"What is Critical Ethnic Studies?"

Critical Ethnic Studies Association Summer Institute


Off Campus

Date & Time

June 26, 2014, 8:00 amJun 28, 2014 4:00 pm



Critical ethnic studies is an approach to scholarship, institution-building, and activism animated by the spirit of the decolonial, antiracist, and other global liberationist movements that enabled the creation of ethnic studies and continues to inform its political and intellectual projects. It seeks to move away from current critical deadlocks, to counteract institutional marginalization, to revisit the political ideas that precipitated ethnic studies' founding within the US academy, and to create new conversations in multiple locations.

But as critical ethnic studies has emerged in a variety of ways, the question remains: what exactly is critical ethnic studies? Does it imply that ethnic studies was not already "critical"? What is its relationship to the historic emergence of ethnic studies in the academy and activist circles? As the academic industrial complex has increasingly marginalized and coopted critical interdisciplinary studies such as ethnic studies, gender studies, queer studies, etc., what kinds of works can critical ethnic studies do across academic institutions, community organizing, and advocacy efforts? And insofar as critical ethnic studies claims itself as both a political and intellectual project, what is its relationship to broad social justice-based movements? What are the legacies of ethnic studies outside the United States, and how might a critical approach reconsider its genealogies and forms of solidarity? And what might be the limitations of any approach to analyzing and challenging settler colonialism, white supremacy, antiblackness, imperialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy, when organized through ethnicity? Finally, how might different approaches to critical ethnic studies – long existing and still emerging – be brought into conversation with each other?

In this Summer Institute, we will explore collectively the question “What is critical ethnic studies?” Over three days of intensive seminars, open conversations, and informal exchanges, we will explore the possibilities and pitfalls of a critical ethnic studies framework.  All are welcome to apply. 

The following is a list of seminar leaders.  There may be additions and corrections to this list, please check our website for updates:

Denise Ferreira da Silva

Rachel Gorman

Jin Haritaworn

John Márquez

Dian Million

Junaid Rana

Dylan Rodriguez

Andrea Smith

Neferti Tadiar

Alex Weheliye

LOCATION: The Summer Institute will be held at the University of Maryland, College Park, located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just a few Metro stops outside of Washington, D.C.

LODGING: Participants will have the option to stay in University of Maryland’s residence halls in suites with kitchens, common rooms, and a shared bathroom, at a cost of between $175 (for a shared room for three nights) and $300 (for a single for four nights). A list of hotels and informal housing options will be available on CESA’s website soon.

REGISTRATION FEES/SCHOLARSHIPS: All participants will be required to pay a one-time registration fee of $150 (for CESA members) and $200 (for CESA non-members). CESA Membership will be available February 2014.  Please check back then! The Summer Institute registration fee will cover participation in the Institute as well as daily continental breakfast and a reception hosted by the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland. Limited scholarships are available to help with registration and/or other expenses, please be sure to complete this section of the application!


Applications Due: February 24 2014, 11:59 Pacitic Standard Time.

Acceptance Notification: March 1 2014

Confirmation and housing reservations due: March 20th

Registration and housing fees due: April 5th.


1. Log in to the CESA website on the top right corner of the website. Please use a desktop  computer or laptop, no mobile or tablet devices. If you already see your USERNAME on the top right corner, that means you are already logged in and can proceed to step 2 . If you don't see your username, log in and return to this page. If you do not have a username, or if you have forgotten your username or password, click here then return to this page.

2. Download the application here to your desktop and open in Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader. Do not open or preview the document in your browser as you will not be able to type into the form.  You will need an updated version of Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader.  You can download a free copy of Adobe Reader  here.

3. Submit your application and supplemental material here.

4. If you have already submitted your application and need to make a change, please email a new version to the address provided in the PDF document. For additional questions, please click here or visit "Contact" at the top of our website.