In-depth explorations outside your major
Born from the Ethnic Studies movement, Critical Ethnic Studies has been an integral part of CCA’s curriculum since 1970. Committed to equity, intersectionality, and social impact, Critical Ethnic Studies courses inform your research and creative processes. All undergraduates are required to take one seminar and studio in areas outside their chosen program. Designed to be hands-on and highly interdisciplinary, they highlight the contributions of African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Latinx peoples to dominant American culture and subcultures. Our courses are dedicated to social justice and equity from local, national, and international perspectives.
You’ll apply your knowledge of the interconnections between global communities, cultural formations, power, privilege, and imperialism to your understanding of contemporary art and design practices.
Gain analytical and critical perspectives
As you learn about racial and ethnic inequalities and resistance, you’ll use critical thinking and studio skills to develop languages, tools, and strategies that position marginalized and Indigenous voices at the center of discourse. Everything from gender and race to sexuality and socioeconomic inequality will inform your research projects and viewpoints. Our investigations into the processes and constructions of radical knowledge production empower you to interrogate the intersections of oppressive conditions, such as white supremacy, imperialisms, and colonialism, as well as intricate community and identity formations.
Are you eligible to waive Critical Ethnic Studies requirements?
While Critical Ethnic Studies is a non-degree program, courses are threaded throughout your core and program curricula. The required seminar (3 units) and studio course (3 units) may be satisfied by transfer credits from another four-year accredited institution with programs in ethnic or American studies. The chair of Critical Ethnic Studies must pre-approve all transfer credits.
Meet the chair
Shylah Pacheco Hamilton is a rootworker, diviner, assistant professor in the First Year program, and chair of Critical Ethnic Studies at CCA. She received her MFA in Film, Video, New Media, and Animation from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and an MA in Women, Gender, Spirituality, and Social Justice from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Her academic research and creative practices meet at the crossroads of experimental video, decolonial feminism, and digital diasporas. Her body of work consists of experimental films and writing that explore liberation, dreams, and performances of the sacred.
Selected exhibitions include The Hague, Dok Leipzig, CinePalium Fest, DMZ International Documentary Film Festival, SFMOMA, SomArts, Oakland Underground Film Festival, International Black Women’s Film Festival, San Francisco Black Film Festival, and Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation.
Pachecho Hamilton lives in Oakland and is a member of the artist collective The Black Woman Is God and the filmmaking collective Filmmakers Unite (FU). She is co-founder of CCA Decolonial School and board member of the Edwidge Danticat Society. Her writing can be found in e-flux architecture, Frontiers Journal of Women Studies, La Tolteca Magazine, Communication Arts, Iyanifa Woman of Wisdom: Insights from the Priestesses of the Ifa Orisha Tradition, Their Stories, and Plight for the Divine Feminine and ColorTheory.
CONJURE! African Sacred Art
This course examines how sacred art practices can serve as a bridge between physical and spiritual worlds. You’ll be introduced to the philosophies and aesthetics of the sacred art practices in the African Diaspora through lectures, readings, films, and more. Studio classes meet regularly with artists/healers to discover how respectful participation in ritual work can be used to deepen our own studio practices.
A Taste of Resistance
The intersections of food, form, and political action are at the heart of this studio course. You’ll learn to use food as a lens to decolonize constructions of class, gender, and race, drawing from readings by interdisciplinary scholars and your own hands-on projects. From material investigations and creative writing to urban farming and cooking, you’ll explore food’s potential as an artmaking material.
Taught by a composer and performer, this is an intensive performance workshop. You’ll have the freedom to use your body as a medium for artistic, political, spiritual, and social expression. Time-based composition, experimental theater techniques, and psychological principles will inform your approach to collective performance practices and new venues of expression for your personal work.
Campus resources and studios
Start a conversation
Are you passionate about Bollywood cinema? Interested in using food as a political strategy? Each semester, the Critical Ethnic Studies program offers numerous seminars and studio courses that expose you to multiculturalism and cultural diversity. Get in touch to learn about what’s coming up and how you can enrich all aspects of your CCA experience.
First Year Core
Every undergraduate student participates in the First Year Experience, an opportunity to explore a wide range of materials and tools. Faculty from different disciplines guide projects, group critiques, and theoretical discussions to help set you up for success in your major. You’ll learn to move easily between conceptual and studio work.
Critical Studies introduces critical thinking skills essential to college-level work in the humanities and sciences. You’ll develop critical capacities through close readings and responses to cultural texts and phenomena. Coursework draws from multiple disciplines and reflects diverse perspectives on major themes or topics in contemporary life.
BFA in Community Arts
Focused on public art and social impact projects, the BFA in Community Arts teaches you to build bridges between underrepresented groups, nonprofits, and the wider community. You’ll apply your knowledge of critical theory, art history, and hands-on studio skills to real-world challenges.