American Society: Ethnic Encounters in the Making of the USA

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
26 April 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA MT26 Criminology and American Studies (UK Study),
BA MT27 Criminology and American Studies (Including Year Abroad),
BA MT28 Criminology and American Studies (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA MT2R Criminology and American Studies,
BA MT3R Criminology and American Studies (Including Placement Year),
BA MT62 Criminology and American Studies (UK Study) (Including Placement Year)

Module description

In this module, we will examine the social, political and economic encounters between the European settlers, American Indians, African-Americans and Latino migrant groups that have shaped the social and political development of the United States.

Module aims

The Spring term is divided into two sections – Black-White Racial Politics (Weeks 16-21) and Immigration and Borders (Weeks 22-25). We will start our focus on the relationships between Euro-Americans and Afro-descended peoples, examining how the European idea of race was a shaping constituent of the experience of white and black people from enslavement to the present. We will look at the contemporary and historical aspects of slavery then concentrate more recent histories of racial segregation, the civil rights and anti-poverty reforms of the 1960s, racial justice and the ongoing racial disparities in health. The second section will look at the US-Mexico border as a flash point of ethnic and cultural conflict. This conflict is played out in the very history of the region – annexed by the US in 1848 – and continues through the need of the US economy for cheap labour. Throughout we will describe and analyse immigration policies from the Bracero guest worker’s to Trump’s ‘beautiful wall’. All along we will emphasize how the past and the present cannot be separated.

Module learning outcomes

To further understand American Society and Ethnic Encounters in the making of the United States

Module information

SC361-6-SP Spring
Available as an Outside Option
Available for third year students

Please click on the link below to view the Introduction video to SC361 American Society: Ethnic Encounters in the Making of the USA

Learning and teaching methods

As there are still restrictions related to COVID-19 in place, some of the teaching on most modules will take place online. Most modules in Sociology are divided into lectures of around 50 minutes and a class of around 50 minutes. Some are taught as a 2hr seminar, and others via a 50-minute lecture and 2-hr lab. For the majority of modules the lecture-type content will be delivered online – either timetabled as a live online session or available on Moodle in the form of pre-recorded videos. You will be expected to watch this material and engage with any suggested activities before your class each week. Most classes labs and seminars will be taught face-to-face (assuming social distancing allows this). This module will include a range of activities to help you and your teachers to check your understanding and progress. These will include lectures, videos, and discussion sessions with short critical reflections due 3 times per term. The lectures provide an overview of the colonising processes, social histories and ethnic conflicts around the topic of the week, while the classes will give you the opportunity to reflect on your learning and actively engage with other students to develop understanding, interpretation and critical analysis further. The weekly classes will take place face-to-face (unless there is a change in the current COVID safety measures). You are strongly encouraged to attend the classes as they provide an opportunity to exchange ideas with your class teacher and other students. The classes will be recorded and available via Listen Again. However, Listen Again is a poor substitute for attending and engaging in person. Please note that the recording of classes is at the discretion of the teacher. Please note that you should be spending up to eight hours per week undertaking your own private study (reading, preparing for classes or assignments, etc.) on each of your modules (e.g. 32 hours in total for four 30-credit modules).


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Critical Reflection 1    50% 
Coursework   Critical Reflection 2    50% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Colin Samson, email:
Professor Colin Samson
Jane Harper, Student Administrator, email:, telephone: 01206 873052



External examiner

Dr Umut Erel
Open University
Senior Lecturer
Dr Aneira Edmunds
School of Law, Politics & Sociology
Senior Lecturer
Dr Paul Gilbert
University of Sussex
Senior Lecturer in International Development
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

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