This course introduces students to the intellectual and creative possibilities in the interdisciplinary field of American Studies. Employing literature, law, history, visual culture, and politics, the class will examine the idea of “America” in global, national, and communal contexts. Each week students will engage with primary and secondary sources dealing with a select key concept: e.g. citizenship, American Exceptionalism, land/property, race, gender, and more. The course attends to how knowledge about America is produced, disseminated, and consumed, emphasizing analytical skills, close reading, verbal articulations, and critical thinking.
Kathleen M. Nolan
We explore the educational practices and organizational structures through which social inequality is produced and reproduced inside schools and how social class, race, ethnicity, gender, and other social differences shape educational outcomes. Additionally, we examine students’ responses to inequality and theories of resistance. We mainly consider theoretically grounded qualitative research related to K-12 education. Several readings discuss the realities of urban schooling; each week we connect the readings to current policy trends.
Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas
This course maps some benefits and perils of theater made for, by, or about people of color in the United States. We will investigate the difficult-to-theorize and contested space between politics and artistic craft. We will read both play scripts and critical essays, using each to illuminate and complicate the other. Some of the pairings purposefully cross categories of identity, genre or historic periods. We aim to shake loose some of these texts from identity-based or genre-specific readings and glean from them strategies for making theater and surviving.
John Kuo Wei Tchen
Fears of “yellow peril” (and “Islamophobia”) run deep in the present and past of U.S. political and commercial culture. SARS fears, charges of Chinese “pirating” and “hacking,” the profiling of Arab or Muslim “looking” peoples, and Asians “taking over” U.S. higher education all illustrate contemporary forms of Asian “peril.” Americans remain particularly vulnerable to its ideological and affective power. Seminar students will learn historical research skills and collaboratively document historical and contemporary case studies. We’ll explore what can and must be done to counter these fallacies and practices.
This course examines America through the lens of its images. Pictures created by Americans of all stripes in all periods have been integral to the shaping of American history, culture, and identity. By examining a wide range of image types — from the fine arts and photography to the built environment, scientific illustration, film, and digital media — and by considering these images in terms of their historical, political, social, intellectual, and global contexts, “American Images” will offer both a sweeping and a detailed portrait of America through the rich, sometimes strange history of its art and visual culture.
This course investigates the history of popular entertainments in the United States from the colonial era to the present. Moving briskly among some of the myriad sites, sounds and spectacles that have captivated diverse American audiences, this course tracks how entertainment genres, venues, personalities and phenomena have shaped U.S. culture in enduring and significant ways. This course examines how U.S. entertainment — as simultaneously industrial operation and cultural production — has mapped routes of social encounter, mobility and resistance, while also serving as a platform for individual expression and imaginative escape.
When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, no one, including Edison, knew what to do with the device. Over the next century Americans would engage in an ongoing dialogue with this talking machine, defining and redefining its purpose. This course will track that trajectory, from business tool to scientific instrument to music recorder to musical instrument. By listening to the history of the phonograph, and by examining the desires and experiences of phonograph users, students will perceive more generally the complex relationships that exist between a technology and the people who produce, consume, and transform it.
From the “Chigro” henchmen of James Bond’s Jamaica to Edwidge Danticat and Junot Diaz’s Haitian, Dominican Caribbean collusion, to the ethics of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and offshore banking, this seminar explores the islands through their literature, films, photography, and the music of Mighty Sparrow and Bob Marley. More than simply a vacation paradise, at the center of the Caribbean is the legacy of European colonialism, African enslavement, and Indian and Chinese indenture. Students will produce a seminar soundtrack, selecting relevant songs each week, which will be mixed into a collective track as part of the final.
This course is an introduction to Muslim cultures in the United States. Each week we will draw upon texts from anthropology, sociology, history, and other fields to develop an understanding of the historical and present diversity of Muslim communities in America. The first third of the course provides a survey of Muslim communities in this country from the 17th to the 21st centuries. The second two-thirds features a thematic approach to a variety of topics: 9/11, women and gender, religious conversion, interfaith relations, youth, mosques as institutions, and Islamophobia.
This course is an introduction to American museums as modern institutions and to the challenges that they currently face. Through readings, field trips, meetings with museum staff, and practical exercises, students will explore how museums use objects to construct narratives; how they grapple with changing audiences and funding sources; and how they are touchstones for debates over societal values and collective memories. Although the focus will be on art museums, we will examine museums of natural history, material culture, and ethnography to better understand the collecting practices and displays of art museums.
How did concert dancers and choreographers create and respond to modernity’s fascination with mobility between 1900 and 1950? We answer this question by probing ways gender, race, and sexuality shaped ideas of the modern in the dances of Isadora Duncan, Vaslav Nijinsky, Martha Graham, Katherine Dunham, Zora Neale Hurston, and others. Emphasis on dancers in the U.S., including transnational choreographies of African American artists, with comparative case studies from Europe. Special attention to the ways fieldwork informed choreography. Includes trip to NYPL Robbins Dance Division. No dance experience required.
