Program in American Studies

Books studied in recent American studies courses

Works studied in recent Program in American Studies courses include The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin; Transnational America by Inderpal Grewal; Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz; The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison; In the Heights by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes and Jeremy McCarter; Capturing Sound by Mark Katz; Dawn by Octavia Butler; There There by Tommy Orange; The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander; and Lurking by Joanne McNeil.

American Studies at Princeton University

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Spring 2024 Courses

Advanced Seminar in American Studies: Art, Media & Environmental Justice
Subject associations
AMS 403 / ENV 403 / ART 406

Connect contemporary American art and visual culture with environmental justice movements. Examines photographers, performers, filmmakers, writers, and other artists, with a focus on Indigenous and other BIPOC artists and media makers. Examines how artists engage with environmental justice movements around climate change and energy transitions, food and water security, land use and land back, biodiversity loss, and allied issues. What roles do the arts play in such movements?

Instructors
Allison Carruth
Advanced Seminar in American Studies: Race and the Medicalization of Violence in America
Subject associations
AMS 404 / ANT 414 / AAS 405

This class seeks to critically analyze the intersections of race, violence, and medicine in the United States. Through an interdisciplinary lens, students will examine historical and contemporary case studies to understand how violence has been medicalized, and how race plays a significant role in these processes. Discussions will also encompass slavery, structural violence, police violence, public health approaches to violence, and the role of healthcare professionals in addressing racial disparities in the experience and treatment of violence in African American, Latinx, Asian American and Indigenous contexts.

Instructors
Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús
American Genres: Western, Screwball Comedy, Film Noir
Subject associations
AMS 334 / ENG 234

Why did three American genres become classics in the same twenty-year period, 1936-1956? Part of the answer lies in global disruptions that unsettled codes of behavior. Part lies in film innovations that altered cinema itself. But more than this intersection of social and formal transformations, the decisive answer lies in a handful of directors who reconfigured gendered relations in three generic forms. The surprising correspondences that emerge among these classic films, if also the obvious divergences even within single genres, that will focus our discussion.

Instructors
Lee C. Mitchell
Asian American Pacific Islander Experience
Subject associations
ASA 318 / AMS 298 / SOC 389

This course surveys Asian American and Pacific Islander experiences in sociology, anthropology, American studies, ethnomusicology, and education. This course develops an account of racializations beyond the black/white binary while situating Asian American and Pacific Islander experiences of exclusion and differential inclusion in the larger context of US wars and empires Asia and the Pacific Islands; settler colonialism; racial capitalism; displacement & migration; and popular culture and mass media.

Instructors
Carolyn Choi
Climate Coloniality, Race and Justice
Subject associations
ENV 460 / ANT 460 / AAS 460 / AMS 460

This course examines the connections between climate change and longstanding processes of colonialism, slavery, and racial capitalism. We will examine the history and evolution of the climate justice movement, including its connection with the environmental justice and civil rights movement in the United States and ongoing calls for climate reparations particularly among African-descended populations. We explore the ways wider scale systems of power and domination produce unjust environmental and climatic conditions and the disproportionate ways these systems impact BIPOC communities across the globe.

Instructors
Kevon Rhiney
Critical Native American and Indigenous Studies
Subject associations
ANT 246 / AMS 246

Princeton University is on the unceded ancestral lands of the Lenape people, who endure to this day. Historical and contemporary awareness of Indigenous exclusion and erasure is critically important to overcoming their effects. Moreover, Princeton was home to the first gathering in 1970 that coalesced the field known as Native American Studies. As such, this seminar engages the field of Native American and Indigenous Studies. We will address questions of settler colonialism, Indigenous knowledge, resistance, education, research, stereotypes and cultural appropriation, identity, nation (re)building, and critiques of NAIS.

Instructors
Doing Oral History in Spanish: The 'Voces de la Diáspora' Oral History Project
Subject associations
SPA 364 / LAO 364 / AMS 434

This course is an introduction to the theory and practice of oral history. Students will learn the principles and applications of oral history. The class will collaborate with the Historical Society of Princeton and the Princeton Public Library to develop the first stage of the "Voces de la Diáspora" Oral History project, a project partner of "Voices of Princeton". Discussion on readings will be combined with hands-on activities to prepare students for conducting oral history interviews in Spanish.

