POL 547: Identity Politics - Ph.D. seminar





Graduate seminar on identity politics within the U.S. context; primary focus will be on ethnic, racial and religious identities. We will tackle questions about when, why and to what extent group identities take on significance in American politics. In so doing we will examine theories of identity development and change; consider strategies for measuring identity; and assess empirical approaches to the study of identity groups in American politics. We will also explore how context, institutions and elections work to politicize identities under some conditions.

We will engage with the central debates in the study of identity politics, broadly conceived, and survey major lines of research on identity groups in American politics. The course will start by examining the concept of race, its social and legal construction, and how race and identity may be linked to politics. Following this introduction, we will consider psychological approaches to studying identity and then assess strengths and weaknesses of different measurement strategies for the concept of identity. Next we will turn to standard empirical approaches to studying identity in American politics, considering in turn major identity groups including African Americans, Latinos and religious individuals. This literature is primarily concerned with how identity attachments predict political attitudes and behavior. To investigate sources of identity strength and change, we will complicate our efforts with insights from experimental research, comparative politics, and work on political geography. Towards the end of the course we will revisit religious identities, with additional attention devoted to context and mechanisms, and then conclude with a look at work that gives more explicit attention to mechanisms and the role of politics and institutions in the formation and salience of group identities, focused primarily on Asian-Americans.

In addition to surveying literature on identity politics, in this seminar we will focus on articulating unanswered questions in this research area and developing workable research designs to test the intuitions that we develop from our readings and discussions. The success of this endeavor will depend on our collective effort; your writings and contributions to discussion will form the basis of the insights that we gain from the literature. Taught in 2012 and 2013; expected in 2020.