In his 2008 Presidential Address, at the American Studies Association Meeting titled "Broadway and Main:Crossroads, Ghost Roads, and Paths to an American Studies Future," Phil Deloria began by singing a few bars from Robert Johnson's "Crossroad Blues" song. He then reflected on being a parent of a high schooler before unpacking the significance of his invocation of Johnson's ballad. His musical and personal reflections embraced the theme for that year's Annual Meeting, and the "crossroads" emerged as a metonym for American studies scholarship. These ideas highlighted the multiple pathways, both topical and methodological, which characterize entry-points and research areas within American studies. Deloria offered this pithy phrase in an attempt to further define the field "it's not what we choose to include, but what we refuse to exclude." Deloria's remarks provided glimpses into music, art, culture, history, and more as he fully embraced the strongly interdisciplinary nature of the field. What follows is an overview of the department of American studies and the diverse kinds of work students have pursued through this major and the pathways that have embarked on since graduating from Amherst.
American studies offers students opportunities to engage in courses and research topics that matter to them the most. As an interdisciplinary major that emphasizes the multiple ethnic, racial, gender, and other identities of the citizens of Turtle Island (the United States) students are equipped with deep and nuanced understandings of how this nation has come into being, and the many communities and individuals who have actively participated in shaping debates about the role of that culture, politics, and education might play in the lives of its inhabitants across time. Given the varied research areas of the faculty in American Studies students who choose this major encounter classes and advisors who are well-equipped to help them explore a range of tools drawn from: history, english, sociology, anthropology, and more. Students are further prompted to take classes that showcase methods and theories rooted in Gender and Sexuality studies, as well as, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Native American, African American, and LatinX studies.
Many of our alumni celebrate the Department as the "choose your own adventure" major. As such, American Studies enables our graduates to pursue pathways that are intellectually stimulating, often engaged with issues of social justice, and which ground them in practices that enable lives of consequence. The following biographies "spotlight" some of the work American stuides' majors have explored and found meaningful after leaving Amherst.