January 20, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 8

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    Grants to Cohen, center support new research on race, politics and culture

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture and its faculty affiliates have received more than $1 million in grants to further research on race and ethnicity and to promote the development of new scholarship in this area.

    “These grants demonstrate that race and ethnicity are central topics of scholarship,” said Cathy Cohen, Professor in Political Science and Director of the center. “More specifically, receiving the grants shows that innovative research is being done at the center.”

    Among the awards is a two-year, $335,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to support research at the center, including graduate student fellowships.

    Work at the center also will be supported with two Ford Foundation grants Cohen has received. A $600,000 grant will support work on the study titled “African American Youth and Their Sexual Empowerment: Sex, Politics and Culture.”

    For this study, the National Opinion Research Center will conduct a national survey of young people ages 15 to 25, with an over sample of African Americans and Latinos. That study will allow Cohen to compare the attitudes of African-American youth with young people of other racial and ethnic groups.

    The second stage of the study will be in-depth interviews with young African Americans. This research will allow Cohen and her team of graduate and undergraduate research assistants to analyze hip-hop sources, such as music, videos and magazines, to determine the influence of popular culture on decision making.

    “One’s perceived standing or power in the political realm has a significant influence on seemingly individual social behavior,” Cohen said. “Thus, young African Americans who perceive themselves as second-class citizens with little political power or standing may seek to compensate for the loss of political standing by demonstrating their power and autonomy in the social and sexual realm.”

    She also received a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to support the Student Democracy Project. Six students in the College, two undergraduates from Northwestern University, one from the University of Illinois at Chicago and three from DePaul University have been meeting over the academic year, learning about political activism.

    The students are participating in a yearlong workshop of scheduled meetings to work on joint political projects. In the workshop and in their projects, students learn about the history of democratic participation and exclusion, and learn skills to affect change at the local, city, national and global levels.

    The workshop meetings also focus on helping students understand theoretical and conceptual questions related to activism, including how the concepts of democracy, human rights and social justice relate to activism on campuses or in local communities, Cohen said.

    University faculty members and faculty from Northwestern and UIC are facilitating the workshop sessions.

    Cohen also has received an Investigator Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That award of $275,000 will provide additional support for research for a book based on her study of African-American youth.