Join the Program
Students from all departments are welcome to enroll. Students may enroll in the American studies certificate program at any time, including their first year. There are no prerequisites, and courses taken prior to enrollment may count towards the certificate requirements. Students may take the gateway course AMS 101 at any time during their studies, including after enrollment in the certificate program. To enroll in the certificate program, students should complete the online enrollment form. Certificate students should meet with the associate director or program coordinator before the end of their first year of enrollment, to review their plans for fulfilling the certificate requirements.
Students may earn a certificate in American studies by successfully completing the following requirements, consisting of five courses:
- AMS 101: America Then and Now
- Three courses in American studies (AMS), either originating in the program or cross-listed, and preferably representing disciplinary breadth in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. No more than one course taken in fulfillment of a student’s concentration may be counted toward the certificate.
- An advanced seminar in American studies, preferably taken in the senior year.
Students who fulfill all the requirements of the program will receive a certificate in American studies upon graduation.
Fall 2022 Courses
This course introduces students to methods of American Studies through discussion of some of the signature ideas, events, and debates in and about America's past and present. It presents students various scholarly approaches to historical and mythic manifestations of America from local, national, and global perspectives and considers the historical and cognitive processes associated with the delineation of America. The course examines a wide range of material and media from the point of view of multiple fields of study.
An exploration of the written and oral literary traditions of Native American and Indigenous authors. This course offers an occasion to reflect on, critique, and contest settler colonialism or the dispossession of land and waters and the attempt to eliminate Indigenous people. The course will include a service-learning trip to the Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm and an opportunity to learn some Lenape, the ancestral language of New Jersey.
This seminar explores how writers and artists--alongside scientists and activists--have shaped American environmental thought from 1980 to today. The seminar asks: How do different media convey the causes and potential solutions to environmental challenges, ranging from biodiversity loss and food insecurity to pollution and climate change? What new art forms are needed to envision sustainable and just futures? Course materials include popular science writing, graphic narrative, speculative fiction, animation art, documentary film, and data visualization along with research from anthropology, ecology, history, literary studies, and philosophy.
The fat body operates at the conjuncture of political economy, beauty standards, and health. This seminar asks, How does this "f-word" discipline and regulate bodies in /as public? What is the "ideal" American public body and who gets to occupy that position? How are complex personhood, expressivity, health, and citizenship contested cultural and political economic projects? We will examine the changing history, aesthetics, politics, and meanings of fatness using dance, performance, memoirs, and media texts as case studies. Intersectional dimensions of the fat body are central to the course. No previous performance experience necessary.
This seminar takes up the works of science fiction pioneer Octavia E. Butler to explore the future of the American empire via a study of Afrofuturism and the Anthropocene. We will explore Afrofuturism's history and current status, especially in relation to the Anthropocene in the novels, short stories, and critical writings by and related to Butler's canon. We will pay close attention to how Butler's oeuvre charts the arc of American history from the Civil Rights Movement to the Iraq war and the significance of Butler's prophetic work that had dire warnings regarding climate change, white nationalism, and the waning of the American empire.
As the demographics of Blacks in America change, we are compelled to rethink the dominant stories of who African Americans are, and from whence they come. In this seminar, we will explore the deep cultural, genealogical, national origin, regional, and class-based diversity of people of African descent in the United States. Materials for the course will include scholarly writings as well as memoirs and fiction. In addition to reading assignments, students will be expected to complete an ethnographic or oral history project based upon research conducted within a Black community in the U.S., and a music or visual art based presentation of work.
As articulated by Thelma Golden, postblack refers to the work of African American artists who emerged in the 1990s with ambitious, irreverent, and sassy work. Postblack suggests the emergence of a generation of artists removed from the long tradition of Black affirmation of the Harlem Renaissance, Black empowerment of the Black Arts movement, and identity politics of the 1980s and early 90s. This seminar involves critical and theoretical readings on multiculturalism, race, identity, and contemporary art, and will provide an opportunity for a deep engagement with the work of African American artists of the past decade.
From the height of the Asian American movement began at San Francisco State in 1968, the question of where Asian diasporic communities fit within the American racial matrix has been of pivotal interest for scholars, students, activists and artists across genres. This class seeks to explore Asian Americans' social location in the US. Using a relational intersectional feminist approach, this class will examine Asian Americans positionality in relation to Indigenous, Black and Latinx communities throughout the country. Students will engage and hone Asian American Studies interdisciplinary methods (historical, literary and filmic analysis).
In traditional workshops content and context come second to craft. Here we will explore writing political fiction, the politics of fiction and writing as political engagement. We'll read widely, from the most realistic depictions of the American political process and the varieties of immigrant experience to the work of afrofuturists and feminists. The personal is the political and our frame will range from the global to the domestic. We will write stories that inhabit experiences other than our own. This course will allow students to make interdisciplinary connections between courses on history, politics and identity and creative writing.
Bharatanatyam, butoh, hip hop, and salsa are some of the dances that will have us travel from temples and courtyards to clubs, streets, and stages around the world. Through studio sessions, readings and viewings, field research, and discussions, this seminar will introduce students to dance across cultures with special attention to issues of migration, cultural appropriation, gender and sexuality, and spiritual and religious expression. Students will also learn basic elements of participant observation research. Guest artists will teach different dance forms. No prior dance experience is necessary.
This course studies the entanglement between ideas of personhood and the history of ideas about beauty. How does beauty make and unmake persons -socially, legally and culturally- at the intersection of race, gender and aesthetics? Let us move beyond the good versus bad binary that dominates discussions of beauty to focus instead on how beauty in literature and culture have contributed to the conceptualization of modern, western personhood and its inverse (the inhuman, the inanimate, the object). We will trace beauty and its disruptions in the arenas of literature, visual culture, global capitalism, politics, law, science and technology.
