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America's Migrants: A History of Immigration from the Melting Pot to Multiculturalism 

Department: Sociology and Ethnic Studies                                 

Instructor: Jael Vizcarra and Troy Kokinis 
Instructor's Email:;
Prerequisites: none 

Course Description

Have you wondered why it is a common refrain that the US is a "country of immigrants"? Where did the idea of the "melting-pot" come from? Has immigration always been a polarizing issue in this country?

These are some of the questions we will tackle in this course. We will think critically about the historical forces that have made immigration a fundamental aspect of this country's development. By paying special attention to the ways that race, gender, and class historically intersect with immigration policies, this course focuses on the relationship between mass population movements and US nation-building. Using 20th century California as a case study, this course explores the role of settler-colonial ideologies in framing our understanding of nation, citizenship, and belonging. In this course, you will learn about the history of immigration in the US from an interdisciplinary perspective that brings together disciplines from the humanities and social sciences to discuss some of our society's most pressing questions. We will analyze the historical context that gave rise to concepts such as the melting pot and multiculturalism to trace changes and continuities in American attitudes about immigration. After taking this course, you will know why the meaning of "American" is contested as well as become familiarized with the troubled history of immigrant inclusion and exclusion.

Content and Evaluation

  • This course is writing-intensive and prepares you for college-level writing by introducing the difference between argumentative and opinion-based writing. You will acquire valuable writing skills that can be applied to all majors and future careers.
  • Assignments: Students will write three reflections (2 pages each) based on prompts provided by the instructors each week. Reflections will put assigned readings in conversation with one another and will discuss evidence-based claims.
  • Final: Students will produce a final group project exploring the importance of immigration in the US. The final project will be presented on the last day of class.

Topical Outline

  • Settler Colonialism and White Supremacy
  • Indian Removal, Migrant Labor, and Slavery
  • Segregation: Jim and Juan Crow Laws and Chinese Exclusion
  • Multiculturalism, Post-Raciality, and the Alt-Right

*Courses vary by experience and exposure to content. Instructors have the ability to change content and pace to serve the needs of students. Courses have been modified for online teaching.