Faculty Research Seminar 2013-2014

The School of Arts and Sciences, Hunter College

Race and Ethnic Inequality in the “Post Racial” America II: The Challenges and Prospects

of Alternative Constructions of Belonging

Organizers: Associate Professor Anthony Browne and Associate Professor Arlene Torres

Department of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies

Final Report of Activities




The seminar, Race and Ethnic Inequality in the “Post Racial” America II: The Challenges and Prospects of Alternative Constructions of Belonging has had productive year. There are five tenure track and/or mid-career faculty, a post-doctoral research associate and a graduate student participating in the seminar designed to explore the eminent sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of double consciousness in relation to the struggle over the politics of representation and the unequal incorporation of diverse groups in a national and world systems framework. We honed in on three areas: 1. race, politics, and citizenship; 2. neoliberalism, structural and social inequality and; 3. the appropriation and transformation of culture and cultural space to create alternative constructions of belonging.


We met on six occasions as a working group to review the scholarship of our peers. On three other occasions, we met in support of public and co-sponsored events to engage in dialogue with the larger Hunter College and CUNY community. 

Research, Writing and Mentorship:

Š       A work-in-progress and recommended readings are circulated to participants in advance of our monthly meeting to further promote intellectual engagement with our peers. (A manuscript of at least 20 pages and bibliographic references are circulated 2 weeks in advance by the seminar participant.)

Š       A seminar participant is asked to serve as the lead reviewer. Reviews and written remarks are sent to the lead reviewer, one week in advance of the seminar. Suggestions for manuscript revisions are discussed.

Š       At the working seminar, the participant who submitted the working draft provides a response. The seminar group engages in a lively discussion to advance our colleagues’ scholarship.

Š        Formal remarks by the lead reviewer and notes are provided to the participant to facilitate the revision of the working draft. A timely revision is expected.

Š       Suggestions for possible publication outlets are made by the participants.


Manuscripts, Grants, and Curricular Development:

Professor Milagros Denis-Rosario, submitted for review and discussion by the seminar participants an article originally entitled, “Expressions of inclusivity: An Analysis of the paintings 'Mi Viejo San Juan,' by Ramón Bulerín.” The work employs the lens of a cultural and art historian to theorize the construction of Puerto Rican cultural identity characterized by the glorification of its Spanish heritage, particularly from the point of view of the colonial architecture embedded in classic and contemporary paintings. As a result of the participants’ comments, Professor Denis-Rosario worked on reframing the theoretical framework of the article and changed the title to “Radiography of the Colonized: the Role of Plastic Arts in the Reconstruction of Historical Memory.” In this revised iteration, the article explores how "the idea of the city," specifically colonial San Juan, is used by the artist as a counter cultural narrative to the imaginary of the Puerto Rican nation. This version was just presented at the 34th International Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Congress in Chicago Illinois in May 22, 2014 and will be submitted to a journal for review this summer.

Additionally, in the spring term, Professor Denis Rosario presented and further developed a chapter entitled, Modern Views about Race: Some Lessons from the School of Uncle Sam for her book manuscript. It elaborates on the “myth of racial democracy” and how it is intrinsic to the ideal of modernity and the ideological foundation of the island’s national discourse. These submissions focused on the intersection of two of the aforementioned themes the seminar sought to explore.  They also provided the seminar participants with a means to explore how we might expand the curriculum to focus on the politics of representation and the contributions of the subaltern to social life via their engagement with the arts and cultural studies.


Dr. Harry Franqui-Rivera, a research associate at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies presented working papers that were revised and submitted for review by peer-reviewed journals in Latin American and Latino Studies. These papers focused on a key theme of the seminar, the intersection of race, politics and citizenship. Both of these manuscripts were accepted for publication. “National Mythologies: U.S. Citizenship for the People of Puerto Rico and Military Service”, in Memorias: Revista Digital de Historia y Arquelogía desde el Caribe, Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla Colombia, No. 21 2013, and  “‘A New Day Has Dawned for Porto Rico’s Jíbaro’: Manhood, Race, Military Service and Self-Government during WWI” in the Journal of Latino Studies, Palgrave, (forthcoming). Based on a working paper presented this past January, Dr. Franqui-Rivera is working on a book proposal focusing on the contributions of Puerto Rican soldiers during the Korean War. We were delighted by the timeliness of Franqui-Rivera’s work given that the military service of Puerto Ricans referred to in his scholarship is being recognized by President Obama’s administration. (http://www.caribbeanbusiness.pr/news/4-pr-soldiers-among-24-army-vets-to-be-awarded-medal-of-honor-by-obama-94058.html).


Mr. Ricardo Gabriel, a graduate student in sociology, presented a paper titled, “Estamos Depertando:’ The Puerto Rican student movement at CUNY, 1969-1976, and its implications for the current Nuyorican education crisis.”  He is currently revising and developing this paper. It serves as the basis for his dissertation proposal. Gabriel was able to decide on a topic and begin outlining the project for his dissertation as a result of his participation in the seminar. 