How do we analyze conspiracy narratives and conspiratorial thinking at a moment when the government spies on its citizens and profitable technology companies have turned surveillance itself into an economic necessity? Under what historical, political, and economic conditions do conspiracies proliferate? In this course we analyze conspiracies, paranoia, rumors, and the contemporary economies of dis/information and post-facts. Course material will be drawn from American history, from the 19th century to the present, and will include manifestos, films, novels, online fora, and theoretical texts in psychoanalysis, narrative theory and politics.
Feminist Futures explores the way in which recent writers have transformed science fiction into speculative fiction - an innovative literary form capable of introducing and exploring new kinds of feminist, queer, and multi-cultural perspectives. These books confront the limitations imposed on women and imagine transformative possibilities for thinking about gender roles and relationships, the body, forms of power, and political and social structures.
This class views legal history broadly as the relationship between formal law, popular legal culture, state governance, and social change in the U.S., from the colonial period to the present. We will examine changing conceptions of rights, equality, justice, the public interest. We also will consider questions about the operation of law in U.S. history: How is law made? What do people expect from law? Who controls law? How did that change over time? These questions open up a rich, layered past in which the law was a source of authority that mediated social and political conflicts, even as those conflicts ultimately changed the law.
This course surveys the history of cities in the United States from colonial settlement to the present. Over centuries, cities have symbolized democratic ideals of "melting pots" and cutting-edge innovation, as well as urban crises of disorder, decline, crime, and poverty. Urban life has concentrated extremes like rich and poor; racial and ethnic divides; philanthropy and greed; skyscrapers and parks; violence and hope; downtown and suburb. The course examines how cities in U.S. history have brokered revolution, transformation and renewal, focusing on class, race, gender, immigration, capitalism, and the built environment.
The international border looms large over current national and international political debates. While this course will consider borders across the world, it will focus on the U.S.-Mexico border, and then on the Guatemala-Mexico and U.S.-Canada border. This course examines the history of the formation of the U.S. border from the colonial period to the present. Borders represent much more than just political boundaries between nation states. The borderlands represents the people who live between two cultures and two nations. This course will also study those individuals who have lived in areas surrounding borders or crossed them.
This course provides an introductory foray into the heterogenous field of Latinx Studies, drawing on classical and contemporary texts from sociology, history, political science, feminist studies, and critical race studies. The course explores the following themes: the history of US imperialism in Latin America; decolonial Latinx thought; the criminalization and regulation of Latinx immigration in the US; race, mestizaje, Black identity, and AfroLatinidad identity; colonialism and queerness in Latin America; and liberal, radical, indigenous, and lesbian Latinx feminisms.
This course begins from the disjoint and relation between the narrated autobiography and the lived life. In reading works by authors including Myriam Gurba, Wendy C. Ortiz, Carmen Maria Machado, Richard Rodriguez, and Junot Diaz, we will explore not only how writers experiment with the project of narrating a life that contends with the structures and strictures of racial matrices, gender binaries, and traumatic abuse - but also how writers test the boundaries of what autobiographies more generally are and are for.
This course explores the history, culture, and language of the Deaf in the United States. The first part of the course focuses on the history of Deaf people in the United States. The second part discusses various aspects of Deaf culture: language, literature, art, politics, etc. The third part critically examines different issues facing Deaf people here in the United States and around the world. These issues include audism, linguicism, ableism, intersectionality, disability rights, bioethics, and education. No American Sign Language knowledge required.
This seminar explores constitutional and legal issues posed by the attempted secession of eleven states of the Federal Union in 1860-1865 and the civil war this attempt triggered. Issues to be examined include the nature of secession movements (both in terms of the constitutional controversy posed in 1860-1861 and modern secession movements), the development of the "war powers" doctrine of the presidency, the suspension by the writ of habeas corpus, the use of military tribunals, and abuses of civil rights on both sides of the Civil War.
For the last 60 years, the United States has been engaged in a near-constant effort to reform American schools. In this course, we will make sense of competing explanations of educational performance and evaluate the possibilities for and barriers to improving American public schools and for reducing educational disparities by family socioeconomic status, race, and gender. In doing so, we will grapple with the challenges that researchers and practitioners face in evaluating educational policies.
This course surveys the history, theory and practice of casting within U.S. entertainment industries over the last 150 years to evince the creative, industrial and social features of the always-evolving casting apparatus. As we explicate the interpretive dilemma of deciding which actor is "right" (or "wrong") for a role, we will also confront how casting structures determine who does (and does not) have access to artistic opportunity; how exclusionary and exploitative casting practices persist; and how the artistic, social and ethical implications of the casting apparatus have inspired efforts to transform it.
From Cross Colours to boom boxes, the 1990s was loud and colorful. But alongside the fun, black people in the U.S. dealt with heightened criminalization and poverty codified through the War on Drugs, welfare reform, HIV/AIDS, and police brutality. We will study the various cultural productions of black performers and consumers as they navigated the social and political landscapes of the 1990s. We will examine works growing out of music, televisual media, fashion, and public policy, using theories from performance and cultural studies to understand the specificities of blackness, gender, class, and sexuality.
This seminar introduces urban studies research methods through a study of New York in conversation with other cities. Focused on communities and landmarks represented in historical accounts, literary works, art and film, we will travel through cityscapes as cultural and mythological spaces - from the past to the present day. We will examine how standards of evidence shape what is knowable about cities and urban life, what "counts" as knowledge in urban studies, and how these different disciplinary perspectives construct and limit knowledge about cities as a result.