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 2023 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.
Massive protests in the summer of 2020 reignited discussions about the most effective path to equality. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) have been thrust into the spotlight as a site for potential cross-racial cooperation and space for redress. This course will explore persistent inequality in American education through the lens of these colleges that were created in the shadow of emancipation. It will focus on history and impact of HBCUs on African American life and culture, their role in the political and cultural development of the nation and the possibilities they represent in efforts to create "a more perfect union."
This interdisciplinary seminar will examine the history and evolution of the Walt Disney Company not only as a multinational media and entertainment conglomerate but also as a powerful cultural force--from the early films and theme parks to the highly successful streaming service. We'll consider the ever-expanding Disney multiverse (which now includes Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, among others) as well as the company's global reach, while paying special attention to its impacts on, and representations of, American history, society, and culture, particularly as they touch on matters of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, and place.
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 twentieth 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.
This course investigates how people of African descent in the Americas have forged social, political, and cultural ties across geopolitical and linguistic boundaries. We will interrogate the transnational dialogue between African Americans and Afro-Latin Americans using case studies from Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. We will explore how Black activists have partnered to challenge racism and economic inequality, while also considering why efforts to mobilize Afro-descendants across the Americas have often been undermined by mutual misunderstandings.
This course focuses on Indigenous world-makings in the Anthropocene. We will reflect on how the current climate crisis is actively being produced through the destruction of Indigenous worlds. Two key anthropological questions guide our seminar: How do Indigenous groups differently understand world endings? How are Indigenous peoples resisting neocolonial and extractivist violence? We will work mainly with ethnographic writings, films, journalistic reports, and artworks, with a focus on Indigenous perspectives. Starting in Amazonia, we will develop a comparative perspective of Indigenous worldings across the Americas.
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.
A study of eleven modern American writers over eighty years that emphasizes the transition from modernism to postmodernism to retro-realism.
In this course, students will think dynamically about the relationship between archival records of Black life and Black women's creative expression to interrogate the possibilities and the limits of historical archives. Through hands-on engagement with archival objects in special collections and deep readings of literature, poetry, and visual arts, we will explore what the archival record affords, erases, and silences, and, conversely, how imaginative practices can begin to address and redress its subjects and their histories.
What is the "racial" in racial capitalism? The question is posed by abolitionist scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and we take it up by exploring how literature, media, & art supply an analytic on capitalism's racial logics. It's easy to read texts for descriptions of racial capitalism. The difficult task resides in reading for the mediation between race and capital that the form of the texts enacts. To do this, we learn from Black, Asian American, Indigenous studies; Marxist aesthetic theory; and feminist, anticolonial, environmental critiques of capitalism.
After more than 100 years running, the Miss America Pageant (1921- ) stands among the most enduring - and enduringly controversial - popular performance traditions of American life and culture. This course offers an intensive, method-based historical overview of how "Miss America" as both idea and event documents the shifting ways gender, sexuality, race and embodiment been comprehended in the United States, even as it also examines the disparate ways the "beauty pageant" as a performance genre has been adopted and adapted by/for communities excluded by the rules of Miss America.
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 American crime fiction's recurring concern with questions of race and class, justice and power, violence and victimhood.
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 examine the visual and verbal constructions of identity with an emphasis on the representation of gender dynamics and cultural conflict.
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.
This course is designed to introduce students to the historical processes and issues that have shaped the lives if Indigenous Americans over the past five centuries. We will explore the ways that the diverse peoples who lived in the Americas constructed different kinds of societies and how their goals and political decisions shaped the lives of all those who would come to inhabit the North American continent. The course requires students to read and analyze historical documents and contemporary literature, and includes a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
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.
This seminar will explore how and why men and women, free and unfree, coming from different social backgrounds and from both sides of the Atlantic, chose to write and deploy memoirs, diaries, autobiographies and biographies. How have such testimonies changed over time? Why did they become increasingly popular from the 17th century onwards, and why do they still remain popular. How far do such texts conceal as well as reveal? And what opportunities, insights and challenges do they present to historians now?
This introductory course examines what it means to be Latino/a in the United States and how Latino/a culture has been defined in historical and contemporary contexts. In this course students will learn how legacies of colonialism and modernity affect Latino/as and how they negotiate empire, identity, language, culture, and notions of home. Students will learn how certain Latino/a cultures and communities were formed in the United States, as well as how gender, class, race, and sexuality inform these ideas of identity in a given space and place.
This course examines the transnational intersection of law and natural resources in the Spanish Borderlands of North America. We will study how the Spanish empire (and later an independent Mexico and the emerging United States) defined natural resources as property rights and allocated such resources to Europeans and Indigenous peoples who lived in the arid landscapes of the far northern frontier (what became present-day Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, & California). The course also explores the conflict that developed in the U.S. over natural resources after 1848 between the Hispanic civil law and Anglo-American common law.
This course examines various political controversies that surround the role of race and ethnicity in American society. These controversies and issues affect public opinion, political institutions, political behavior, and salient public policy debates. Thus this course will assess and evaluate the role of race in each of these domains while also examining historical antecedents. The first half of the course will focus on historical antecedents such as the civil rights movement and the Black Power movement. The second half of the course will focus on the nature of contemporary racial attitudes, in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.
In this seminar we examine how the modern constructed categories of "race" and "religion" have interacted in American history and culture. We explore how religious beliefs and practices have shaped ideas about race and how American racialization has shaped religious experience. We consider the impact of religion and race on notions of what it means to be American and how these have changed over time. Topics include race and biblical interpretation; religion and racial slavery; religion, race, and science; popular culture representations; race, religion, and politics; and religious resistance to racial hierarchy.
This survey course will introduce you to the central issues in K-12 education policy. We will first consider the normative dimensions of education policymaking: What are the substantive and distributional goals of K-12 public education? What does, and should, equality of educational opportunity mean in theory and practice? After introducing a framework for combining values and evidence, we will consider the empirical evidence on a range of policy levers, including policies that address school accountability, teacher quality, school choice, and curricula.
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.