The American Studies major is designed to allow students great flexibility in creating a course of study focused on social and cultural issues that matter to them. Students combine required courses in the major with relevant courses selected from across the curriculum, putting together their own individualized and interdisciplinary American Studies major. The American Studies major is structured to provide students with the methodological, theoretical, and research skills to conduct their own independent interdisciplinary research. American Studies courses support place-based research--including many field trips--archival research, and historical, sociological, cultural and theoretical analysis. Senior projects in the major range widely from a study of indigenous video games to an archive-based history of service workers at Amherst College, from a graphic novel recording the first year of a new charter school to an ethnographic study of new destination immigrants. Senior projects of the last few years have included studies of electoral politics, caretaking in the Korean transnational diaspora, group identity and racial and ethnic belonging in Hawai’i, gender and weight-lifting, American attitudes towards food and diet, Native American and Indigenous “sneaker” art, and Seinfeld.
Courses in the major expose students to a range of primary materials and the analytical tools to engage them critically, as well as key terms and theories crucial to the field of American Studies. This coursework includes exposure to historical analysis, ethnography, archival research, textual analysis, community-based learning, as well as intellectual fields such as Asian American Studies, Indigenous Studies, cultural studies, critical race theory, cultural geography, and empire studies. Students develop their unique concentration of study from courses both within the department and across the college curriculum and beyond. A student’s area of concentration allows the development of in-depth understanding of topics or the honing of strong disciplinary skills. Popular concentrations have ranged from the study of cities, sports, sexuality, education, racial injustices, ethnic communities, and endless more, or on disciplinary approaches from art to theology.
During the senior year, all majors, under the guidance of a faculty advisor, complete a semester-long or year-long project that acts as the culmination of their work in the major.
Our majors go on to graduate work in history, English, sociology, museum studies and other fields and are working in social justice, law, academe, non-profit, business, and government.