Instructors
Alberto Bruzos Moro
Environmental Movements: From Wilderness Protection to Climate Justice.
Subject associations
ENV 238 / AMS 238

Foundational ENV course. Introduces students to key concepts and approaches in environmental studies from the perspective of the humanities and social sciences. Focus is on the evolving history of environmental movements, including wilderness-centered conservation and deep ecology, urban-centered environmentalism, Indigenous sovereignty and land back, and climate justice. Emphasizes US environmental movements since the 1960s, with points of comparisons to other time periods and national contexts.

Instructors
Allison Carruth
Feminist Futures: Contemporary S. F. by Women
Subject associations
GSS 303 / AMS 313 / ENG 283

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.

Instructors
Alfred Bendixen
Food Culture and Food Justice
Subject associations
AMS 305

Considers key issues in American Food Studies today, from what it means to speak of "American food" to how artists intervene in our habituated practices, with a focus on what creativity means with regard to food, and on food sovereignty as self-determination and agency. Students will deepen their historical understanding of US culture, broaden their grasp of the forces that shape American foodways, and take creative and practical action through food. While grounded in key historical readings, this course points steadily to the present- to understand where we are- and to the future.

Instructors
Michael W. Peterson
Gender and Sexuality in Modern America
Subject associations
HIS 384 / GSS 384 / AMS 424

This course examines the history of gender and sexuality across the 20th century, with emphasis on both regulation and resistance. Topics include early homosexual subcultures; the commercialization of sex; reproduction and its limitation; sex, gender, and war; cold war sexual containment; the feminist movement; conservative backlash; AIDS politics; same-sex marriage; Hillary; and many others.

Instructors
Margot Canaday
Aaron J. Stamper
Global Novel
Subject associations
ENG 444 / ASA 444 / AMS 443

What happens to narrative when writers aspire to write the world? How has globalization transformed not only the way novels are produced but also the internal form of the works themselves? We'll read novels that overtly strive for a fuller picture of some social or conceptual whole (e.g., migration, climate change, labor, the Internet), especially where they thematize the impossibility of such a project. Students will learn advanced methods for reading literature's relation to society by examining how writers play with scale, link parts to wholes, and provincialize worlds while rendering the seemingly provincial or mundane worldly.

Instructors
Paul Nadal
Health Reform in the US: The Affordable Care Act and Beyond
Subject associations
SPI 393 / GHP 406 / AMS 410

The Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010, was the defining (and polarizing) initiative of the Obama era, with provisions to expand health insurance coverage, control health care costs, and improve the health care delivery system. This course will focus on the history of health reform, as well as implementation challenges since the law's enactment. We will examine the federal regulatory process, the many legal challenges to the law, the role that states have played in implementation, and Congressional repeal efforts. We will also investigate the role of federalism in health care policy and the future of health care reform.

Instructors
Heather H. Howard
Race, Gender and Sexualities in a Global Era
Subject associations
GSS 345 / AAS 355 / AMS 373

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.

Instructors
Anne McClintock
Race, Drugs, and Drug Policy in America
Subject associations
HIS 393 / AAS 393 / SPI 389 / AMS 423

This course examines ebbs and flows in U.S. drug policy, and how issues of race and identity inform the creation, implementation, impact, and dismantling of substance control policy. From "Chinese opium" in the 19th c. to "Hillbilly heroin" (as OxyContin was once labeled) and from "crack" cocaine to menthol cigarettes and marijuana, we examine the forces shaping drug policies, how policies are transformed, why they change, and what drug laws reveal about society. We also examine how social, political, and economic circumstances shape drug policies, and how the US built a vast system governing people and the substances they can and cannot use.

Instructors
Keith A. Wailoo
Re-Reading American Photographs
Subject associations
ART 465 / AMS 466

Photography was invented simultaneously in England and France, but so complete was the US intervention in photographic history that by the late 1980s, it was possible to claim that 'even though Americans did not invent photography they should have.' Photography is as much a technological as a discursive invention, and the subject of American photographs have been continuously reinvented throughout the medium's history. This course frequently convenes around Princeton's holdings at Firestone Library.

