American Studies


111 Global Valley

Drawing on a wide range of primary materials, and taking advantage of the ease of visiting the sites of many of the topics we study, this course offers an introduction to American Studies through an exploration of the Connecticut River Valley that stresses both the fascination of detailed local history and the economic, political, social, and cultural networks that tie this place to the world. Topics may include conflicts and accommodations between Native peoples and English settlers; changing uses of land and resources; seventeenth-century witchcraft trials; the American Revolution and Shays rebellion; religious revivalism of the Great Awakening; abolitionist and other nineteenth- century reform movements; tourism and the scenic including Thomas Cole's famous painting of the oxbow; immigration, industrialization and deindustrialization, especially in the cities of Holyoke and Springfield; educational institutions and innovations; the cold war, the reach of the "military industrial complex" into local educational institutions, and "the bunker"; the sanctuary movement; feminist and gay activism; present environmental, mass incarceration, and other social equity issues; and of course, Emily Dickinson's poetry.

Limited to 20 students per section. Admission by consent of the instructor.  Fall semester.  Professors Brooks and Sánchez-Eppler.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023, Fall 2024

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 21th century.  This semester we will pay particular attention to immigration, racial and ethnic diversity, and the built environment.

Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Hayashi.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015

165 An Introduction to U.S. Latino/a History, 1848--Present

(See HIST 165)

202 From the Moral Majority to the Rise of the "Nones"

Since the earliest years of nationhood, the United States has debated the role of religion in civic life. In the post-World War II era the U.S. stood alone among wealthy industrialized democracies in its levels of religious belief, and the frank and overt religious themes sounded in campaigns and civic discourse. The early decades of the new century have seen a sudden and rapid increase in the percentage of Americans who say they have no religious or congregational affiliation, who reply “none” when asked for a faith affiliation. This course will look at the reasons for the change, and how it is transforming U.S. politics, religion and culture.

Prior study in American history is recommended. Fall and spring semesters. Visiting Professor Suarez.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Spring 2018

205 Whose Game? Sports in America

This course explores the social and cultural history of sports in American society, focusing on the unique histories of sports such as hunting, soccer, basketball and football and, in particular, their relation to issues of race, ethnicity, and gender. Course materials will include a range of primary and secondary materials: archival photographs, academic monographs and journal articles, documentary films, legal documents, poetry and paintings. The course is discussion-based and includes short writing assignments, collaborative work, and a final exam.

Limited to 30 students.  Preference given to American Studies majors and first-year students.  Spring semester.  Professor Hayashi.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023

210 American Jewish Keywords

This course will use selected keywords to examine how the Jewish experience has been conceived, narrated, and remembered in American society. Keywords do not present static definitions, but illuminate a shared vocabulary of meaning. Therefore, we will approach each keyword as a point of departure for examining the complexity of American Jewish experience. Course questions include: Why do the terms “mobility” and “success” continue to resonate for American Jews in the twenty-first century? What has motivated individuals to claim a “marginal” or “mainstream” status? When do members of the community act like “menschen” or “brothers” to others? To what degree does New York’s "Lower East Side" exemplify as well as simplify American Jewish experience? Students will engage with a range of materials, including fiction, memoir, film, historical documents, and photography; readings will include selections of literary criticism, ethnic and racial studies, social history, and sociology.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2017-18. Lecturer Bergoffen.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2024

215 The Embodied Self in American Culture and Society

"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; eating disorders as cultural phenomena; the interminable abortion controversy; the equally interminable conflict over pornography and the limits of free speech; and adaptations to the possibility of serious illness and to the certainty of death.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Couvares and Lecturer Bergoffen. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

216 Afro-Latinos

(Offered as AMST 216 and BLST 240 [CLA/US])  Who is an “Afro-Latino”? Are they Latinos or are they Black? Afro-Latinos are African-descended peoples from Latin America and the Caribbean who reside in the United States. In this course, a focus on Afro-Latinos allows us to study the history of racial ideologies and racial formation in the Americas.

