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You are here Postgraduate > MPhil in Race, Ethnicity, Conflict > Course Structure and Handbook

Theories of Race and Ethnicity

Module Code: SOP77011

  • ECTS Credit : 10
  • Mandatory/ Optional : Mandatory
  • Module Coordinator : Dr Phil Mullen
  • Module Length: 11 weeks ( Hilary Term)

Module Description:

This module provides a theoretical underpinning into concepts surrounding race and ethnicity. The main question in the module concerns what race does rather than what race is, seeing race as a social process rather than some kind of naturally occurring property of individuals or groups. One can begin with the idea that race is a social construct, a historically contingent signifier and a language used to categorise self and others. However, the fact that race is socially constructed does not negate its centrality as a means of ordering social life and creating divisions and hierarcies. Race, unfortunately remains a fundamental category of practice in modern life, or alternatively a central way that society is structured and lives are lived.

This module examines these processes; critically theorising concepts of race, ethnicity and identity before investigating the centrality of nationalism and colonialism in processes of racialisation. Race is understood to operate in an intersectional manner with gender and class, and so we examine sociological theories of the racial state and situate race and ethnicity within social, political and economic processes, in particular within neoliberalism and modern forms of state governmentality. Students will gain an overview of various approaches to 'race' including exploring race denial, hybridity and attempts to move ‘beyond race’ as well as opposition to racism.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion, students are expected to be able to critically:

  • On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

    • distinguish between key concepts of race, ethnicity and identity;
    • theorise the links between race, nation and state;
    • analyse the representation of race and racism
    • understand the intersection between race, gender and class
    • discuss and critically evaluate notions of post racism, anti-racism and hybridity;
    • evaluate policies of multiculturalism, interculturalism and integration

Delivery and syllabus:

The module is delivered in 11 seminar slots consisting of a lecturing input, student participation and informal presentations. Students are expected to read before each session to facilitate discussion.

Main topics

The module will examine how theoretical understandings of race and ethnicity can help us understand the practical manifestations of these issues in Ireland and globally. Students will be introduced to a variety of texts, approaches and debates in the area of race and ethnicity, and are encouraged to discuss these concepts with reference to actual popular representations of ‘race’ and their own experiences. The main topics covered will be

  • Theorising race and identity
  • Race and the state
  • Race, gender and class
  • Media and cultural representations of race
  • Race and racism in Ireland
  • Modern forms of European racism – Islamophobia and anti-migrant racism
  • The global North and South – colonialism and development
  • How race is managed – multiculturalism and integration
  • Alternative ways of theorising the self and others – hybridity, cyborg theory and diaspora
  • Racism and anti-racism

Recommended Texts

There is no set text, but the following texts will prove useful (all available in the library):

  • Back, Les and John Solomos (eds.) 2000. Theories of Race and Racism. London: Routledge.
  • Kundnani, Arun. 2007. The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain. Pluto Press.
  • Hill Collins, Patricia and John Solomos (eds). 2010. The SAGE handbook of race and ethnic studies. Los Angeles; London: SAGE.
  • Lentin, Alana, and Gavan Titley. 2011. The Crises of Multiculturalism. London: Zed.
  • Lentin, Ronit and Robbie McVeigh. 2006. After Optimism? Ireland, Racism and Globalisation. Metro Eireann Publications
  • Loyal, Steven. 2011. Understanding Immigration in Ireland. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Course notes: Blackboard


The assessment for this module is in two parts. Prior to writing the final essay on a theoretical topic of your choice (in consultation with the lecturer), you will be asked to submit a 300 words abstract (due week 10 of the Hilary Term). At the end of week 10 of the Hilary Term you will submit an essay (max 3000 words). Submission dates to be arranged.