Courses

Rationale for Course Numbering

In addition to an occasional 100-level topical course, the introductory course is offered at the 200 level to suggest the desirability of some preliminary training in college-level history, literature, sociology, or political science. The American Studies 301, the designated Junior Seminar, is offered primarily for juniors, although they are open to sophomores who have had 201 and will be away from campus during the spring of their junior year. 400 level courses designated as Senior Seminars are designed for senior majors.

Courses for Non-Majors, First-Year Students, and Sophomores

American Studies 201 is open to non-majors including first-year students. All elective courses are open to students who meet the requirements of the departments that sponsor those courses. Courses designated as junior or senior seminars are open to non-majors with permission of the instructor.

Courses for the Major

Students who plan to major in American Studies may find it useful to filter courses by Arts in Context, Comparative Studies in Race, Ethnicity, and Diaspora, Critical and Cultural Theory, Space and Place, or pre-1900, using the sidebar on the right.

American Studies majors are advised to read the Major Requirements carefully ensure they are able to take the courses they need.


AMST 101(F, S)Introduction to American Studies

America is a bundle of myths and ideas, and being an American has always meant more than U.S. citizenship. This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary study of American culture. We will focus on the workings of that culture as it has been shaped by factors such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, place, and religion. Over the semester, we will ask critical questions of a wide variety of materials: essays, novels, autobiographies, poems, photographs, films, music, visual art, architecture, urban plans, historical documents and legal texts. In this course, we critique notions of American exceptionalism and grapple with questions of power and imagination, struggle and social change, empire, nation and borders, inequality, assimilation, aesthetic form, and the role of the U.S. and its products in the world. Because it focuses on such questions of power and privilege, difference and commonality, this course satisfies the EDI requirement. [ more ]

Taught by: Cassandra Cleghorn, Doug Kiel

Catalog details

AMST 102(F)Artists Respond to Dangerous Times

This introductory studio art course focuses on how contemporary time-based artists engage their historical moment. We will look at ways in which language, performance, and the moving image can be used to reckon with the forces that historical events and conditions press upon us as citizens, art makers, and living beings, and think about art-making as a dialogical social force that has the potential to press back. Students will develop their own video, performance, or written work in this vein. The course will give special consideration to particular forms of artist-made film and video: the essay film, activist/grassroots/social media, and performance-based and narrative media that reflect on historical events and the ongoing present. We will look at a variety of work, including: Fiona Banner, Catherine Bigelow, Wafaa Bilal, Nao Bustamante, Paul Chan, Adam Curtis, Jean-Luc Godard, Danny Glover, Dara Greenwald, Sharon Hayes, Spike Lee, Zoe Leonard, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Anna Deveare Smith, Lisa Steele, Agnes Varda, The Yes Men, Haskell Wexler, and collectives including ACT UP, Pink Bloque, TVTV, and Occupy Wall Street. Readings will include work by Margaret Atwood, Jerome Bruner, Judith Butler, Gregg Bordowitz, Joan Didion, George Lipsitz, Chantal Mouffe, Paul Virilio, David Foster Wallace, among others. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 105(S)American Girlhoods

The image of the girl has captivated North American writers, commentators, artists, and creators of popular culture for at least the last two centuries. What metaphors, styles of writing, ideas of "manners and morals" does literature about girls explore? What larger cultural and aesthetic concerns are girls made to represent? And how is girlhood articulated alongside and/or intertwined with other identities and identifications, such as race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality? These are some of the issues we will explore in this course. We will read works by such authors as Emily Dickinson, Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Jacobs, Henry James, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, and Monique Truong, as well as discuss such popular phenomena as Barbie and the American Girl Doll Company, Girl Scouts, and Riot Grrrrls. This course meets the requirements of the Exploring Diversity Initiative in that it focuses on empathetic understanding, power and privilege, especially in relation to class, gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity within a U.S. context. [ more ]

AMST 106 T(S)Coming of Age in the City: Growing up and Growing Older in Communities of Color

