AMY H. LIU 

Language, Politics, and Culture - Fall 2020

(First-Year Undergraduate Studies Seminar)


What is a language? On the one hand, it is a tool for communication. It allows people to convey messages. On the other hand, language brings together people with a shared culture. If language marks cultural boundaries, it is not shocking that governments often designate official languages. Choosing official languages is inherently political. In the United States, for example, we do not have an official language at the federal level. Those who are argue English should be official often talk about the cost-cutting benefits of having one language. Conversely, advocates for a more multilingual approach often to point to the history of the country as a melting pot. We will examine these debates in this course.


We will start with the United States, focusing on the role of English - vis-à-vis  German historically andvis-à-vis  Spanish in the contemporary. We will talk about the distinction between English Only and English Official movements. And we will talk about migrant languages, voting rights legislation, and bilingual education.


We will take the American case and compare it against four other cases globally – spanning four continents. In each one, the politics surrounding the English language has been framed differently.

  1. Australia: English as the singular national language.
  2. Canada: English and French bilingualism.
  3. The European Union: Symmetrical multilingualism across twenty-four (!) languages.
  4. India: Asymmetrical multilingualism with Hindi and English as official.


We will conclude by focusing on Texas. Currently, Texas is in the minority. It is one of the nineteen states that has yet to adopt an English official legislation. There have certainly been efforts; and there certainly are English official laws at the local level. But this is the state where Spanish – as a language of the indigenous Tejanos, as a language of immigrants, and as a language of trade – has a strong influence. And it is not just about Spanish: Other major global languages have also been important, including German, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Texas is also home to a large African-American population. And this is the state where our Senator Ralph Yarborough introduced a legislation at the national level to recognize the needs of limited English-speaking students. The legislation would be signed by Texas native President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, thereby becoming the landmark Bilingual Education Act.



Politics of Eastern Europe Spring 2021

(Funded by Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Course Development Grant)


Eastern Europe is home to a diverse population. In the past 100 years, the map for Eastern Europe has been redrawn more than a dozen times – often with great consequences for ethnic politics. We will study this region through this lens:

  1. Ethnicities of Eastern Europe through a historical analysis of three “wars”.
  2. Domestic Institutions: How democratic institutions accommodated ethnic minorities.
  3. International Institutions: The impact of the European Union and its policy of open-borders.
  4. Domestic Institutions (again): How the European Union facilitated rise of right-wing parties.
  5. Implications for minority accommodation in post-Soviet republics.


After completing this course, you should be able to (1) explain politics in Eastern Europe -- as a region and in a particular city; and (2) conduct basic text analysis on a Facebook-scraped corpus.



Ethnic Politics in Taiwan, China, and Asia Spring 2020

(Funded by Center for Asian Studies Course Development Grant)


This course is primarily about ethnic politics in Taiwan – an empirically interesting, normatively reassuring, but theoretically complicated case. We will begin with a study of different theories of ethnic politics. Then we will draw on these theories to get an understanding of how different governments have responded to their ethnic "Chinese" populations. But we will first begin in Southeast Asia where the notion of "Chinese" – e.g., historical origins and their political situation – are easier to grasp. Second, with an understanding of not just ethnic politics theoretically but also what it means to be empirically "Chinese", we then turn to the Taiwan case. We will examine why the Taiwanese state transitioned from being an authoritarian regime – where an ethnic minority repressed the majority – to one that is democratic and accommodating of even the most marginalized minorities. The current state of ethnic accommodation is not only arguably the most liberal in Asia, but it rivals some of the most accommodating western democracies. Third, we then situate the Taiwanese experience by looking at that of China. We will conclude the course by discussing the challenges and benefits of ethnic diversity – and the implications not just for Asia but the United States as well.



Politics of Southeast Asia - Fall 2019



Comparative Race and Ethnic Politics Fall 2021

(Graduate Seminar - Collaboration with Politics of Race/Ethnicity Lab)