2016-17 Courses in American Studies

Spring 2017

AMS 101
America Then and Now
Vera Candiani
Hendrik Hartog

This course introduces students to the field of American studies. It takes “America” as a problem, rather than a given, considering what changes when we view it as a continent or as a nation. It is examined from global, national, and local standpoints, paying attention both to its material and its imaginary manifestations. The course uses primary and secondary sources in law, film, history, material culture, music, philosophy, and politics. It asks what “American” culture, history and identity mean, how that changes when America is viewed as a continent and how to understand it all in context of capitalism, genocide and other global themes.

AMS 307
Introduction to Asian American Studies: Race, War, Decolonization
Laurel Mei-Singh

This course employs the central premise that multiple racial projects contribute to Asian racial formation, and that warfare plays a central role in these co-constitutive enterprises. As such, this course will examine war, its entanglement with capitalism, and decolonization in relation to anti-Black racism, settler colonialism, and anti-Asian racism. As an introduction to an Asian American studies course, we will use comparative, transnational frameworks to interrogate Asian Americanism. In order to accomplish this, we will develop critical perspectives of the Pacific while exploring the intersections of race and indigeneity.

AMS 315 / MTD 315 / THR 341
Race and the American Musical from Minstrelsy to Hamilton
Stacy Wolf

This seminar explores how and why race is a key component of the Broadway musical theatre. From 19th-century minstrel shows, in which African American performers “blacked up” to play Black characters previously performed by whites in blackface; to the mid-20th-century “golden age” musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein, in which Asian characters were created to support a white liberal agenda; to the blockbuster Hamilton, which merges musical theatre conventions and hip hop to re-tell the story of America, performances of race and ethnicity structure the American musical's aesthetic and political work. How did we get from there to here?

AMS 323 / MTD 323
Irving Berlin and the Creation of the “American Songbook”
Michael Friedman

The son of a Russian cantor, Israel Baline came with his family to New York in 1893, changed his name to “Irving Berlin,” and dominated popular music in the United States for four decades, culminating in “God Bless America” and the most popular song of all time, “White Christmas.” How did a Jew come to write songs that celebrate Christmas and Easter? How did a Jewish immigrant come to define the sound of American song? What about Ragtime or the Blues? This class will examine questions of identity, assimilation, and influence, as well as the crucial issues of race and appropriation.

AMS 331 / THR 385
The Artist-Citizen: Socially Engaged Art in the 21st Century
Katie Pearl

Taking as our context the fractured state of our country, this course investigates artists whose work brings us closer together. From Frank Lloyd Wright’s practice of organic architecture to Nicolas Bourriaud’s theories of Relational Aesthetics, we will engage with diverse artists from a range of disciplines who, through their work, assert the absolute necessity of creative exchange and personal encounter to maintain a humane world. Students will explore, assess, and craft socially engaged art and performance that address the deep divides of our communities and create avenues towards the difficult conversations our country wants to have.

AMS 342 / HIS 442
Race, Racism and Politics in 20th-century America
Kevin Kruse

In this seminar, we will explore the relationship between race, racism and politics throughout 20-century America. Topics will include segregation; immigration and assimilation; the role of racial politics in World War II and the Cold War; the civil rights movement and white massive resistance; Black Power and the white backlash; and contemporary politics up to the election of Barack Obama.

AMS 349
Making History with Multimedia: Asian American and Asian Migration Storytelling
Henry Yu

The stories of Asian Americans and global Asian migrants have commonly been told through film and multimedia rather than textual representations. Underrepresented in narratives of U.S. history, activists and community-based filmmakers have often turned to film and digital media forms to document and story-tell about neglected subjects. This course examines a selection of Asian American films and at the same time asks students to create projects using multimedia tools. We will work together to learn basic film-making techniques through weekly workshops with the goal of being able to produce your own short film by the end of the term.

AMS 399 / HIS 399
In the Groove: Technology and Music in American History, from Edison to the iPod
Emily Thompson

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.

AAS 370 / AMS 374
Policing Racial Order: The History of U.S. Police Power from Slave Patrols to Drones
Naomi Murakawa

This course investigates the role of police power in reinforcing or challenging racial order in all of its economic, spatial, and gendered manifestations. We pay particular attention to the ways in which commonplace notions of safety and security develop in relation to the history of territorial expansion, war, wealth accumulation, and the racialized distribution of private property.

