Sociology 211

Fall 2004

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Introductory notes see Class Syllabus

Contact information and offfice hours. Monday 1:30 – 2:30 p.m., Thursday, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. or by appointment. My other class is from 9:30 to 10:20, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, so I am not available at those time. I also have many co mmittee meetings, so will not be in office all day. If you wish to arrange a time to meet me, please contact me before or after class, leave a message on the voice mail on my telephone (585-4196), or send me an email message ( I will try to respond promptly to email, so if you have any brief questions that can be dealt with by email, I’ll attempt to answer those quickly.

Text. There are two textbooks – Isajiw, Understanding Diversity, and Fleras and Kunz,

Media and Minorities.

The primary textbook is that of Isajiw. The course outline is built around Isajiw’s presentation, and we will follow his outline of topics and approach through the semester. Isajiw also provides a comprehensive examination of ethnicity and ethnic relat ions – in surveying theoretical sociological approaches, and the practice of these in Canadian society.

Media and Minorities, the book by Fleras and Kunz, examines how ethnicity and ethnic relations are treated in the media. They focus primarily on four types of media – news, television programs, advertising, and feature films. Given that both Fle ras and Kunz are familiar with ethnicity and ethnic relations, and have written about these in other contexts (Fleras wrote a text on multiculturalism that might be worth consulting), they also provide an overview of ethnic relations and multiculturalism in Canada. The discussion of ethnic relations is less comprehensive than that of Isajiw. The approach of Fleras and Kunz is less theoretical and primarily applied to the media. But Chapter 1 provides an excellent overview of multiculturalism in Canada. Fo r the most part though, I selected the book by Fleras and Kunz as a way to illustrate how issues of ethnicity and minorities are dealt with in one part of Canadian society – the media. Given that each of us encounters the media many times daily and given that each of us obtains a lot of our information about ethnicity and minorities from the media, this is an important part of Canadian society. Exactly what influence the media has on attitudes and opinions or on relationships among individuals and groups of different ethnicity, is not so clear cut. But given the widespread contact each of us has with the media, this is certainly an important part of multiculturalism and ethnicity in Canada.

In addition to the texts, there will be some class handouts and some information or links available on my web site. I would like each of you to become familiar with some issue of ethnicity or multiculturalism, so expect you to read an additional book o r follow some issue through the semester. More about this a little later.

Grading – problem sets and examinations. Two midterms, a project, and a final examination. The midterms and examinations will primarily address issues discussed in class – concepts and theories, data about immigration and ethnicity, and analysis of issues of ethnicity in Canada.

The project is to be either a book review or a report on some issue related to ethnicity in the media. I will provide more information about this on Friday – a list of possible books about ethnicity and an outline of what a report on the media might in volve. The book is to deal with a particular ethnic group or some issue related to ethnic relations. I have listed several novels or volumes of short stories as well, and you could read and report on one of these as a way of examining issues of ethnicity and multiculturalism.

If you select the option of reporting on some aspect of the media, I would like you to follow an issue, story, program, or some other media source through the semester. If you do this, select an issue or program early in the semester and keep notes (if television, radio, film, or video) or clippings (if in print). Then you are to write these up as a report and analysis by the end of the semester.

The report or book review is due on December 6, the last day of classes. The report or book review is to be seven to ten pages of summary and analysis. If you have extra materials to add (tables, detailed notes on programs, clippings), these could be a ppendices. More details on Friday.

Accommodation and university policies. Take note of the possibilities for accommodation for those with special needs. If you have any special needs, please contact me as soon as possible. All students should be familiar with the relevant Univers ity policies, so take note of these in the Faculty of Arts Academic Announcements Fall 2004 or in the University Calendar 2004-2005


Web site. I will place materials for Sociology 211 on my web site. The Sociology 211 section of the web site is not yet constructed, but I hope to have this ready by Monday. As much as possible, I will be placing notes on the web site. Additional m aterials, links to other relevant sites, will be added throughout the semester.

The address of the web site is Note that there is no www. before Some of the material on the web site is in Acrobat Reader format, that is, with file type pdf. If you are unable to view files of this typ e on your computer, you can use the computers in CL109 at times when there is no class in that room.

If anyone is not able to use the web site, please notify me. I can provide printed copies of all materials on the web site to the University Library, and make them available there at the Reserve Desk. I placed a copy of each text on reserve and will pl ace some of the books on the book review list on reserve as well, so you can have access to them.


Aim of the Class

This is the first time I have taught this particular class, although I have dealt with issues of multiculturalism in other classes. This is also one of my research interests.

This is also a new class in the revised Sociology curriculum, although it may be only slightly modified from the earlier version of the class. Sociology 211 was previously termed "Ethnic and minority group relations." The topic of the current Sociology 211 is very similar, but with greater emphasis on the topic of multiculturalism and relationships among ethnic groups in Canada. The current title and contents are more current with issues related to ethnicity in Canada – multiculturalism is official pol icy and there is much discussion and concern with different forms and consequences of diversity in Canada. As a result, these issues come to the fore in this class. While the terms "ethnicity" and "minority" are used in the semester, these terms themselve s will be examined in an attempt to understand what they might mean. In earlier times, people seemed to have no difficulty in identifying concepts such as race, ethnicity, and minority – in the contemporary world, each of these terms is contested and has a variety of meanings. The earlier title thus represented an earlier approach to the study of ethnic relations. Our Department hopes that the revised term more closely matches current discussions and approaches to ethnicity and multiculturalism.