We take a multi-layered approach to the study of modern Afro-Latino history (late nineteenth century to the twentieth century). First, the history of Afro-Latinos has been shaped by the historical relationship between race and nation in Latin America. Therefore, we look closely at the varied histories of African-descended peoples in Latin American countries. Second, the historical relationship between the United States and Latin America has shaped the experience of Afro-Latinos who reside in the U.S. The long history of U.S. economic dominance and military interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean generated an equally long history of Latin American migration to the U.S. In the twentieth century black migrants came from nations that promoted myths of racial democracy to a nation that practiced racial segregation and violence. Afro-Latino migrants experienced racial segregation and violence in the U.S. in ways similar to but different than other Latinos and African Americans. Therefore, third, we examine the history of Afro-Latinos in relation to Latinos in the U.S. The history of Latinos is at the core of U.S. continental expansion, labor practices, and exclusionary citizenship. The category “Latino” has also been shaped by racial hierarchies. The relatively new category of “Afro-Latino” allows us to examine a history that has been silenced within the broader categories of “Latino” or “African American.”

In this course, we examine how Afro-Latinos maneuvered between different racial contexts in Latin American nations and the United States. It is a history that highlights the competing and conflicting racial ideologies that have shaped the Americas.

Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester.  Professor del Moral.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2021

217 Religion, Democracy, and American Culture  

The United States has inscribed the separation of church and state into its constitutional order, and yet Americans have for two centuries been more deeply committed to religious faith and practice than any other people in the Western world. This course endeavors to explore that paradox. Topics addressed include the changing meanings of "the city on a hill"; the varieties of millennial belief and utopian community; the relationship between religion, ethnicity, and gender; religious political activism, including abolition, prohibition, anti-war and anti-abortion movements; and the limits of religious tolerance from movements against Catholics and Mormons to recent warnings of a "clash of civilizations" with Muslim cultures.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester.  Professors Couvares.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

221 Active Citizenship

This course investigates the practice and ideal of community in America both on a national and a local level, asking students to develop concrete strategies for 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. The 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 observation of civic life at the local level. We will attend: school committee meetings, community organizing strategy sessions, select board meetings, board meetings of local nonprofit organizations and community gatherings. We will bring what we learn from these sessions into our classroom discussions of how to build socially just communities at the local level. Each of you will develop a personal action plan for how you plan to be an active citizen in the near and the long term of your life. 

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor del Moral and Lecturer Mead.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, January 2022, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

239 A History of the Native Book

A History of the Native Book takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying Native American and Indigenous peoples’ histories, cultures, literatures, and political movements by exposing students to several critical fields of inquiry. These include: Native American History, Public History, American History, Book History, and Literary Studies. Students immerse themselves in materials written by Native American authors from the seventeenth century to the present by doing archival research in the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Collection at Amherst College. In addition, we read secondary sources by Native Studies scholars to add context to our reading of KWE texts. Working in small groups and individually, students practice and hone both research and writing skills. As a class, students collaborate on a Digital Humanities project to produce new understandings about the significance of Native authorship, publishing, and writing in regard to settler-colonialism. This final project takes the form of digital exhibition that will be accessible to the general public.  Two class meetings per week.  Students will spend an additional half hour each week in a required meeting in the archives.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Vigil.

2023-24: Not offered

240 Rethinking Pocahontas: An Introduction to Native American Studies

From Longfellow's Hiawatha and D.H. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature to Disney's Pocahontas and James Cameron's Avatar, representations of the indigenous as "Other" have greatly shaped cultural production in America as vehicles for defining the nation and the self. This interdisciplinary course introduces students to the broad field of Native American Studies, engaging a range of texts from law to policy to history and literature as well as music and aesthetics. Film and literary texts in particular will provide primary grounding for our inquiries. By keeping popular culture, representation, and the nature of historical narrative in mind, we will consider the often mutually constitutive relationship between American identity and Indian identity as we pose the following questions: How have imaginings of a national space and national culture by Americans been shaped by a history marked by conquest and reconciliation with indigenous peoples? And, how has the creation of a national American literary tradition often defined itself as both apart from and yet indebted to Native American cultural traditions? This course also considers how categories like race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion have contributed to discussions of citizenship and identity, and changed over time with particular attention to specific Native American individuals and tribal nations. Students will be able to design their own final research project that may focus on either a historically contingent or contemporary issue related to Native American people in the United States.

Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Vigil.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2023

250 The History of Education in the U.S.

(See HIST 170)

255 The History of Higher Education in the United States

(Offered as AMST-255 and HIST-255 [US])  This course explores the history of higher education in the United States from the nation’s formation to the present.  Four themes are woven thought a roughly chronological structure.  First, readings outline the competing purposes Americans envisioned for colleges and universities.  Students analyze debates between proponents of broad training in the liberal arts and supporters of more narrow occupational preparation as well as disagreements over the appropriate relationship between research and teaching.  Second, the course explores student life, institutional access, and debates over the relationship between excellence and equity.  Readings highlight patterns of exclusion based on race, class, ethnicity, religion, and gender that have marked the history of American higher education since its earliest days while also exploring the varied forces that eventually diversified student populations.  How universities served as sites where class was both produced and contested in American culture will be a particular focus of analysis.  When addressing this theme, we will consider the post-World War II democratization of American higher education, the politics of college admissions, and stratification within and between post-secondary institutions.  Third, the course raises questions about the power universities came to hold, in the half century following World War II, as centers of knowledge-making networks.  We will examine how federal and philanthropic investment altered the role of the university in the twentieth century United States and created new types of expertise while also exploring how ties between the federal government, philanthropy, and the university affected late twentieth century social thought.  Finally, the course explores universities as political sites, with a particular focus on the consequences of student activism in the 1960s and 1970s and today.  We will ask how university administrators responded to student critiques of the “multiversity”; how African American, Latino, women’s, and ethnic studies programs emerged; and how the demands of student activists altered research priorities, student life, and academic culture.    

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester.  Lewis Sebring Visiting Professor L. Gordon.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019

260 Latino Migration:  Labor, Lifestyle and Legality

(Offered as AMST 260 and SOCI 260)  Whereas capital, culture, and commerce flow freely in contemporary capitalism, labor does not.  Walls--physical, legal and cultural--aim to keep certain people in and “others” out.  In this course we explore the sociological forces behind cross-border labor flows and the parallel reality of immigrant life.  We focus specifically on the experience of Latinos in the United States.  We pay special attention to the linkages between the demand and supply of Latino immigrant labor, social constructions of (il)legality, and the oft-overlooked privileged lifestyles that immigration supports.  While this course has a deep theoretical rooting, we use daily immigrant life as the lens through which to explore migration. 

Limited to 25 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Schmalzbauer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2017

265 Unequal Childhoods:  Race, Class and Gender in the United States

(See SOCI 265)

270 Jews at Amherst

This research-intensive course focuses on the history of Jewish experience at Amherst College.  Founded in 1821 as an institution for the “education of indigent young men of piety and talents for the Christian ministry,” the college motto remains:  Terras Irradient, “let them enlighten the lands.”  Throughout the semester, we will ask:  What did it mean for Jewish men—and later, women—to choose Amherst College?  What was the quality of their experience once they arrived?  What (if anything) distinguished their experience from other students?  Course units will offer an historical overview of Jewish experience in higher education in the last hundred years.  We will focus on the era of quotas, when Jewish students were excluded from elite schools; the proliferation and influence of Menorah Societies; the rise of Jewish fraternities; the radicalism of the 1960s; and the role of Hillel.  This background will help us discern the ways Amherst Jewish experience aligns with or deviates from larger trends in American Jewish history. Over 75 Jewish alumni have shared their stories in written accounts.  In additional to these valuable narratives, we will work with a range of primary materials in the Amherst College Archives; statistical data from the Office of Institutional Research; and materials from college periodicals and published accounts.  Students will draw from these resources to produce a final essay of deeply researched institutional history.

Students are encouraged to contact the professor prior to enrolling.

Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester.  Lecturer Bergoffen.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018

274 Native American Literature:  Decolonizing Intellectual Traditions

(See ENGL 274)

280 When Corn Mother Meets King Corn:  Cultural Studies of the Americas

(Offered as AMST 280 and ENGL 273)  In Penobscot author Joseph Nicolar's 1893 narrative, the Corn Mother proclaims, "I am young in age and I am tender, yet my strength is great and I shall be felt all over the world, because I owe my existence to the beautiful plant of the earth." In contrast, according to one Iowa farmer, from the 2007 documentary "King Corn," "We aren't growing quality. We're growing crap." This course aims to unpack depictions like these in order to probe the ways that corn has changed in its significance within the Americas. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, students will be introduced to critical theories and methodologies from American Studies as they study corn's shifting role, across distinct times and places, as a nourishing provider, cultural transformer, commodity, icon, and symbol.