AAS 380 / AMS 382
Public Policy in the American Racial State
Naomi Murakawa

This course explores how ideas and discourses about race shape how public policy is debated, adopted, and implemented. Black social movements and geopolitical considerations prompted multiple public policy responses to racial discrimination throughout the 20th century. Despite these policy responses, discrimination persists, raising theoretical concerns about the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, political representation, the role of the state (meaning government or law) in promoting social justice, and the role of social movements and civil society in democratizing policymaking and addressing group oppression.

ART 368 / AMS 368
American Museums: History, Theory, and Practice
Anne McCauley

Museums are places where material artifacts from the manmade and natural world are preserved, shown, studied, classified, and refashioned into narratives about our past, amusements for our leisure hours, and models for our future. Why did these institutions appear and what do they say about our values and selective/collective memories? Through readings, field trips, meetings with museum staff, and practical exercise, students will explore the history of American museums (art, ethnographic, natural history, material culture) and the challenges that they confront in an increasingly multi-cultural and digital age.

ENG 219 / AMS 316
Translating America
Monica Huerta

This course argues that translation was a central concern and beloved practice of America's earliest writers. Students will read theories of translation in order to understand the different ways in which authors valued journeying between languages as between geographies and in order to answer questions about translation itself. How do we know when translations fail? What would “perfect” translations be? We will read canonical works as texts that deal in translation and migration to think about the limitations and possibilities that each of these lends to notions of belonging in America.

FRE 405 / AMS 405 / GSS 402
French and American Comparative Feminism
Christy Wampole

Comparative readings of canonical theoretical feminist texts in 20th-century France and the U.S., including texts by Beauvoir, Butler, Hooks, Cixous, Kristeva, Lorde, Irigaray, Harraway, Condé, Le Guin, Preciado, Wittig, and Tiqqun. Some topics addressed: first- through fourth-wave feminism, pornography, Riot Grrrl, the veil/burqa/burkini in the public space, the Dominique Strauss-Kahn incident, Femen, abortion, fashion and beauty, race and social class, sexual violence and the campus, French parity laws, street harassment, maternity politics, political correctness, queer politics, ecofeminism. Graduate students encouraged to enroll.

GSS 348 / AMS 448
Corporealities of Politics
Tala Khanmalek

What do feminists of color have to say about how the social determinants of health affect our bodies? In this seminar, we will explore the ways in which feminists of color narrate the impact of multiple oppressions on their well/being. The readings begin with an overview of key concepts in women of color and transnational feminisms including but not limited to intersectionality and theory in the flesh, which we will draw on to think about the materiality of difference.

GSS 373 / AMS 383
Graphic Memoir
Alfred Bendixen

An exploration of the graphic memoir focusing on the ways specific works combine visual imagery and language to expand the possibilities of autobiographical narrative. Through our analysis of highly acclaimed graphic memoirs from the American, Franco-Belgian, and Japanese traditions, we analyze the visual and verbal constructions of identity with an emphasis on the representations of gender dynamics and cultural conflict.

HIS 459 / GSS 459 / AMS 459
The History of Incarceration in the U.S.
Regina Kunzel

The prison is a growth industry in the U.S.; it is also a central institution in U.S. political and social life, shaping our experience of race, class, gender, sexuality, citizenship, and political possibility. This course explores the history of incarceration over the course of more than two centuries. It tracks the emergence of the penitentiary in the early national period and investigates mass incarceration of the late 20th century. Topics include the relationship between the penitentiary and slavery; the rise of convict leasing; the prisoners’ rights movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s; the effects of the 1970s “war on drugs” and “war on crime” on mass incarceration; immigration detention; and the privatization and globalization of prisons.

HIS 474 / AMS 474
Violence in America
Beth Lew-Williams

This course considers the history of collective violence in America. We will define “collective violence” broadly to encompass people acting on behalf of the U.S. government (i.e. police, soldiers, militiamen, and immigration officers) and people acting as civilians (i.e. slaveholders, vigilantes, terrorists, and protesters). We will also define “America” broadly to include the states, territorial possession, and insular colonies of the United States. A series of case studies (drawn primarily from the 19th and 20th centuries) will introduce disparate forms of violence, including vigilantism, slavery, massacre, imperialism, riot, segregation, and terrorism.

SAS 328 / AMS 329
South Asian American Literature and Film
Sadaf Jaffer

This course examines literature and film by South Asians in North America. Students will gain perspective on the experiences of immigration and diaspora through the themes of identity, memory, solidarity, and resistance. From early Sikh migration to the American West Coast to Muslim identity in a post 9/11 world, how can South Asian American stories be read as symbolic of the American experience of gender, class, religion, and ethnicity more broadly? Students will hone their skills in reading primary materials, analyzing them within context, writing persuasively, and speaking clearly.

