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Amherst College American Studies for 2010-11

11 Changing America

This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of American Studies by exploring a central theme:  "change" in America.  Since its inception as a nation-state and an ideal, "America" has been open to contestation over its meaning and manner of belonging.  Who or what constitutes America?  How has that constitution changed over time, and what might that tell us about the possibilities for its future?  How does the field of American Studies offer particular methods that help us think through these changes, to think through the relationship between thought and action?  The course will outline a broad sweep of U.S. history while focusing on particular moments and/or examples to provide depth.  Topics may include, but not be limited to, immigration, U.S. imperialism, borders, civil rights, cultural production and material culture.  Throughout, we will pay particular attention to how American has been shaped by struggles for racial, ethnic, gender, class and sexual freedoms, focusing on how these have been situated within formal and informal social movements.  In addition, we will consider the shift within American Studies from an emphasis on American "exceptionalism" to a consideration of America's enduring social, political and cultural structures in a global, transnational framework.  We will draw course materials from a range of sources and perspectives, such as those found in popular culture, historical archives, critical race theory, film, music, sociology, critical legal studies, literature, visual culture and social and cultural history.l  In addition, as possible, the course will include guest speakers currently involved in the process of "changing America."

Limited to 20 students per section.  Fall semester.  Professors Basler and Reddy.

2017-18: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010

12 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 and ethnicity; religious political activism from abolition to prohibition to anti-abortion; 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 20 students. Spring semester.  Professor Couvares.

2017-18: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011

24 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.  Spring semester.  Professor Hayashi.

2017-18: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2015

32 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. Spring semester. Five College Professor Reddy.

2017-18: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

35 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 2010-11. Five College Professor Reddy.

2017-18: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009

36 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 2010-11. Five College Professor Reddy.

2017-18: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2015

38 Debates in Private American Higher Education

(Offered as AMST 38 and POSC 38 [AP].)  Debates  continue about the purpose, content, admission and costs in private higher education, which this seminar will explore from varied views.  We will begin with some discussion of the mission of universities/colleges (eg., Weber, Whitehead, Ortega y Gasset) and their social impact (Goldin and Katz's The Race between Education and Technology).  We will then move into debates about the curriculum (Menand, Kronman, Derek Bok's Our Underachieving Colleges, and Harry Lewis's Excellence without a Soul).  On admissions we will use Karabel's The Chosen, Lehman's The Big Test, various Supreme Court decisions, and Golden's The Price of Admission.  On financial aid, we will read McPherson and Schapiro's Student Aid Game and works by Richard Kahlenberg.

Limited to 12 students.  In order to be admitted to this course, interested students should preregister and submit a one page statement by April 26, 2010, to describing why they wish to take this course. Fall semester.  Professor Marx.


2017-18: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010

68 Research Methods in American Culture

(Offered as AMST 68 and ENGL 95-03.)  This course is designed to provide American Studies majors, as well as others interested in interdisciplinary work, the opportunity and support to produce a major piece of research writing on a topic of their choosing.  We will examine a wide range of materials, including photographs, paintings, legal documents, journals, poems, and plays.  The course will also introduce students to the variety of methodologies utilized by practitioners in the field of American Studies.  The specific focus of the course will be the role of place in American culture.  By studying discrete geographic locations--their histories, residents, and cultural representations--students will gain appreciation for interdisciplinary work and the development of American Studies.

Requisite: American Studies 11 and 12. Open to juniors and seniors or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester. Professor Hayashi.

2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2019

77, 78 Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester.

2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018

97, 98 Special Topics

Fall semester.

2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, 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 2018, Spring 2019