BASS Politics and Criminology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Race, Ethnicity, Migration

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI32161
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course considers the role of ethnicity as a social and political cleavage. It examines the impact of immigration and ethnic diversity on party politics and political behaviour, using the experiences of countries in Europe and North America. Immigration and ethnicity are one of the major long-term social issues of today, and studying the effects of these phenomena on politics will allow students to gain a deeper understanding of long-term political change - as well as current affairs. The approach taken is to consider both the political engagement and representation of immigrants and ethnic minority citizens, and the broader consequences and development ethnicity and immigration as political issues in their own right. This includes a consideration of racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and Brexit. This course will have an empirical emphasis, aiming to equip students with the skills to evaluate empirical (including quantitative) research.


The unit aims to:

•       Give students comparative and cross-national insights into immigration and ethnicity in the European and North American contexts.

•       Understand how the phenomena of immigration and ethnic diversity affect the political behaviour of both voters and representatives.

•       Equip students to interrogate and analyse empirical and quantitative evidence on this topic and others.


The first part of the course starts by exploring two key parts of the social context of immigration; the varied history of immigration and ethnic diversity in Europe and North America, and social stratification by immigrant status and ethnicity. This draws on sociological and historical literature as well as that of political studies. The second part of the course concentrates on racism, attitudes to immigration and their political impacts. This involves considering racism and anti-immigrant attitudes at the individual level - what makes some people more tolerant than others? We also discuss the difficulties in measuring racism and its effects, including survey questions, audit tests, and the Implicit Attitudes Test. Moving from the individual-level, we also consider the response of parties to these attitudes, and their role in cultivating or suppressing them. This looks at both far right parties in comparative perspective (including over a longer period of time), and major parties’ responses to their success. The second part of the course concludes with a week focussing on Brexit. The final part of the course considers the political behaviour and representation of ethnic minorities and immigrants. The starting point will be a week examining the reasons for strong support for parties of the left among ethnic minority and immigrant groups, and exceptions to that general trend. Then we focus on voter participation and the barriers that immigrants and ethnic minority voters can face in this regard. This includes a discussion of voter suppression. Finally, we look at substantive and descriptive representation, including survey and experimental evidence on attitudes concerning these two types of representation by voters and representatives.


Topics include:

History of immigration and ethnic diversity in Europe.

How does racism affect voter choice?

Ethnic minority candidates and politicians.

What is the role of immigration in explaining Brexit?

The far right and women’s role in society.

Teaching and learning methods

This course is delivered in the format of a 2 hour lecture and 1 hour tutorial the following week. The aim of the lectures is to provide students with an overview of the topic that week and a variety of literature that they will not be able to read in the time during the week. This will facilitate discussion in the tutorial which discusses a question with reference to the core readings for that week. Students prepare and submit a short written research task each week, which will provide the starting point for tutorial discussion. For instance, if the topic is far right parties, the research task is to look at particular far right party and identify which type of far right party it is best described as. In the week on ethnic minority politicians, the research task is to find out about a particular politician and their path into politics. These research tasks develop student’s ability to apply the theoretical material to the real world of electoral politics - parties, voters and politicians. Lectures make use of video and picture materials from other sources. E-learning is used to enable self-reflection and to check understanding. For instance, if we are discussing a paper that uses surveys to examine social attitudes, students might complete those survey questions anonymously in the tutorial (without a record of their attitudes being kept).

Knowledge and understanding

1.     Understanding of contemporary scholarship on political behaviour of ethnic and racial minorities.

2.     Knowledge of different European countries experience of migration and ethnic diversity.

3.     Conceptual understanding of substantive and descriptive representation, and knowledge of empirical applications of these concepts in the US and the UK.

4.     Understanding of scholarship on the successes and failures of the extreme right family of parties in Europe.

Intellectual skills


1. Independent study.

2. Ability to engage with intellectually challenging material.


Practical skills

1.      Independent study.

2.      Ability to engage with intellectually challenging material.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

1.      Presentational skills.

2.      Stronger written communication skills.

3.      Greater reflectiveness and thoughtfulness when debating immigration, ethnicity and racism.

4.      Independent working.

Assessment methods

Briefing paper/essay (1600 words) - 40%

Essay (2400 words) - 60%

Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission.

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff


Recommended reading

Bansak, K., Hainmueller, J. and Hangart (2016) ‘How economic, humanitarian, and religious concerns shpae European atttitudes toward asylum seekers’, Science, 534(6309), p. 217-.

Blinder, S., Ford, R. and Ivarsflaten, E. (2013) ‘The better angels of our nature: How the antiprejudice norm affects policy and party preferences in Great Britain and Germany’, American Journal of Political Science

Dancygier, E. (2010) Immigration and Conflict in Europe. Cambridge University Press.

Dancygier, R. and Saunders, E. N. (2006) ‘A New Electorate? Comparing Preferences and Partisanship between Immigrants and Natives’, American Journal of Political Science, 50(4), pp. 962-981.

Dawson, M. C. (1994) Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African-American Politics. Princeton¿: Princeton University Press.

Heath, A. et al. (2013) The Political Integration of Ethnic Minorities in Britain. Oxford University Press.

Just, A., Sandovici, M. E. and Listhaug, O. (2014) ‘Islam, religiosity, and immigrant political action in Western Europe ’, Social Science Research, 43, pp. 127-144.

Mudde, C. (2007) Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge University Press.

Mudde, C. (2014) ‘Fighting the system? Populist radical right parties and party system change ’, Party Politics, 20(2), pp. 217-226.

Saggar, S. (ed.) (1998) Race And British Electoral Politics. Routledge.

Saggar, S. and Heath, A. (1999) ‘Race: Towards a Multicultural Electorate?’, in Evans, G. and Norris, P. (eds) Critical Elections: British Parties and Voters in Long-Term Perspective, pp. 102-23.

Sobolewska, M., Galandini, S. and Lessard-Phillips, L. (2017) ‘The public view of immigrant integration: multidimensional and consensual. Evidence from survey experiments in the UK and the Netherlands’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Taylor & Francis, 43(1), pp. 58-79.

Wilson, J. M. (2012) ‘How are we doing? Group-based economic assessments and African American political behavior’, Electoral Studies, 31(3), pp. 550-561.

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicole Martin Unit coordinator

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