SPA 360 / AMS 375
Urban Diversity and Segregation in the Americas
Bruno Carvalho

Diversity has sometimes been viewed as a source of vitality and strength, other times as a threat to cultural or national cohesion. This seminar explores histories of segregation and debates about diversity in a hemispheric framework, asking: how can Latin American perspectives inform our understanding of the U.S.? How has the U.S. shaped urban developments in Latin American, as a model or cautionary tale? What is the interplay between identity politics and moral values? Urbanism and ethics? How does diversity relate to inclusion, difference, and inequality? Topics include immigration, globalization, social justice, planning, race and racism.

Fall 2016

AMS 306
Issues in American Public Health
Leslie Gerwin

The study of public health is an interdisciplinary inquiry involving issues of politics, policy, history, science, law, philosophy, ethics, geography, sociology, environmental studies, and economics, among others. Students will examine the government’s role in assuring and promoting health, through the exploration of issues on America’s “public health agenda,” such as epidemic response, tobacco use, the impact of weight on health, mandatory vaccination, disease prevention, and violence. In doing so, they will consider the impact of race, income, gender, place and environment, education, capitalism and democracy on health outcomes.

AMS 311
Education and Inequality
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.

AMS 364 / ENV 365
Environmental and Social Crisis
Laurel Mei-Singh

In recent years, global public discourse has stressed the urgency of unfolding environmental crisis. The course will start with the premise that a “crisis” marks a moment when a previous set of relations is markedly upset, and when state institutions aim to manage instability and consolidate power. Our entry point will be apocalyptic texts, which are reflections and exaggerations of existing realities. We will ask: What is crisis? Is crisis actually the norm? Then we’ll focus on environmental justice, examining how environmentalism intersects with race and class. Third, we will examine capitalist crisis and its articulation with war.

AMS 371 / JRN 371
The Art of Narrative Nonfiction
Richard M. Preston

Study of the art of narrative nonfiction through reading and writing. Narrative nonfiction is a form of “creative nonfiction” in which narrative — a story — supplies the structure and energy for the text, and the work is crafted with literary art. Narrative nonfiction is distinct from expository nonfiction and the lyrical essay, and is also very different from daily journalism. We’ll focus on American writers and writings between World War II and today. We’ll do reverse engineering on the texts, reading with a sharp eye for professional techniques, and we’ll put the techniques to work in creative writing assignments.

AMS 379 / GSS 349
Race and Living Laboratories
Tala Khanmalek

In this course we will trace the intersecting discourses of race, nation, and disease throughout U.S. history. We will examine various “living laboratories” or sites of state-sanctioned medical experimentation on populations such as Asian American, African American and Latinx, deemed to harbor disease. In doing so, we will consider the ways in which science has shaped the meaning of race as well as other categories of social difference.

AMS 385 / JDS 385
Comics, The Graphic Novel and the American Jew
Paul Levitz

How did comic books seize upon and express the Jewish bicultural experience in 20th century America? How did the ambitions of comics’ greatest Jewish creators shape the medium's fantasy traditions and drive artistic self-expression in the graphic novel? This seminar combines literary and historical approaches to investigate the tension between comics' genre storytelling and its creators’ self-expression. We will examine the evolution of the comic into its mature form, the graphic novel, through Jewish and American social, political and sexual perspectives.

AAS 372 / ART 374 / AMS 372
Postblack – Contemporary African American Art
Chika Okeke-Agulu

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. Though hard to define, postblack suggested 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 provides an opportunity for a deep engagement with the work of African American artists of the past decade. It will involve critical and theoretical readings on multiculturalism, race, identity, and contemporary art.

CWR 316 / AMS 396
Race, Identity and Innovation
Monica Youn

This workshop explores the link between racial identity and poetic innovation in work by contemporary poets of color. Experimental or avant-garde poetry in the American literary tradition has often defined itself as “impersonal,” “against expression” or “post-identity.” Unfortunately, this mindset has tended to exclude or downplay poems that engage issues of racial identity. This course explores works where poets of color have treated racial identity as a means to destabilize literary ideals of beauty, mastery and the autonomy of the text while at the same time engaging in poetic practices that subvert conceptions of identity or authenticity.

CWR 345 / AMS 395
Writing Political Fiction
A.M. Homes

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.