Beginning with the earliest travels of corn and her stories in the Americas, students will learn about the rich histories, traditions, narratives, and uses of "maize" from indigenous communities and nations, as well as its subsequent proliferation and adaptation throughout the world. In addition to literary and historical sources students will engage with a wide variety of texts (from material culture to popular entertainment, public policy and genetics) in order to deepen their understanding of cultural, political, environmental, and economic changes that have characterized life in the Americas.

Limited to 25 students.  Omitted 2017-18.  Professors Brooks and Vigil.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2019

300 The End of Authority, Politics in Post-Truth America

New technologies for finding and disseminating information have created new channels and sources for people trying to determine “the truth” of anything. As traditional sources of authority, the news business, politicians, the academy, organized religion have all watched as public confidence in them declines, a new world of information has rushed in to fill the void. How do political identity and social class inform, and perhaps deform, knowledge, and credibility when making political choices? This class will assess the impact of new ways of “knowing,” and how the old American sources of authority have scrambled to keep pace, with special attention to the Presidential Election of 2016.

Limited to 30 students.  Fall and spring semesters.  McCloy Visiting Professor Suarez.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Spring 2018

302 Globalization, Inequality and Social Change

(Offered as AMST 302 and SOCI 302)  This course is an in-depth exploration of the increasing global interconnectedness of economic, political, and social processes, what many have come to call “globalization.” We begin by developing a sociological critique of the relationship between inequality, post-World War II global capitalism, and the neoliberal ideology that underlies it.  We do this through study of the major institutions and actors that endorse and perpetuate global capitalism. We then explore case studies which critically examine how contemporary globalization is playing out in daily life via experiences of labor, consumption, family and community.  We dedicate the last part of the course to investigating diverse examples of grassroots resistance to the current capitalist order.  As we strive to achieve a complex analysis of globalization, we will be challenged to grapple seriously with issues of power and social justice and to reflect on our own social positions within an increasingly intricate global web.  In accordance, we will focus throughout the course on how intersections of race, class, gender and citizenship influence the human experience of globalization. 

Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Schmalzbauer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

305 Gender, Migration and Power:  Latinos in the Americas

(Offered as AMST 305 and SOCI 305)  In this course we draw from sociology, anthropology, and geography to explore the gendered dynamics and experiences of Latino migration to the United States. We begin by situating gendered patterns of migration in the context of contemporary globalization and relating them to social constructions of gender. Next we look at experiences of settlement, analyzing the role of women’s and men’s networks in the process of migration, especially in terms of employment and survival strategies. We also analyze how specific contexts of reception influence the gender experience of settlement. For example, how does migration to rural areas differ from migration to traditional urban migration hubs, and how does gender influence that difference?  We then look at Latino family formation, paying special attention to the experiences of transnational mothers and fathers, those who have left children behind in their home countries in the process of migration. Finally, we explore the relationship between migration and sexuality.

Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Schmalzbauer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018

310 The Hispanic Caribbean:  Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico

The Hispanic Caribbean includes Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. We will survey the nineteenth- and twentieth-century histories of the islands, colonies, nations, and diasporas in four moments. First, in the nineteenth century, Cuba and Puerto Rico emerged as Spain’s last sugar-producing colonies in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic, in the pattern of other nineteenth-century Spanish American republics, experienced independence wars, regionalism, caudillos, and popular insurgency. Second, at the turn of the century, nationalist movements emerged in each country. At the same time, US military interventions in 1898 and occupations in the 1910s and 1920s mediated those nationalist aspirations.  Third, we explore the nationalist politics and economic reconstruction strategies that shaped the post-Great Depression era. At mid-century, dictator Rafael Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic, sharing a history of US-sponsored dictatorships with neighboring Haiti. Puerto Rico’s political leaders negotiated a newly created colonial status, known as the Free Associated State, which reinforced the island’s relationship to the United States. Meanwhile, Cuba’s 1959 Revolution transformed the island’s social and political structure and successfully ejected US control over its economy and politics. These three political paths reflected the hegemonic military, political, and economic presence of the United States in the Caribbean.  Fourth, we examine the history of Caribbean migration to the United States and within the region. Cubans and Puerto Ricans migrated to the United States as early as the late nineteenth century. At mid-century, Cubans arrived as political refugees, while Puerto Ricans traveled as US citizens. Dominican immigration to the United States grew after 1965 and became an example of transnationalism.  As we explore these four historical moments, we will also examine the broader historical experiences of slavery, emancipation, revolutionary war, colonialism, nationalism, dictatorship, and migration. Throughout our class discussions and readings, we will always highlight how race, class, and gender shaped nationalist and diasporic identities.

 Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2017-18.  Professor del Moral.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

311 Race and Nation: The History of Hispaniola

(Offered as AMST 311 and BLST 361 [CLA])  The course will survey nineteenth- and twentieth-century histories of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the two nations that share the island of Hispaniola. Despite the emergence of distinct national identities in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, their histories are deeply intertwined. We survey the history of Hispaniola in three moments. We begin with the Haitian Revolution. What was the legacy of the Haitian Revolution for Hispaniola in the nineteenth century? We examine the history of abolition, independence, empire, and the peasantry. Second, in the early twentieth century, the United States intervened and occupied both nations. What is the history of U.S. Empire and its military occupations and wars in Hispaniola? We focus on the rise of dictatorships and authoritarianism as a legacy of U.S. intervention. Third, working-class Haitians and Dominicans share a long history of migration to other Caribbean islands and the United States. Migration patterns were shaped by domestic economies and neoliberal policies. How have the histories of Dominican and Haitian migration to the United States developed over the twentieth century? The study of Hispaniola provides us the opportunity to explore the history of revolution, state-building, citizenship, U.S. empire, national identities, and migration.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor del Moral.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016

315 Race and U.S. Empire: 1898 in the Caribbean and the Pacific

Despite the dominant historical narrative of U.S. “exceptionalism,” imperial practices are at the heart of U.S. history and the formation of an American colonial state. In this course, we survey the emergence of U.S. Empire in the Pacific and Caribbean at the turn of the century (1890s-1910s). In the mid-nineteenth century, the United States was emerging as an empire, as the Spanish Empire was contracting and the British Empire was expanding. The formation of the United States as an empire, therefore, was shaped by competing international actors and great historical change. We examine the history of four turn-of-the-century U.S. territories in the Pacific and Caribbean: Hawaii, the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Class readings and lectures privilege the perspective of colonial peoples. We highlight the multiple ways colonial societies negotiated U.S. colonial practices. Colonial responses to U.S. imperialism were varied, ranging from radical nationalism, autonomism, and annexation. Throughout the course, we pay particular attention to how racial ideologies informed colonial practices.

Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2017-18.  Professor del Moral.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016

317 Puerto Rican Migration

Migration is an experience shared by most Caribbean communities. In this course, we study Puerto Rican migration in the twentieth-century. In 1898, the United States invaded and occupied the island as part of its expansion into the Caribbean region during the Cuban War of Independence. Since then, Puerto Rico has remained a colonial territory of the United States. We will discuss the historical patterns of migration that emerged as a result of this century-long colonial relationship. Through the case study of Puerto Rican migration, we will engage broad topics, including empire, colonialism, labor radicalism, patriarchy, language, and cultural identities. The course is organized in four units.

First, we discuss the 1898 war, the U.S. occupation, and the early migration of Puerto Rican workers to Hawaii, an American territory in the Pacific. We also examine the migration of radicals and workers to the United States, a history connected to the great migration of black Caribbean radicals to the northeast. Second, the 1940s to the 1960s marks the “great migration” of industrial and agricultural workers to the United States. Some made a permanent move to the mainland, while others, like Mexican braceros, travelled for short work contracts. Third, we examine the return migration of the 1970s, which was shaped by the great cultural production and radical politics of the New York and Chicago communities. Finally, we move to the 1990s and beyond. By then, the greater Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States was firmly established in different regions of the mainland. These different communities began to receive a new generation of workers, civil servants, and professionals in numbers that rivaled the great mid-century experience. Today, more Puerto Ricans live on the mainland than the island.

Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2017-18.  Professor del Moral.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015

320 Red/Black Literature: At the Crossroads of Native American and African American Literary Histories

(Offered as AMST 320 and BLST 332)  Throughout this class we will consider the "crossroads," marked by an X, as a visual and symbolic point of intersection with undefined meaning and the potential for fateful outcomes. Reading literary and historical texts students will consider how the crossroads X carries specific meanings for an Afro-Native literary tradition. We will bring Scott Lyons's theory of the X mark, as the signature Native people placed on treaties, to issues of coercion and consent in African American literature and history. Thus, this class focuses on texts that speak in a triple voice, inflected by echoes of a Native American oral tradition, flashes of African American vernacular culture, and forms and techniques adapted from various models of modern Western literature. Students will read literary works as well as primary and secondary historical sources that point to the sometimes powerful and also fraught intersections of Black and Indian histories in the United States from the nineteenth century to the decades following the Civil Rights and Black and Red Power movements. Topics of particular attention include land and politics, history and identity, and gender and sexuality. We will also focus on themes of race, place, family, and belonging. Some of the authors featured in this course are Tiya Miles, Craig Womack, Lauret Savoy, LeAnne Howe, and Michael Dorris. In addition to active participation in seminar discussions students will write a series of short papers in response to the readings and conduct short research assignments.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Vigil.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2017, Fall 2018

326 Immigration and the New Latino Second Generation

(Offered as AMST 326 and SOCI 326)  This course focuses on Latino immigrant youth and the children of Latino immigrants who are coming of age in the contemporary United States, what social scientists have termed the “new second generation.” Currently this generation is the fastest growing demographic of children under 18 years of age. The majority of youth in the “new second generation” are Latino.

Drawing on sociological and anthropological texts, fiction and memoir, we will explore the social factors, historical legacies and policies that in large part shape the lived experiences of Latino youth. We begin by laying a historical and theoretical base for the course, exploring the notions of assimilation and transnationalism. We then move into an exploration of the intersecting contexts of inequality which contextualize daily life for the new second generation. Specifically we investigate how social class, race, gender, and “illegality” intersect with generation to shape the struggles, opportunities, identities and aspirations of Latino youth.

Requisite: Previous course(s) in Sociology, Anthropology, American Studies, Black Studies or Latin American History. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester.  Professor Schmalzbauer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Spring 2021

330 Making Asians:  Asian American in Literature and Law

This course examines the construction of Asian American identity from the late 1800s to the present day by examining literary texts and legal texts and how they have shaped definitions of distinct Asian ethnicities and panethnic identities. We will explore how Asians in America have been defined in the law and literary arts and how work in these distinct spheres of American life—law and literature—have been in conversation.  We will focus on such issues as immigration, citizenship, and civil rights and their relation to Asian American identity. Readings will include fiction, drama, poetry, literary criticism, legal cases, legal codes and statutes, legal studies and history, and ethnic studies.  Coursework will include essays, oral presentations, and a research project.

Limited to 18 students.  Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Hayashi.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Spring 2019

345 Model Minorities:  Jewish and Asian Americans

(Offered as AMST 345 and SOCI 345)  The United States has long struggled with challenges created by the need to absorb ethnic and racial minorities.  In the face of seemingly intractable problems, one solution has been to designate a “model minority,” which then appears to divert attention from the society at large.  Earlier in the twentieth century, Jewish Americans played this role; today, Asian Americans are the focus.  This course examines specific instances in which Jewish Americans and Asian Americans both embraced and rejected the model minority stereotype.  Course units will also examine the underside of the model minority stereotype, quotas imposed to limit access to education and employment as well as social and legal actions taken in response to such restrictions. The course will feature a range of materials, including plays, fiction, journalism, and visual works.  Students will read scholarship in the fields of American Studies, Sociology, History, and Critical Race Studies.

Fall semester.  Limited to 25 students.  McCloy Visiting Professor Odo and Lecturer Bergoffen.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

350 American Origins

(See ENGL 350)

351 The Immigrant City

(See HIST 351)

352 The Purpose and Politics of Education

(See HIST 352)

353 Unraveling Nationalism in American Literature

(See ENGL 353)

358 Indigenous American Epics

(See ENGL 458)

359 Schools, Poverty, and Social Policy in Twentieth-Century America

(See HIST 359)

365 The Unprinted Page: Working with Manuscripts

(See ENGL 415)

