studies will have an initial advising conversation with a faculty member of the advising committee of the Committee on Ethnic Studies. Faculty advisers will help students develop their plan of study and, ultimately, must also sign the form for secondary field credit.