Message from the Vice Provost of the Institute of American Cultures
M. Belinda Tucker
As we enter the new academic year and our second full year as a separate institute with a new mission and focus, the potential societal impacts of our nation’s increasing heterogeneity and intersectional complexities are ever more apparent. This is perhaps most evident in population shifts that occurred between 2000 and 2010. According to the US Census (Humes, Jones, & Ramirez, 2011), in 2000, 13 states had populations that were at least one-third “ethnic minority.” By 2010, that number had increased to 20, with four states having become “majority minority”—California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Texas. If the last presidential election, which displayed a strong tendency for populations of color to vote Democratic, is at all indicative of state-level political trends, then these statistics raise the possibility of significant political change. Indeed, several states with well-established conservative political leanings in state-wide elections have ethnic minority populations that are approaching 50%, including Arizona, Georgia, and Mississippi. The regions displaying the greatest changes over that 10-year period are the West and the South, which is now 40% minority. The possible ramifications of these changes will be closely watched in years to come by politicians, policy makers and academicians alike.
Last spring at our inaugural conference— Superdiversity California Style: New Understandings of Race, Civil Rights, Governance and Cultural Production—we sought to introduce new conceptualizations of diversity and to reshape the increasingly complicated conversation about inequality and social justice. The roots of such complications are especially deep in California, whose largest city was founded by persons of African, European, and Indigenous ancestry (Los Angles Almanac, 2013), and whose history displays numerous examples of complex racial coalitions. Issues explored included the notions of political representation and accountability in the context of greater constituent heterogeneity; the application of antidiscrimination laws outside the parameters of the Black-White dichotomy; reconciliation of competing interpretive frames for the pursuit of equality; and whether and how superdiversity is reshaping representational practices in the media. These discussions provide a framework for the research agenda that we hope to pursue.
As we move forward, our work is anchored in the very significant contributions to scholarship as well as faculty and student diversity made over the last 45 years by the four ethnic studies centers that comprise the IAC. Though work focused on the large ethnic groupings whose experiences the center founders sought to validate and comprehend will continue, our new work incorporates the realities of today’s multifaceted environment. For example, one of our new IAC predoctoral fellowship awardees, English doctoral student Joyce Pualani Warren, is exploring the ways in which both social and ontological concepts of race travel across various geographic boundaries in the Pacific. She is specifically examining the construct of “blackness” in Hawaii through Pacific Island literature, considering both the impact of American racial politics on native Hawaiian epistemology and the legacy of Hawaiian sovereignty. Also, extending the traditional bounds of investigation, UCLA postdoctoral scholar Negin Ghavami, in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, was awarded an IAC research grant to examine disparities in health and academics of urban LGBQ adolescents across ethnic minority groups.
The IAC will feature more activities during this academic year that showcase this broadened perspective of race/ethnicity and the resulting intersectional encounters. We invite you to participate in our programs and to keep abreast of our events by visiting our websites, Facebook pages and blogs; and by making a donation to your center or program of choice. In particular, we request that you contribute to the IAC grant and fellowship program that, for over 40 years, has given faculty and students alike the opportunity to produce new knowledge on topics and issues in ethnic studies. We greatly value your continued support. Please visit:
Humes, K. R., Jones, N. A., & Ramirez, R. R. (2011). Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010. 2010 Census Briefs. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed on September 22, 2013 from: http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf
Los Angeles Almanac (2013). Original Settlers (Pabladores) of El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, 1781. Accessed on September 22, 2013 from: https://giving.ucla.edu/Standard/NetDonate.aspx?SiteNum=483