American Studies

The American Studies major is designed to teach students how to engage in the critical and inter-disciplinary study of race, gender, class, sexuality, Indigeneity, political economy, imperialism and social movements in contemporary, historical, hemispheric and transnational contexts. After an introductory course entitled “What Is American Studies?” students take an intensive junior colloquium focusing on theories and methods of American Studies. Their individually-chosen five-course concentration covers two historical periods and culminates in a two-course senior capstone project. The American Studies major aims to teach students to recognize, question and analyze, within an international context, the formation, implementation and contestation of power in both the nation-state and in other institutions of collective life.

Barnard students graduating with a degree in American Studies aspire to do the following:

  1. Critically analyze power at different scales, from the local to the global.
  2. Identify the plurality of forces that shape and contest American social formations.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the various theories and methods that shape core conversations in the field. These include oral history; ethnography; cultural analysis; archival research;  political economy; and close textual, visual, oral and aural analysis.
  4. Produce an original piece of scholarship, construct a sustained argument that draws on primary sources and is accountable to communities of scholars in American Studies.
  5. Develop an ability to apply conceptual frameworks about cultural and historical analysis to their lived experience and practice.

As an American Studies major, students will have the opportunity to take courses not only in American Studies, but also in history, religion, visual culture, literature and other related disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields. In addition to the introductory course "What Is American Studies?" and the Junior Colloquium, the student will work with an American Studies adviser to devise a five-course concentration organized around a topic (for example: immigration, migration and ethnicity) and covering at least two historical periods. The student may also choose to pursue the Interdisciplinary Concentration in Race and Ethnicity (ICORE/MORE), a concentration that offers an intersectional and international framework for thinking through issues of ethnicity and race in relation to other forms of social difference in both local and global contexts. Whether the student chooses ICORE/MORE or a self-designed cluster of courses, the resulting concentration will serve as the intellectual foundation for the student’s senior capstone project.