DAN 312 / AMS 398
Judith Hamera

This seminar investigates discourses and politics around the fat body from a performance studies perspective. How does this “f-word” discipline and regulate bodies in/as public? How do dancers reveal these politics with special clarity? How might fat be a liberating counterperformance? We will examine the changing history, aesthetics, politics, and meanings of fatness using dance, performance, and media texts as key case studies. Intersectional dimensions of the fat body are central to the course. Emphasis primarily on the US. Assignments include written work and group performances. No dance experience necessary.

ENG 354 / AMS 454
We Out Here: An Introduction to Latino Literature
Monica Huerta

This introduction to Latino literature will situate the long history of Latino writing in a network of linguistic and literary influences across race, geographics, and histories. We will read texts like Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burtón’s The Squatter and the Don, Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands, and Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

ENV 357 / AMS 457
Empire of the Ark: The Animal Question in Film, Photography and Popular Culture
Anne McClintock

This course explores the current fascination with animals in film, photography and popular culture, engaging central issues in animal and environmental studies. Why has looking become our main way of interacting with animals? How does rethinking animals inspire us to rethink being human? How can we transform our relations with other species and the planet? Course themes include: wilderness, national parks and zoos; the cult of the pet; vampires, werewolves and zombies; animal speech, animal emotions and rights; nature, sexuality and race. Exploring planetary crises such as extinction and climate change, and positive strategies for change.

GSS 326 / AMS 426
Disability and the Politics of Life
Catherine Clune-Taylor

This introduction to disability studies draws together the work of feminists and queer theorists with that of historians and clinicians in order to contextualize the field's major theoretical claims. We will take up and critique the oft-made distinction between natural, physical impairment and socially constructed disability, situating it with regards to Michel Foucault’s account of biopower, and his controversial claims in Society Must Be Defended regarding “racism against the abnormal.”

GSS 345 / AMS 373
Pleasure, Power and Profit, Race and Sexualities in a Global Era
Anne McClintock

Pleasure Power and Profit explores the intimate ways that sexualities and race are entwined in contemporary culture, historically, and in our own lives. Why are questions about sexuality and race some of the most controversial, compelling, yet often taboo issues of our time? Exploring films, popular culture, novels, social media, and theory, we engage themes like: race, gender and empire; fetishism, Barbie, vampires and zombies; sex work and pornography; marriage and monogamy; queer sexualities; and strategies for social empowerment such as: Black Lives Matter, the new campus feminism, and global movements against sexual and gender violence.

GSS 348 / AMS 448
Corporealities of Politics
Tala Khanmalek

What do feminists of color have to say about how the social determinants of health affect our bodies? In this seminar, we will explore the ways in which feminists of color narrate the impact of multiple oppressions on their well/being. The readings begin with an overview of key concepts in women of color and transnational feminisms including but not limited to intersectionality and theory in the flesh, which we will draw on to think about the materiality of difference.

GSS 365 / AMS 365
Isn’t It Romantic? The Broadway Musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim
Stacy Wolf

Song. Dance. Man. Woman. These are the basic components of the Broadway musical theatre. How have musical theatre artists, composers, lyricists, librettists, directors, choreographers, and designers worked with these building blocks to create this quintessentially American form of art and entertainment? Why are musicals structured by love and romance? This course will explore conventional and resistant performances of gender and sexuality in the Broadway musical since the 1940s.

HIS 270 / AMS 370
Asian American History
Beth Lew-Williams

This course introduces students to the multiple and varied experiences of people of Asian heritage in the United States from the 19th century to the present day. It focuses on three major questions: (1) What brought Asians to the United States? (2) How did Asian Americans come to be viewed as a race? (3) How does Asian American experience transform our understanding of U.S. history? Using newspapers, novels, government reports, and films, this course will cover major topics in Asian American history, including Chinese Exclusion, Japanese internment, transnational adoption, and the model minority stereotype.

POL 319 / AMS 391
History of African American Political Thought
Desmond D. Jagmohan

This course explores central themes and ideas in the history of African American political thought: slavery and freedom, solidarity and sovereignty, exclusion and citizenship, domination and democracy, inequality and equality, rights and respect. Readings will be drawn, primarily, from canonical authors, including Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Martin Delany, Booker T. Washington, Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B. Wells, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Ralph Ellison, Kwame Ture and Charles Hamilton, and Martin Luther King, Jr. This is an introductory course, which emphasizes both thematic and historical approaches to political theory.

WWS 385 / AMS 350
Civil Society and Public Policy
Stanley Katz

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.