Viewing and Consuming Ethnic Notions

Viewing and Consuming Ethnic Notions


This is assignment is designed to show you how “racial” or ethnic representations in popular culture productions function and circulate in society, by examining popular caricatures and portrayals of blacks and African Americans in the U.S. during the 19th and 20th centuries.


Your task is to view the 1987 Emmy Award-winning documentary, Ethnic Notions. After closely examining and analyzing the documentary, write a two-page essay (no longer than three pages) that answers the following questions:

According to Ethnic Notions, why were (antiblack) “racial” caricatures and stereotypes created and produced? (i.e., what social, moral, political or cultural dilemmas did the caricatures help explain or resolve?)

Specifically, based on their particular features or characterizations (i.e., casting and fate) of the caricatures, what functions or purposes did the caricatures serve and what dilemmas did they help resolve? Why did they vary over time and space?

Evaluative Criteria

• Your essay will be judged by the quality of your argument, i.e., detailed description, analysis, synthesis and interpretation of the entire documentary film.

• Argue deductively (i.e., here is my thesis or claim; here is my support [evidence and analysis] for it). Your thesis (or because-clause) should unify the main points of your argument, and it should be clearly stated in the first paragraph of the essay.

• Don’t write a mystery novel. Argue deductively. (Do the initial sentences of each main point [or paragraph] begin with a claim statement? If it begins with an example or description, go back and unearth the main point buried in the text; and restate your main point.)

• Make sure that your essay’s organizational structure and main points are balanced (e.g., problem-solution, cause/effect organizational, topical, etc.) and coherent (Hint: Check your thesis statement against your summary. Did your ideas or argument change by the end? If so, revise your thesis statement or argument.)

• Your paper should be (a) 2-pages in length; (b) double-spaced; and (c) 12 points font.

Sample Solution