Our Department

What is American Studies?

American Studies is a field defined not only by the critical questions it asks but by the interdisciplinary methods it uses to answer those questions. In considering the United States as a cultural, ideological, geographical and historical formation, students of American Studies examine how cultural configurations of and within the nation-state operate as social forces, contested archives of change, loci of power and resistance, and sites historical meaning and memory. How are ideologies and arrangements in the U.S. amplified, altered, challenged or contested? American Studies seeks to address these questions by critically examining how ideas and assumptions about the U.S. have been constituted through a range of competing, corroborating and resistant discourses.


The Department of American Studies is designed to teach students how to engage in the critical and interdisciplinary study of race, gender, class, sexuality, Indigeneity, political economy, imperialism and social movements in contemporary, historical, hemispheric and transnational contexts. All majors are introduced to the field through AMST 1001 (“What Is American Studies?”) and hone their understanding of the theories and methods of American Studies in an intensive junior colloquium. Their individually-chosen electives include three historically-situated Foundations courses as well as a five-course concentration that 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.