Designated Emphases - Sociocultural

A designated emphasis is a specialization that can give participants access to a new method of inquiry or to an important field of application. Participation in a DE gives graduate students access to a broadened network of faculty members, which can prove helpful when they are composing their qualifying examination and dissertation committees.


About the Designated Emphasis

The curriculum of a Designated Emphasis tends to focus on emerging fields or technologies that are interdisciplinary in nature and, by definition, are relevant to more than one doctoral program. DEs are interdisciplinary in nature and organized in a manner that resembles a Graduate Group, with Bylaws, a Chair, Executive Committee, curriculum, admissions policy, and faculty from more than one Ph.D. programs. However, the DE may exist only in affiliation with existing Ph.D. programs, and not independently.

Students must apply for a Designated Emphasis (DE) prior to completing their doctoral qualifying examinations. The DE is awarded concurrently with the Ph.D. degree and is annotated on the participant’s transcript. 

Designated Emphases

Visit the websites of each of these programs for information about declaration requirements, courses, events and more.


  • African American and African Studies
  • The designated emphasis in African American and African Studies (DEAAAS) gives doctoral students in Anthropology and other Ph.D. programs training in African American or African Studies. This D.E. serves students who identify African American and/or African Studies subject matter as the focus of their proposed dissertations. This emphasis increases their understanding of the breadth of past and present research in African American and African Studies.

    Graduate students who have completed the DEAAAS will be more competitive candidates for positions in academic units of their primary disciplines as well as in African American and/or African Studies academic units.

  • Critical Theory
  • The Critical Theory Program hosts interdisciplinary seminars focusing on the rich tradition of ancient and modern critical thought. The D.E. in Critical Theory enables doctoral students to add a formal credential in critical theory to their degrees.

    The Critical Theory program amalgamates faculty from various affiliated programs in the humanities and social sciences. They collectively offer a wide range of expertise across multiple historical periods and theoretical approaches. Critical Theory seminars bring together students and faculty from across this broad disciplinary spectrum, providing a rare opportunity to compare perspectives, and to interrogate the fundamental axioms and principles of social, political and cultural practice.

  • Feminist Theory and Research
  • The Feminist Theory and Research D.E., administered by the Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Program, examines the complex ways in which gender has shaped language, identities, traditions of knowledge, methodologies, social relations, organizations, economic systems, and every facet of culture. In making gender a central category of analysis, feminist scholarship explores: the relationship between language and institutions; the nature of social power and historical agency; heteronormativity; the relationship between gender and nation; alternative sexualities; gender and representation; and other topics of inquiry.

    Feminist scholars have established some of the groundwork for various interdisciplinary formations, including the new ethnography, new historicism, and cultural studies. Students with the D.E. credential demonstrate qualifications that are attractive to employers inside and outside of the academy.

  •  Native American Studies
  • The D.E. curriculum in Native American Studies focuses hemispherically upon the indigenous peoples of the Americas — the peoples, nations, tribes and communities whose ancestors have lived in North, Central and South America from earliest times.

    Native American Studies is interdisciplinary in its scholarly approach to the world of American Indian peoples, offering a comprehensive and comparative perspective. This unique hemispheric approach includes attention to the increasing dislocation and diaspora of indigenous people throughout the Americas, and calls upon the authority of Native intelligence (Native voices, Native texts) in all its forms and manifestations to address the issues that concern Native peoples, including the creative strategies for continuance they have developed over the centuries.

  • Science and Technology Studies
  • The designated emphasis in Science and Technology Studies (STS) examines the complexity of the practices of science in laboratories; the pervasive interactions of cultures, societies, governments, social movements, industries, environments and legal regimes with innovations in science and technology; and the increasing demand to study these interactions in an integrated manner. Doctoral students in the STS D.E. engage in a sustained analysis of the practices of scientists and engineers and the ways in which development and production of facts and technologies within the domain of science are fundamentally social phenomena.

    Participants explore the inseparability of these social aspects of scientific practice from the influence of science and technology in the broader cultural and political landscape. Students in this designated emphasis benefit from the thriving community of STS scholars on campus, regular STS speaker series, and a range of STS events, including the annual Summer Retreat, which draws faculty and grad participants from across the 10 UC campuses.

  • Second Language Acquisition
  • The designated emphasis in Second Language Acquisition gives doctoral students theoretical and practical knowledge of language acquisition and technologically based language instruction. Graduate students who more fully understand the process of second language acquisition contribute to improving the overall delivery of undergraduate language instruction.

    Cultural and linguistic diversity are cornerstones of contemporary society. Because culture is principally expressed and negotiated through language use, learning about other cultures must necessarily involve language study. The study of second language acquisition, especially in the areas of bilingualism and multilingualism, is crucial for students trying to develop cross-cultural knowledge. Graduate students who complete the D.E. significantly increase their prospects in the foreign-language and ESL job market.

  • Studies in Performance and Practice
  • The D.E. in Studies in Performance and Practice enables students to focus on process, training in methods for approaching practice, in procedures for analyzing it from experiment, and in different ways of thinking about and articulating performance as embodied knowledge.

    Performance Studies consists of a critical way of thinking about practices of communication, from film and stage performance, to sports, religion, and everyday behavior, among many other areas. As an academic discipline it has developed new ways of knowing and new knowledge about the process of these activities rather than the end products. By focusing on process, situated learning, embodied knowledge, and the interaction and interplay of theory and practice, performance studies has defined ways of looking at, interpreting and interacting with actual human agents and their mediation.

  • Study of Religion
  • The DE in the Study of Religion provides graduate students with an interdisciplinary understanding of how religion in general has been conceptualized and studied historically and how these understandings continue to inform basic categories of thought, behavior and identity across the world and especially in the West. Rather than approaching religion as a fixed entity that informs change in other more dynamic fields (e.g. literature, culture, society, behavior), this program helps students think about the study of religion as historically variable, contextualized, and itself constitutive of the subject of inquiry.