Professor Victor Torres Velez submitted a paper entitled, “El dolor, la rabia, me dio el coraje para actuar: Women’s Politicization Around Health in Vieques, Puerto Rico.” The seminar participants provided additional feedback as he prepared to submit it for peer-review to one of the leading the interdisciplinary journals, the Journal of Latino Studies. The piece was well received and Dr. Torres Velez was invited to revise and resubmit the manuscript to the Journal of Latino Studies. The revisions were completed and the piece is under review by the journal editor. This essay captured the salient issues we had proposed to integrate in the seminar and prompted critical discussions about race, health, and the environment in colonial and contemporary urban spaces. We expect that these conversations will engender the revision of existing courses and the development of new ones in support of AFPRL’s curriculum.


Professor Arlene Torres honed a proposal submitted to the National Park Service. She received a grant to undertake an ethnographic study of Paterson, New Jersey, an important site that contributed to the development of industrial capitalism regionally and nationally. The relationship between the natural and industrial history of the region, coupled with the innovative spirit of new immigrant communities to the region promises to provide key insights about inter and intra-ethnic community formation. The seminar readings on neoliberalism, structural inequality and alternative structures of belonging are informing the theories and methods deployed to undertake this study. Professor Torres has been invited to present a paper at the International Congress of Oral Historians entitled, New Voice: Democracy, Ethnicity and Diversity in the Cultural Landscape of the U.S. National Park Service” In Barcelona, Spain.


Professor Anthony Browne’s paper “The Other Achievement Gap: Caribbean Students and Their Immigrant peers” was presented at an invited talk at Essex Community College in April. The paper explores why disparities in standardized test scores persist between native born African Americans and their Caribbean descended counterparts. In particular, those who posit post-racialism contend that the pattern of academic achievement by students of Caribbean descent proves that race is no longer an impediment to accesses. This research challenges this assertion and illuminates why race continues to be a salient variable-- whereby even the relative academic success of Caribbean students continues to be undermined by our racialized social structures. This paper is under revision for submission to the flagship journal of the Caribbean Studies Association.


Public Presentations and Collaborative Efforts:


Yadira Perez Hazel, Assistant Professor in Ethnic Studies at Borough of Manhattan Community College presented her work on Japanese agricultural communities in the Dominican Republic. She begins to fill a gap in scholarship by examining why nation-building projects in the Caribbean and East Asia saw each other as solutions to each other’s national problems. Theoretically and empirically, her project seeks to understand issues of racial identity in a Caribbean society categorized in North American literature as obsessed with establishing differences vis-ą-vis its Haitian neighbors by contextualizing the Japanese experience in the Dominican Republic. The presentation helped to contextualize the court ruling in October of 2013 regarding the citizenship of Haitian descendants in the Dominican Republic. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/world/americas/dominicans-of-haitian-descent-cast-into-legal-limbo-by-court.html?_r=0)


Fredrick Harris, Professor of Political Science and directs the Center on African-American Politics and Society gave a public talk about his ongoing research on the Obama presidency and its impact on Black and Latino communities. Professor Harris's most recent books are The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and the Rise and Fall of Black Politics (2012), published by Oxford University Press, and, with Robert Lieberman, Beyond Discrimination: Racial Discrimination in a Post-Racist Era (2013), published by the Russell Sage Foundation.  His publications include Something Within: Religion in African-American Political Activism, which was awarded the V.O. Key Award by the Southern Political Science Association, the Best Book Award by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Best Book Award by the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. He is also the co-author of Countervailing Forces in African-American Civic Activism, 1973-1994 with Valeria Sinclair-Chapman and Brian McKenzie, which received the W.E.B. DuBois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and the Ralph Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association for the best book on ethnic and cultural pluralism.


Zaire Dinzey-Flores, Associate Professor of Sociology & the Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.  Professor Zaire Dinzey-Flores’ research focuses on understanding how urban space mediates community life and social inequality. Professor Dinzey-Flores uses an interdisciplinary lens (sociology, urban planning, public policy), mixed-method approaches, and often a comparative Caribbean-U.S. framework, to investigate the processes that cement the built environment and unequally distribute power. She has published articles on public housing policy and design in Puerto Rico, race and class segregation and inequality in Puerto Rico, reggaetón music and culture as an urban phenomenon, and what it means to acknowledge Latinos in the urban intellectual history of the United States. She will be discussing most recent publication, Locked In, Locked Out: Gated Communities in a Puerto Rican City (2013). In this far-ranging and original work, Junot Diaz notes, “Dinzey-Flores maps out the zones of exclusion that are proliferating throughout our built spaces and which threaten our communal future."

In sum, as we assess the conclusion of the two year Race and Ethnic Inequality in the “Post Racial” America series we can point to a number of significant outcomes. The seminar sought to address concerns around promotion and productivity of untenured and mid-career faculty. This initiative was grounded in research suggesting a supportive structure that encourages risk and is undergirded by clear expectations—can increase productivity while fostering community among under-represented faculty. Participants were drawn from various disciplines, departments, programs and CUNY colleges, and committed to producing journal articles or book-length chapters around the seminar’s yearly themes. Clearly, given the number of revised manuscripts, articles, book chapters and monographs, the initiative has without question advanced the scholarship of faculty, post-docs and graduate students in collegial of community of shared intellectual interests.


 We are profoundly appreciative of the Dean’s office, the administration at Hunter College, and the Chancellor’s Latino Faculty Initiative for its co-sponsorship and overall support of seminar.