American Studies
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Amherst College American Studies for 2011-12

111 The Embodied Self in American Culture and Society

(Offered as AMST 111 and ANTH 111) "The Embodied Self" in American Culture and Society is an interdisciplinary, historically organized study of American perceptions of and attitudes towards the human body in a variety of media, ranging from medical and legal documents to poetry and novels, the visual arts , film, and dance. Among the topics to be discussed are: the physical performance of gender; the social construction of the ideal male and female body; health reform movements; athletic achievement as an instrumentalization of the body; commercialization of physical beauty in the fitness and fashion industries; anorexia, bulimia, and obesity as cultural phenomena; the interminable abortion controversy; the equally interminable conflict over pornography and the limits of free speech; adaptations to possibility of serious illness or injury and to the certainty of death.

Limited to 40 students (20 per session).  Fall semester.  Professors Couvares and Guttmann.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012

112 The City: New York  

This course will explore the imagined and conflicted experience of urban life in the United States through study of the country’s first metropolis: New York. Drawing on primary materials—maps, memoirs, film, poetry, fiction, census data, the natural and the built environment—and a selection of secondary sources, we will encounter moments in the life of the city from the 17th into the 21st century. This semester there will be special focus on the physical city: parks and amusement parks, cemeteries, bridges, housing, skyscrapers, and the public art of memorials.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professors Clark and Sánchez-Eppler.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012

221 Building Community

This course investigates the practice and ideal of community in America both on a national and a local level, asking students to engage in specific projects aimed at strengthening the public sphere and fostering community life. We will consider the nature and limits of democracy, the meaning of belonging, the experience of stigma and exclusion, the concepts of civic responsibility and public discourse, and the conflict and compromises inherent in political advocacy. This course will pay particular attention to the struggles of often-marginalized groups to build healthy and just communities. Coursework will include contemporary and historical case studies, literary depictions, and more theoretical readings, as well as a substantial commitment to the development and fulfillment of projects that assess or respond to contemporary concerns. Projects may range from youth work, to cultural events, to work on local policy goals, environmental, poverty and rights initiatives, or the 2012 elections.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler and Ms. Mead, Director of the Center for Community Engagement.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

224 The Neo-Western

From the advertising copy and backdrop of truck ads to the democratic rhetoric of politicians, the West as a place of national mythology still permeates American culture.  In this course, we will analyze the evolution of the West as a prominent site of American myth and the contemporary representations of it in literature and film, the Neo-Westerns.  Students will read works by authors such as Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy, Sherman Alexi and Percival Everett, as well as view recent popular films by Ang Lee, Clint Eastwood, and John Sayles.  The course will also include readings in history, as well as other disciplines, to contextualize the creative works and to gauge how the myth of the West compares to its reality and how truly revisionist its most current representations are.

Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2011-12.  Professor Hayashi.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011

232 Racialization in the U.S.: The Asian/Pacific/American Experience

This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to Asian/Pacific/American Studies. We will begin by looking at the founding of the field through the student-led social movements of the 1960s and ask ourselves how relevant these origins have been to the subsequent development of the field. We will then use questions that arise from this material to guide our overview of the histories, cultures, and communities that make up the multiplicity of Asian/Pacific America. Topics will include, but not be limited to, the racialization of Asian Americans through immigrant exclusion and immigration law; the role of U.S. imperialism and global geo-politics in shaping migration from Asia to the U.S., the problems and possibilities in a pan-ethnic label like A/P/A, interracial conflict and cooperation, cultural and media representations by and about Asian Americans, diaspora, and homeland politics. In addition, throughout the semester we will practice focusing on the relationships between race, gender, class, sexuality, and nation. The ultimate goal of the course is to develop a set of analytic tools that students can then use for further research and inquiry.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-12. Five College Professor Reddy.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

235 Racialization in the U.S.: Immigration Nation

This interdisciplinary course defines, analyzes and interrogates processes of US racial formation with a particular focus on immigration, immigrant communities and the question of immigrant rights. We will begin by examining both race and racism as elements in the historical process of “racialization,” and proceed by positing racialization as the key to understanding the political, economic, social and cultural dynamics of the United States. Our focus on immigration will begin in the late nineteenth century and follow through to the present day. It will include an outline of the basic patterns of migration to the United States; the role that empire has played in creating these flows; the relationship between immigration, racialization and nation-state formation; questions of naturalization, citizenship and family reunification; immigrant labor; “illegal” immigrants; nativism and anti-immigration movements; the relationships between gender, sexuality, race, class and nation; and diaspora/transnationalism. Throughout we will pay specific attention to the shape of contemporary debates about immigration and their relationship to the histories we consider.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-12. Five College Professor Reddy.

2014-15: Not offered

336 South Asians in the United States

This course focuses on the political, economic, ideological, social, and cultural dimensions of migration from South Asia to the United States, to be understood within the larger context of South Asian diaspora (hi)stories.  Our approach will be interdisciplinary, working with social theory and history as well as literature, film, and music.  We will identify different notions of diaspora and migration and how they give meaning to "home," and displacement.  The semester begins with Indian labor migration with the system of British colonial indenture, proceeds through the "free" labor migration of workers in the colonial and post-colonial period, and concludes with our contemporary moment.

Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 15 students.  Preference given to American Studies majors. Omitted 2011-12. Five College Professor Reddy.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009

390, 490 Special Topics

Fall and spring semesters.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014

468 Research Methods in American Culture

(Offered as AMST 468 and ENGL 470.)  This course is designed to provide American Studies juniors (and others) with a methodological grounding in the discipline and an opportunity to write a research paper on a topic of their own choosing.  We will engage a wide range of materials and methodologies in this course in order to grasp the broad interdisciplinarity of the field of American Studies.  Through short written exercises addressing a variety of documents including manuscripts, journals, census records, images and printed books, students will gauge the utility of various methodological approaches to determine which are most useful for their own independent work.  The major requirement of this course is a research paper, approximately 20-25 pages in length, that will be due at the end of the semester.

Limited to 20 students.  Open to juniors and seniors as a research seminar; underclassmen admitted under special circumstances.  Spring semester. Professor Hayashi.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013
 

Morgan Hall