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Critical Ethnic Studies at Carolina

The Critical Ethnic Studies Collective is a new initiative to convene faculty engaged in research that focuses on intersectional thought and social justice in diverse communities. This research has been transformative for both institutions and individuals in the global community. At Carolina, we hope we can bring this perspective to the work of the South by providing our own infrastructure. We envision a different kind of “south,” where students and faculty can engage issues of reparation and sovereignty, (im)migration and labor, gender difference and inclusion as categories with overlapping strands, rather than competing ideologies.

Our Goals for CES:

  • Convene faculty during the fall of 2019
  • Invite speakers to campus for talks and workshops with graduate students
  • Fund a working dissertation writing group for students engaged in interdisciplinary work in the field
  • Move forward a graduate certificate program in CES and to establish a post-doc

Email us to join the listserv or to propose an event or scholarly collaboration.

A Critical Space

CES Graduate working group poses

In February 2020, CES graduate students held their first working dissertation writing group session in the Love House and Hutchins Forum. Read more about the students, their work, CES Convener Dr. Sharon Holland, and the Center for the Study of the American South as a critical space for working in a changing region.

A History of the Critical Ethnic Studies Collective’s Beginnings at Carolina:

Bringing the powerful lens of Critical Ethnic Studies to the region, our work at Carolina began with the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Faculty Diversity and its creation of a “Intersectionality and Social
Justice” super course. That 2016 decision to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of social justice work and scholarship, contributed to the momentum three years later, in the spring of 2019, for colleagues across the College of Arts and Sciences called for UNC  “to [d]evelop effective ways to increase hiring and retention of POC/Indigenous faculty” by (b.) “Creat[ing] a new Critical Ethnic Studies Initiative with funding for speakers and activities.”

If we cast our eyes up and down the east coast, and of course, to the west, we can find any number of intersectional critical ethnic studies driven programs, many of which have been in existence for at least twenty years. Such programs help to ground University efforts to retain and promote faculty of color and indigenous faculty by providing a diverse intellectual home for faculty and students.

These programs appear across a range of University spaces – from research one and Ivy League, to land grant institutions, large and small. In short, funding or U.S. News and World Report status do not seem to be the primary motivators for work in this area. When a predominantly POC pool of students in the coming community search for a college home, they will be looking for these intellectual units as indicators of how committed a university is to having such truly diverse conversations on the ground.


Sharon P. HollandSharon P. Holland is a graduate of Princeton University (1986) and holds a PhD in English and African American Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1992). She is the author of Raising The Dead: Readings Of Death And (Black) Subjectivity (Duke UP, 2000), which won the Lora Romero First Book Prize from the American Studies Association (ASA) in 2002. She is also co-author of a collection of trans-Atlantic Afro-Native criticism with Professor Tiya Miles (American Culture, UM, Ann Arbor) entitled Crossing Waters/ Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country (Duke University Press, 2006). Professor Holland is the author of The Erotic Life of Racism (Duke University Press, 2012), a theoretical project that explores the intersection of Critical Race, Feminist, and Queer Theory. She is also at work on the final draft of another book project entitled simply, little black girl. You can see her work on food, writing and all things equestrian on her blog.