371 Race and Revolution in Cuban History

(Offered as AMST 371 and BLST 371 [C/LA])  Race and revolution are at the heart of Cuban history. As the slave-based plantation economy expanded in nineteenth-century Cuba, enslaved and free black Cubans looked to Haiti as an example of black liberation. Inspired by the Haitian Revolution, in 1812 free black José Antonio Aponte organized an island-wide rebellion to free Cuba from slavery and Spanish rule. When Cuban elites called for independence from Spain in 1868, they relied on enslaved and free blacks for military support and promised gradual abolition in return. The concept of “racelessness” in a Free Cuba powerfully shaped the national identities that emerged during the 1895 War of Independence. In 1912, black veterans organized the Partido Independiente de Color (PIC, Independent Party of People of Color) and demanded that the state recognize the equal rights of black Cubans. The government responded by accusing the PIC of launching a “race war” and massacred thousands of PIC members and other black Cubans. The abolition of racial inequality was a central goal of the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The new revolutionary state invested heavily in social policies designed to promote racial equity. In the United States, white Cuban émigrés reproduced the racial hierarchies of pre-revolutionary Cuba, while subsequent Afro-Cuban immigrants challenged racism in the diaspora. Since the Special Period of the early 1990s, economic liberalization polices have widened economic disparities on the island, threatening the revolutionary goal of equality for all Cubans.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor del Moral.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017

372 Race and Public History/Memory

This seminar focuses on two major events in nineteenth century American history: the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the U.S.-inspired overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. We examine attitudes and actions leading to these momentous events, their impact on the target populations and American society, as well as subsequent efforts to obtain apologies from the U.S. government. Amazingly, these efforts succeeded in 2011-12 and 1993, respectively. The Congress has issued apologies only five times in its entire history–the three others were for slavery, treatment of Native Americans and forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. Throughout, we analyze the memory-making involved, largely through the lens of public history venues such as museums, documentaries, historic landmarks, websites, and others. Some familiarity with Asian American history will be assumed.

Limited to 18 students.  Fall semester.  McCloy Visiting Professor Odo.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

374 WWII and Japanese Americans

(Offered as AMST 374 and HIST 374 [US])  In the largest incidence of forced removal in American history, the U.S. incarcerated 120,000 people of Japanese descent during WWII, two-thirds of whom were American citizens. Preceded by half a century of organized racism, the attack on Pearl Harbor provided justification for imprisonment of an entire ethnic group solely on the basis of affiliation by “blood.” At the same time, Japanese Americans served in the U.S. military with extraordinary distinction, earning recognition in the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team in Europe as the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in American military history. Thousands more served in the Military Intelligence Service using their knowledge of the Japanese language as a “secret weapon” against the Japanese Empire. We will examine the historical background leading to these events and Japanese American resistance to official actions including the cases of Yasui, Hirabayashi, Korematsu, and Endo which reached the U.S. Supreme Court. We will also explore the imposition of the draft upon men behind barbed wire and those who became draft resisters. We will also trace the post-war rise of movements to gain redress, successful with President Reagan’s signing of HR 442 in 1988, and the extraordinary rise of memorials and museums commemorating incarceration and memory-making.

Limited to 18 students.  Spring semester.  McCloy Visiting Professor Odo.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

390, 490 Special Topics

Fall and spring semesters.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

468 Research Methods in American Culture

This course aims to provide a "how to" of American Studies from an integrative, multiracial, and socio-cultural perspective. It also takes on the task of surveying the development of American Studies as an interdisciplinary field, while paying attention to the theoretical concerns and bodies of work that have influenced American Studies scholars over the last half century. Students will be exposed to and experiment with a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches, gain a working competence in debates and approaches, and study a range of  materials--visual, literary, print, digital, audio--via a traditionally interdisciplinary American Studies praxis. In the process they will develop rhetorical analyses, gather ethnographic data, and do close readings of assorted texts, spaces, and buildings. We will read the recent American Studies: A User's Guide by Philip J. Deloria and Alexander I. Olson, in addition to several model monographs that represent central issues in studies of American culture and history and will learn library research, archival research, and legal research skills. Students will complete a "work-in-progress" presentation as part of a public mini-conference, as well as an annotated bibliography, and a research prospectus.  Speaking and writing attentive.

Limited to 18 students.  Open to juniors and seniors as a research seminar; underclassmen admitted only with consent of the instructor.  Spring semester.  Professor Hayashi.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

496 Capstone Project

A one-semester project--either a shorter essay or some other form of independent interdisciplinary research and production. The capstone project serves as the grounds for a comprehensive evaluation of each student's achievement in the major.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Spring semester.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025