Instructors
Monica C. Bravo
Reality/Television
Subject associations
AMS 425 / ENG 423

Can reality television offer a new theory of reality? This course examines a prominent aspect of US popular culture--structured reality television programs--to explore questions of reality central to the Western intellectual tradition. Each week, we pair philosophical or theoretical texts with episodes of reality television, and see how these programs can elaborate, contravene, or reframe our conceptions of reality. Some questions include: What is reality, anyway, and why do we care about it? How do we know we're looking at reality? How is reality made, and can reality television do anything else than reflect its structures?

Instructors
William A. Gleason
Mi Yu
Religion and Ethics in Environmental Justice Activism
Subject associations
ENV 204 / REL 204 / AMS 204

To what degree has religion shaped the environmental justice movement? This course in environmental humanities and social sciences examines the impact of religious ideas, persons, practices, and institutions on the values and strategies of environmental, food, and climate justice activists. It also grapples with the significance of this impact for environmental thought and policy. Students engage with primary sources, media, scholarship, and community organizations to study cases in the US South, New Jersey, the tropics, and the planet as a whole, culminating in a collaborative project with a community partner.

Instructors
Ryan Juskus
Religion and Film
Subject associations
REL 257 / AMS 397

This course explores how the religious is depicted and engaged, even implicitly, in feature films. Movies selected are considered significant with respect to director, script, music, cinematography, impact in film history, influence in wider culture, etc., aside from any religious dimensions but then also because of how, why, and in what ways something is conveyed about religion - critically or affirmatively (or both). The first portion of the course will examine the presentation of specific religions. The second portion will explore religious concepts such as love, evil, fate, justice, heroes, [extraordinary] power, freedom, etc.

Instructors
Garry Sparks
Special Topics in Dance History, Criticism, and Aesthetics: Mobilizing Bodies/Dancing the State
Subject associations
DAN 321 / AMS 328

Dance is an underrecognized political force, used to project national identity and advance soft power on the global stage. It can help us understand state initiatives for control and mobilization for protest. This course investigates dance as both a state and a resistant practice using dance studies theory. Case studies include American and Soviet ballet during the Cold War, Mexican dance forms, US modern dance, and more. Activities include readings, discussions, performance exercises, and viewing performances. Guest artists conduct studio sessions in dance logics. No prior dance or performance experience is necessary.

Instructors
Judith Hamera
Systemic Racism: Myths and Realities
Subject associations
SOC 373 / AMS 428 / URB 373

This course focuses on the structural and institutional foundations of racial discrimination in the United States. It emphasizes the contributions of sociologists. The course gives a historical overview followed by an investigation of key legislative actions and economic factors inhibiting racial equality. Subsequent topics include migration and immigration; urban development; and residential segregation. The end of the course reviews resistance movements and policies aimed at addressing systemic racism, including restorative justice and reparations.

Instructors
Patricia Fernández-Kelly
The Sixties: Documentary, Youth and the City
Subject associations
HIS 202 / URB 203 / AMS 202 / AAS 203

This seminar in history and documentary film explores personal narrative and how individual experience contributes to profound social change. We study 1960s youth through oral history, archival research, ethnography and journalism. Trenton NJ is the case study. Themes include: civil rights and Black power; immigration and migration; student uprisings and policing; education; gender and sexuality; churches and city institutions; sports; work, class and neighborhood; politics, law and government. Using documentary narrative, the course asks how a new generation of storytellers will shape public conversations and policy.

Instructors
Purcell Carson
Alison E. Isenberg
This American Jewish Life: Exploring the American Jewish Experience
Subject associations
AMS 316 / SOC 386 / JDS 316

Seminar sociologically explores elements of the American Jewish experience: identity, ethnicity, Jewish diversity, denominationalism, adaptation, acculturation vs. contra-acculturation, including intermarriage. We investigate Jewish population and attitudes, ritual and rites of passage, popular culture, Jewish education, antisemitism and philosemitism, messianism, and the role of Israel. Students will analyze one of these topics in depth in the real life of Jews. A field trip to Brooklyn is included.

Instructors
Samuel C. Heilman
US Empire in Asia and the Pacific Islands
Subject associations
ASA 330 / AMS 336 / SOC 388

This class examines the transpacific entanglements between the United States, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The central aims of the course is to 1) unpack how narratives of American exceptionalism and rescue have historically been used to justify US military and capitalist interventions in Asia and the Pacific Islands and 2) connect the ways in which this contributes to the continued dispossessions, displacements, movements, and racializations of Asian and Pacific Islander peoples.

Instructors
Carolyn Choi

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