First Year Writing Seminar

In the spring of 2020 I designed, prepped, and taught a first year writing seminar on the “identity politics debate” in the United States.

The course introduced students to research in political science and social psychology, as well as numerous polemics written for a popular audience. The course began with discussions of the origins of “identity politics,” considering theories developed in the minimal group paradigm, by political psychologists, and by scholars of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics. We then read normative critiques of identity politics forwarded by academics on the center-right, the Marxian left, and by scholars of intersectionality. Our course concluded by examining how identities rarely centered in the “identity politics debate” shape Americans’ political attitudes and behavior.

Students were asked to write both about their own identities, and how political elites made claims about the status or belonging of social identity groups. You can find some examples of assignments students completed below.


Some of the assignments students completed:

  • Considering how their own “identity-to-politics link” aligned with, or contradicted, several prominent theories of how identity shapes politics.
  • Examining how they received and responded to political communication in an apolitical echo chamber they inhabited.
  • Tracing how a candidate seeking office in 2018 or 2020 made claims on behalf of, or about, an identity group in the United States.

Course materials

You can find a syllabus for this class here.

You can find the recommended reading list for this class here.

Colin Cepuran Written by:

Colin Cepuran is a political scientist and a policy analyst working in Kalamazoo, MI.