Note: This is a student project from a course affiliated with the Ethnography of the University Initiative. EUI supports faculty development of courses in which students conduct original research on their university, and encourages students to think about colleges and universities in relation to their communities and within larger national and global contexts.

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Title:The Myth of the Black Townie
Author(s):Mbanza, Alana
Subject(s):African American
Community Relations
EPS500 F07
Abstract:This inquiry, based on qualitative data obtained from both participant interviews and my own personal observations, seeks to understand the relationship between African American students of Parkland College, the University of Illinois, and similarly aged, non-enrolled members of the Champaign Urbana community. The findings of this investigation suggest that there is often a hostile relationship between African Americans of these diverse populations. The research was based on the popular usage of the derogatory term "townie" to define an uneducaed, lower class African American who was born and raised in the area. Although there might be several viable explanations, my data seems to confirm that cleavages along lines of economics and education were the main source of conflict.
Issue Date:2008-02-22
Course / Semester:EPS 500pf1: Race and Ethnography: A Study of the University, Prof. Priscilla Fortier. As a member of this course students join a campus-wide learning community in which the University of Illinois is being explored ethnographically. Students begin the course by thinking about what the university is, as well as about race and ethnicity as phenomena within the university's narratives. One area of concentration will be "ethnography," and students learn and practice the basic skills of observation, interviewing, and writing as an ethnographer. They complete several relatively short assignments that are intended to help them develop these skills, as well as one larger ethnographic project on the University. The latter allows students to explore an aspect of the university that has to do with as issue of race or ethnicity. The course syllabus is available at:
Publication Status:unpublished
Date Available in IDEALS:2008-02-22

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

  • The University and the Community
    This collection of student research interrogates the relationships between the university and the local community.
  • Diversity on Campus/Equity and Access
    This collection examines ways in which the U.S. university and the American college experience are affected by diversity, and difference. In particular, these student projects examine experiences of diversity on campus, including important contemporary social, cultural, and political debates on equity and access to university resources.
  • Student Communities and Culture
    The university offers an extraordinary opportunity to study and document student communities, life, and culture. This collection includes research on the activities, clubs, and durable social networks that comprise sometimes the greater portion of the university experience for students.

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