Your Instructor


I’m Rachel Elbin, and I’ll be your instructor this semester. As I mentioned in my introductory video, I have just returned from conducting dissertation research in Mtwara and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I have long been interested, however, in tracing how individuals and collectives come to understand their own political roles and those of the governing bodies within their respective territories. Race, ethnicity, and nation as pervasive categories of social differentiation (and lived realities) significantly figure into how power relationships form and transform.

I find that anthropology offers a unique approach to thinking about how we understand race, ethnicity, and nationalism. The discipline draws from a long history and a substantial body of knowledge, methods, and theory, focused on these topics. I hope you agree that these are important issues in our world today. If you’re not sure, take a look at the news. The odds are good you’ll see questions of race, racism, and racial or national identities in the headlines.

This class is designed to introduce the key features of anthropological approaches to these issues, and to help you develop the tools to understand race, ethnicity, and nationalism in greater depth. I also hope to get you thinking critically, and asking new questions, about the world in which we live.

This course does not exhaust all that is available on the subject of race, ethnicity, and nationalism. It presents students with particular historical and geographical situations. I hope that by learning the particular cases presented in this course you will gain an understanding of the broader issues this course focuses on.

Do not forget to check out the course home page at least once a day for announcements and updates, and follow the deadlines. Finally, you can write to me with any concern regrading  the class materials or procedures. You should expect a response from me within 24 hours. My email address is . As for technical issues, it is best writing to MATRIX (see Getting Help section towards the end of About The Class page).

Have a great summer.

Rachel Elbin
Department of Anthropology
Michigan State University