In terms of the placement of the class within the new Sociology curriculum, Sociology 211 is in the "Social Justice" area – the other areas are Science, Culture, and Knowledge; Development and Environment; Theory; and Methods. In terms of social justic e, issues of equality and inequality, fairness, rights, treatement, needs, participation, overcoming barriers to inclusion, equity, distribution of goods and services, respect, and many others are key concepts, issues, or problems to be solved. In additio n, how society might change its structures, institutions, attitudes and views, and both group and personal relationships to produce a more socially just arrangement is also a major concern. Some other courses in the social justice stream are inequality, c rime, gender, health, social policy, and work. These were placed in this area to illustrate that, in modern society, social justice involves many forms of social relationships, as well as social institutions, structures, and policy. Justice does not invol ve only the law and legal remedies, but involves many aspects of interpersonal and intergroup relationships. Social justice needs to consider relationships at work, in schools, in the family, across sex, gender, age, social class, region, religion, race a nd ethnicity, and even issues of sexuality. Sociology 211 focusses primarily on issues of race and ethnicity, although these are interconnected with each of the ways that society organizes and classifies individuals and groups. The study of race and ethni city would be fairly straightforward if it was a matter of only race or ethnicity, prejudice and discrimination. But there are cross-cutting relationships that involve gender, age, region, class, sexuality as well.

In summary, this class focusses on race and ethnicity, and relationships among those of different races, ethnicities, and cultures. Both theories and practice in Canada and other parts of the world are examined. It will be necessary to examine the basi c concepts such as what race, ethnicity, culture, prejudice, discrimination, justice, and rights mean. There is no universally agreed upon definition of each of these, so I hope students develop an understanding of how these can be examined. Relationhips among different groups and individuals, and how these change, constitute the core of what sociology, as the study of society, constitutes. In examining how people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds relate to each other, how these relationships c hange, and how society and social relationships can be more socially just, my hope is that each of us will develop better way of understanding how Canadian society can be improved and what each of us can do to assist in this. As a result, my hope is that this course will not just be an academic exercise but will also be a way for each of us to develop a better understanding of social relationships.

Class outline

Next day – short summary of introduction to each of the two texts. Why study ethnicity and ethnic relations, reasons for these topics being a major topic of study and a subject of concern for society as a whole.

Next week we will examine some of the meanings of ethnicity, race, and culture, and some of the factors in today’s social world associated with these as key issues and problems (e.g. immigration, new economic forms, globalization, mobility, communicati on). For next week, read Chapter 1 and the first part of Chapter 2 of Isajiw.

Since the key topic of the course is multiculturalism, I propose to look at this twice. Near the beginning of the semester we will discuss Chapter 1 of Fleras and Kunz, where they outline and discuss the different meanings of multiculturalism, at least with respect to Canada. At the conclusion of the semester, after examining various aspects of ethnic diversity and social relationships, we will return to a discussion of multiculturalism in Canada. This is contained in the concluding chapter of Isajiw a nd the concluding sections of Fleras and Kunz.

The media forms the topic of one part of the project assignment and is the topic of the Fleras and Kunz text. We will spend a couple days with chapters 2 and 3 of Fleras and Kunz, where they outline their approach to the media (Chapter 3) and one aspec t (racism) of how the media deal with ethnic minorities (Chapter 2). Of these two chapters, it may be best to read Chapter 3 first, where Fleras and Kunz discuss how to analyze the media. Then backtrack to Chapter 2, where they examine racism in the media . They further expand on this in the middle section of their book (Chapter 4-7), in the four specific forms of media – news, television programming, advertising, and film and video.

Chapter 2-5 of Isajiw deal with the historical background to ethnic diversity and the position of individuals of different ethnicities in Canada. This section will be more quantitative, with an examination of statistics related to immigration and popul ation structures, and data on stratification by ethnicity. This should provide a good basis for understanding the history and structure of diversity in Canadian society.

Issues of prejudice, discrimination, and racism form a central aspect of ethnic and minority relationships. We will spend considerable time looking at the meaning, causes, and effects of stereotyping, social distance, prejudice, racism, and various for ms of discrimination. We will examine various theories about these (Chapter 6 of Isajiw) and the practice of the media with respect to these (Fleras and Kunz, Chapter 4-7). Ways of reducing or overcoming prejudice and discrimination will be examined.

The next major section of the course deals with how individuals from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds find their way in society. In Chapters 7-9, Isajiw examines how individuals and groups incorporate themselves in society (Chapter 7) while re taining some forms of ethnic or cultural identity (Chapter 8). That is, as individuals from a particular cultural background come in contact with and find their place in society, they may not be entirely assimilated into the mainstream, but lose some part s of their culture and yet retain others. There are many different patterns that different individuals and groups have followed – witness the difference between the Doukhobours and Hutterites in Canada, or the different routes that different individuals o f aboriginal background have followed. As individuals and groups are integrated into Canadian society, there may be accommodation, conflicts, social mobility, and political organization. Integration is a two-way process, with individuals of various cultur al backgrounds changing Canadian social structures and relationships, at the same time as these individuals are changed. In Chapter 10, Isajiw examines these issues of integration and intergroup relationships.

As noted earlier, at the end of the semester, we will revisit multiculturalism, with an examination of how a better multicultural society might be achieved. Isajiw discusses these at a fairly general level while Fleras and Kunz suggest some specific wa ys that the media could reduce racism and provide a more inclusive and multicultural approach.

Assignment for next day

Write a 50-100 word statement of what multiculturalism means to you. Also list your major, the year of your program, and the social science classes you have taken. One mark of the participation grade will be given to everyone who hands this in. Tha t is, it will not be graded, but everyone who hands it in will be given one point.


Last edited on September 9, 2004