Professor Nathan Rousseau Receives Grant from the IU Racial Justice Research Fund

December 21, 2020
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IUPUC Professor of Sociology, Nathan Rousseau, has received a research grant from the Indiana University Racial Justice Research Fund in support of the first phase of a two-phase research project that will ultimately compare race relations between the United States and the United Kingdom, with emphasis on how colonization shapes assumptions among the colonized and colonizers.

The research fund is jointly supported by Indiana University’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, and provides grants of up to $15,000 for research by IU faculty focused on racial equity and justice.

In the first phase, Rousseau’s research is focused on the state of race relations in the emerging “Old South” city of Jacksonville, Florida, which serves as a microcosm of race relations nationally. “Most of the participants in this investigation are African American leaders working in a white-dominated city,” Rousseau said. “One of the key questions that this research addresses is how these individuals function in their capacity as civil rights leaders when the color of one’s skin has social significance. They have duties to fulfill and goals to accomplish as civil rights leaders, but they must achieve their objectives while knowing that the color of their skin matters to the dominant white population. They live and work in two worlds: one American, and the other black. This distinction is a product of being marginalized by the dominant group. By examining this tension, the invisibility of ‘double-consciousness’ is made visible. Making visible this dynamic in race relations is a unique way of addressing the currently invisible aspects of racism.”

During his 18 years as a professor at Jacksonville University, Rousseau spent three years as a commissioner on the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, building relationships with community leaders promoting racial justice in Jacksonville. His research includes interviews with prominent individuals including the Jacksonville Director of the NAACP, the Jacksonville Director of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Jacksonville Director of the Urban League, and several members of the Jacksonville City Council.

Rousseau’s research uses historical, comparative, and qualitative methodologies to address the questions of why and how individuals build on historical and contemporary narratives to delineate and evaluate others based upon color. This mixed-methods strategy represents a novel approach to the study of race relations and racial justice.

According to Rousseau, culture and history play a role in contemporary race relations, and consequently, race relations and double-consciousness vary with culture. Phase two of the research will include interviews in the U.K., as well as a comparative analysis of both nations in order to examine how colonization shapes assumptions of race among the colonized and the colonizers. “This research brings together these two strands of research – colonization and double-consciousness – to better understand how culture and history affect contemporary forms of racism,” Rousseau said.

George Towers, Head of the Division of Liberal Arts at IUPUC is happy to see that Rousseau’s work is being recognized outside of the Columbus community. “One of the advantages of being at a smaller campus like IUPUC is the impact we can have as professors on individual students, but sometimes what gets lost is the impact we have on the broader community that exists outside the campus. The meaningful research that Nathan is doing will likely have both national and international significance in the field of study of racial justice.”

Phase I of Rousseau’s research is expected to be completed during the summer of 2021, and the findings submitted for publication in the fall.