American Jewish writers adopt a variety of personae: they may write as exiles, as citizens, as provocateurs, among other figures. Why these strategies, and what sort of mark have they left on American Jewish writing? On American letters? On modern Jewish literature? We’ll consider the historic sweep of American Jewish writing from the 18th to the 21st centuries — and what better time, since the course coincides with the Princeton Art Museum’s exhibition on American Jewish life before the Civil War. Students are invited to explore the collection, and develop docent talks as part of their coursework.
Research seminar focused on Princeton University’s historical connections to the institution of slavery. The class will help develop a vibrant website that details the slave-holding practices of Princeton faculty and students, examines campus debates about slavery, and investigates whether money derived from slave labor contributed to the early growth of the school. Class will meet in Mudd Library.
Sara D. Pursley
Viewing culture as a technology and battleground of imperialism, this course explores transitions and overlaps between European and American empire in the Middle East through a cultural lens. Parsing the pursuit of hegemony by Western actors, it also tracks resistance to cultural domination on the ground. Imperial culture is formed by and produces power asymmetries, with effects felt both in the region and at home. We will test that proposition by attending to Orientalism, Americanization, anticolonial acts, spies and counterinsurgency, oil culture, humanitarian appeals, developmental interventions, sexual politics, and the War on Terror.
In this seminar we examine the tangled and shifting relationship between religion and race in American history. In doing so, we explore a broad landscape of racial construction, identity, and experience and consider such topics as American interpretations of race in the Bible, religion and racial slavery, race and missions, religion, race, and science, popular culture representations of racialized religion, and religiously-grounded resistance to racial hierarchy.
Brian E. Herrera
Theater artists routinely bend, twist and break all kinds of rules to create the imaginary worlds they bring to life on stage. Why, then, has the American theater so struggled to meaningfully address questions of equity, diversity and inclusion? In this course, we undertake a critical, creative and historical overview of agitation and advocacy by theater artist-activists aiming to transform American theatre-making as both industry and creative practice, as we connect those histories with the practices, structures and events determining the ways diversity is (and is not) a guiding principle of contemporary American theater.
Civil society is the arena of voluntary organizations (churches, social welfare organizations, sporting clubs) and communal activity. Scholars now tell us that such voluntary and cooperative activities create "social capital" — a stock of mutual trust that forms the glue that holds society together. The course will be devoted to the study of the history of these concepts, and to the analysis of their application to the United States and other societies. This will be an interdisciplinary effort, embracing history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and other disciplines.
Growing up in an urban context presents distinct opportunities and poses unique risks. From the first Guilded Age to today, this course examines the experience of children and youth on the economic margins. We cast our net wide to include parks, playgrounds, neighborhoods, kinship, summer camp, as well as overcrowding, disease, poverty and segregation. We weigh the relative influence of individuals, institutions, government policies and popular movements. Scholarly work plus fiction, film, audio, and primary documents will guide our exploration of the most powerful forces — past and present — that have shaped the lives of urban youth.
This course undertakes a close study of the factual history of the CIA and the depiction of the agency in novels, films, and television.
The course undertakes a comparative, cross-cultural analysis of African American and Asian American social formations. In doing so, it aims to highlight when and how seemingly distinct racial and ethnic experiences have come together on matters of labor, citizenship, international politics, and especially gender and sexual ideology. It attends to cross-cultural dialogue as well: for example, in the martial arts (Bruce Lee) and hip-hop (Wu-Tang Clan). The course offers a unique opportunity to bring ethnic studies, black studies, and gender studies into dynamic conversation.
In the context of de facto equality but persistent racial inequality, how do we identify race’s role in public policy? This course addresses this question by drawing on a range of interdisciplinary texts. We begin by exploring different theoretical perspectives of race, seeking to define “the racial state” in historical and comparative terms. We then consider how race interacts with a variety of American political institutions, including the welfare state, immigration regulation, and the criminal justice state. We give particular attention to the complexities of racial construction and race’s intersection with other forms of hierarchy.
This course examines enactments of youthful masculinity in U.S. popular performance with a particular eye toward accounts of variant or queer boyhoods. As we scrutinize the regimentation and valorization of specific boyish behaviors, we will explore the cultural impact of non-normative youthful masculinities (i.e., sissies, tomboys, bois, punks, transguys, etc.) as we also assess the place of queer boyhoods in American life. Course readings will be historical, literary and theoretical, with play scripts, films, memoirs, and literature for young readers functioning as primary objects for the course’s analytic project.
An exploration of the ways in which gender and crime are intertwined in some of the most significant and popular works of American fiction. Our analysis of the aesthetic, cultural, and psychological dimensions of narratives based on crime and detection will focus on texts by both women and men with an emphasis on the capacity of gender studies to illuminate crime fiction’s recurring concern with questions of race and class, justice and power, violence and victimhood.
Judith L. Weisenfeld
This course explores representations of religious beliefs, practices, and communities in American film, including documentary, independent, and commercial features. We consider how cinematic images have contributed to shared understandings of the nature of religion and its place in American life and what conflicts over representation reveal about the broader American religious landscape. Topics include religion and censorship, representing ethnicity, race, gender, and sexuality, new religious movements, and religion and politics.
This course will consider some of the major issues in education policy, with particular focus on attempts to secure equal educational opportunity. It will include discussions of desegregation and resource equity, education for immigrants and the handicapped, school choice and school reform.