University of Wisconsin–Madison

Analyzing Multiculturalism in Mass Media Writing Assignments

Professor Hemant Shah, Journalism 662: Mass Media and Minorities

Writing Assignment 1: Concepts and History/Experiences (750-850 words)

The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate your ability to move between levels of analysis. That is, while it is important to comprehend and even empathize with the emotional and poignant personal-level drama of displacement, discrimination, and prejudice, it is also important to understand what individual experiences represent conceptually. This is an assignment that helps assess analytical skill.

The first set of readings for class included five accounts describing the experience of being a racial or ethnic minority in the United States (the pieces by Bulosan, Baldwin, Rodríguez, Geronimo, and Bayoumi). Please think about what aspects of the experiences you found particularly moving or memorable. From among the five readings choose one phrase, anecdote, or passage from two different readings that provided some insight for you into how minorities view their social, political, or cultural position in a white-majority country.

In your paper:

  1. Place your name, assignment number, section number, and word count at the upper right corner (single spaced); double-space your essay and use Times New Roman 12-point font throughout.
  2. Provide the phrase, anecdote, or passage (included in total word count).
  3. Explain how and/or why the phrase, anecdote, or passage is moving or memorable for you. Did it evoke childhood experiences? Have you been through something similar? Were you surprised by someone’s actions or thoughts?
  4. Explain how any of the concepts describing more general social, political, or cultural dimensions of race and race relations we have discussed in class, such as melting pot, diversity, ethnic pluralism, racial hierarchy, social construction of race, etc. (as discussed in, for example, WGC, Steinberg, Cornell & Hartmann, and/or in lecture) help you to connect and understand the general importance or significance of the specific experiences reflected in the phrases, anecdotes, or passages you selected. A majority of your paper should focus on these explanations. You will need link two different phrases, anecdotes, or passages to two different concepts.
  5. Provide a bibliography (not part of word count) of all sources you consulted. You must consult at least one source outside of class materials, which should also be listed in your bibliography. Examples of outside sources include the following:
  • Ivan Hannaford (1996). Race: The History of an Idea in the West. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Mahmoud Mamdani (2004). Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror. New York: Pantheon.
  • Michael Omi & Howard Winant (1994). Racial Formation in the United States, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Writing Assignment 2: Cross-Racial/Ethnic Representation in Film (750-850 words)

This assignment asks you to take a position on one side or the other of an on-going argument regarding casting choices in Hollywood films. Students should think carefully about where they stand and why. The assignment helps assess the ability to state a logical argument supported with reasonable evidence.

In the U.S. cinema, there is a long history of actors portraying people from another racial or ethnic group. Mainly, it has been whites playing non-whites, but there have been examples of members of one minority group portraying people from another minority group, and, rather infrequently, minorities portraying whites. This phenomenon of cross-racial/ethnic representation has generated a debate between those who say, “Actors shouldn’t portray a person from another race/ethnic group” and those who say “It’s perfectly acceptable for an actor to play a person from another race/ethnic group.” Drawing on class readings, class discussions, and other materials, make a case supporting one side of this debate and refuting the other side of the argument.

You must consult at least one source outside of class materials, which should be listed in a bibliography of all sources you consulted. Examples of outside sources include the following:

  • Robert Entman and Andrew Rojecki (2000). The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in Ameri Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Darrell Y. Hamamoto (1994). Monitored Peril: Asian Americans and the Politics of TV Representations. Minneapolis; University of Minnesota Press.
  • Eric Lott (1995). Love & Theft: Black Face Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York: Oxford.
  • Paul Lester (Ed.) (1996). Images That Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media. Westport, CT: Praeger.