Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

PWR 1HT: What Are You, Anyway? The Rhetorics of Ethnic and Racial Identity

Main content start

A husband in Arizona apologizes for his racist wife, saying she is mentally ill. Lizzo is accused of appropriating South Asian culture for a Rolling Stone magazine cover, and a member of the alt-right creates a twitter profile posing as a Black trans woman.

These events serve as examples of how the rhetoric woven into the fabric of contemporary ideas about identity centers to a great degree on ethnicity and race. These concepts, often considered equal, are tied to social narratives that influence all our lives. Now more than ever, they serve as cultural arenas in which struggles over equality and equity take place.

In this course, we'll engage with questions about the rhetoric of identity in multiple ways. We'll examine the origins and definitions of ethnicity and race; we'll explore a spectrum of sources that describe, negotiate, and challenge the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and others in the context of ethnic and racial identity.

As we progress, we will develop and write responses to the following questions: What rhetorical strategies do people employ to convey their ideas and make their arguments? How does this larger discourse influence our society? And how can we make useful contributions to this discourse?

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) In this assignment, you will conduct a rhetorical analysis of a piece from a genre of your choice that addresses race or ethnicity. For instance, you might analyze a YouTube video in which people debate removing a Confederate memorial, an op-ed from the New York Times about the 1619 Project, or the statement in which the Governor of Iowa recently deemed Critical Race Theory “discriminatory indoctrination.” Your paper should identify not only what the author wants to achieve, but also the rhetorical principles and strategies the author uses to communicate with their audience.

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) This assignment serves as the foundation for the Research-Based Argument. Your paper will examine 4-6 sources that focus on the same issue, determining how the authors define and frame the issue, where their ideas intersect, and where they diverge. You might choose, for example, to address the arguments supporting and opposing African-American reparations, the call for civility in discussions about ethnicity and race, what it means to be "transracial," or dominant narratives about “model minorities.”

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages) This final paper will integrate all the work you have completed this quarter. You will write a well-supported and focused argument that draws on a variety of resources you have obtained through library or online research. This may also include primary research you conduct.

Image from