Week 2 (Sounds of Laughter)

Academic Conversation Skill: Assumptions, Views, and Debates
Concept: Race and Ethnicity
Time Period: 2000s

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Assumptions, Views, and Debates

Templates for Introducing “Standard Views”:

  • Americans today tend to believe that _________.
  • Many people assume that _____________. (adapted from Graff and Birkenstein 2006, 22)

Template for Introducing an Ongoing Debate:

  • In the discussion of X, one controversial issue has been ____________. On the one hand, __________ argues ________________. On the other hand, __________ contends __________. Others even maintain ___________. My own view is _____________. (adapted from Graff and Birkenstein 2006, 24)

Race and Ethnicity

“Ethnicities are to be understood in terms of the construction, maintenance, and negotiation of boundaries, and not on the “putative” social essences which fill the gaps between them. Ethnic boundaries define and maintain social identities, which can only exist in a context of opposition and relativities.” (Stokes 1994, 6)

“Race focuses on identities based on perceptions about skin color. These distinctions are socially constructed categories used in most cases to establish hierarchical structures and to discriminate against or exclude certain groups of people from certain social, political, religious, and other settings.”(Stone 2008, 158)

Performance Example (2000s)

This video contains an original song and it’s official parody: “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire (2006) and “White and Nerdy” by Weird Al Yankovic (2006), respectively. The former describes racial profiling of Black Americans by the police, while the latter parodies White American “nerd” culture. Yankovic was a popular artist during the MTV era of the 1980s and 1990s – creating visual and sonic parodies based on pop songs and music videos. However, this song marked his resurgence back into the national spotlight during the 2000s.

See Also:

Chamillionaire on YouTube

Dave Chappelle, Jon Mayer, and Questlove: “White People Dancing” (2004)
I had originally intended to play this clip, but it was too long to show in class

Weird Al Yankovic on YouTube

Reading Questions

  • How do Stokes and Stone define race and ethnicity, respectively?
  • What are the differences between these two concepts?
  • How do these scholars’ ideas relate to “standard views” (i.e. commonly-held conceptions) of race and/or ethnicity?

Performance Questions

  • How does this video demonstrate racial and/or ethnic associations?
  • How do the two examples differ in their representations of race/ethnicity?
  • In what ways does U.S. musical comedy reinforce and/or challenge these associations?


Using your prompt for the final project [see Main Page], outline 2-3 “standard views” relating to your topic. These can be commonly-held/unspoken ideas, or specific debates between specific groups of people. Post a Word file or legible picture of your notes. (Due the Friday after class @ 5pm PST)

Additional Sources for Race and Ethnicity

Stokes, Martin. 1994. Ethnicity, identity, and music: The musical construction of place. Oxford, UK: Berg.

Stone, Ruth M. 2008. Theory for ethnomusicology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Other 2000s-Era Performers

YouTube Links

Demetri Martin

Parker & Stone’s Subversive Comedy – 60 Minutes (2011)

Richard Cheese

Sarah Silverman**

Tenacious D

The Lonely Island

Tim and Eric**

**Primarily comedian(s), some musical work

Blog Posts

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