This tutorial examines urban life in communities of color through the lens of aging. We will focus on the political and economic dimensions of cities that have deeply affected the daily collective lives of certain populations from childhood to elderhood, taking into account how age and age relations are highly differentiated by race, class, and gender. We will also consider the ways in which cities are organized and arranged to create and recreate categories and ideas associated with age. This EDI tutorial foregrounds the significance of age, as it crosscuts with race, class, and gender, in explorations of urban inequality. [ more ]

AMST 108First-Hand America

Not offered this year

Gonzo journalism, the nonfiction novel, literary journalism, the "new journalism." Before "American Studies" was named and developed as an academic field the study of American culture thrived in the able hands of writers, reformers and amateur anthropologists whose works continue to form the basis of the curriculum. This course is an introduction to American culture through the eyes of extraordinary writers who work as public intellectuals, addressing a readership that reaches beyond the university. We will travel to Alaska with John McPhee, to Miami with Joan Didion, to Sing Sing prison with Ted Conover, and to the Hmong community of Northern California with Ann Fadiman, examining at every stop both the cultures in which these acute observers immerse themselves and their interpretive techniques. Works will be drawn from the following list of authors: Jane Addams, Zora Neal Hurston, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Studs Terkel, John Edgar Wideman, Peggy Orenstein, Jon Krakauer, Susan Orlean, and Mitchell Duneier. [ more ]

AMST 132(S)Contemporary Africana Social and Political Philosophy

This introductory seminar investigates the relationship between three major schools of thought in contemporary Africana social and political philosophy, namely the African, Afro-American, and Afro-Caribbean intellectual traditions. We will discuss a range of thinkers including Aime Cesaire, Angela Y. Davis, Edouard Glissant, Lewis R. Gordon, Kwame Gyekye, Paget Henry, bell hooks, Charles W. Mills, Nkiru Nzegwu, Lucius Outlaw, Oyeronke Oyewumi, Tommie Shelby, and Sylvia Wynter. A primary goal of the course is to provide students with the intellectual resources to decipher problems central to philosophical discourse and to allow students an opportunity to apply what they learn to critical issues in current geopolitics. This seminar is part of the Exploring Diversity Initiative, and as such we shall investigate--via the authors mentioned--comparative philosophical analyses, critical theorization, and the plurality of global thinking in contemporary social and political philosophy. [ more ]

AMST 156(F)Thirteen Ways of Looking at Jazz

Taking its title from the Wallace Stevens poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," which interprets the blackbird in different ways, this course similarly explores a more complex, multi-layered perspective on jazz, from jazz and American democracy to jazz in visual art. Accordingly, the course introduces students to several genres, including historical documents, cultural criticism, music, literature, film, photography and art. The course does not draw on a musicological method but rather a socio-cultural analysis of the concept, music and its effect--so students are not required to have any prior musical knowledge or ability. In this writing intensive course, students will write and revise short close analyses of multiple types of media, ultimately honing their writing skills on one form of media for a polished, original analysis that weds their increased critical thinking skills. This EDI course explores the musical expressions of the culturally diverse peoples of African descent in the New World, as well as the myriad ways in which representations of jazz signify on institutional power, reaffirm dominant U.S. and/or European hierarchies of race, gender and class, and signal inequality in order to contest it. [ more ]

AMST 157From Powhatan to Lincoln: Discovering Leadership in a New World

Not offered this year

The collision of cultures and peoples in colonial North America created a New World that demanded new forms of political leadership. This course explores the history of leadership from the colonial era to the Civil War through the study of consequential individuals whose actions shaped seminal moments in American history. As often as possible, the course will analyze rival leaders to understand the many different forms of leadership that existed throughout American history and how historical contexts affected individual decisions. The course opens with Powhatan, whose Native American empire spanned the East Coast of North America, and John Smith, who confronted this Indian empire as he tried to establish England's first toehold in the New World, and it ends with Abraham Lincoln, who tried to keep together a nation that Jefferson Davis aimed to destroy. In between, the course will explore colonial leaders like John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; African American leaders like Gabriel Prosser, who led a slave rebellion, and Richard Allen, a free black abolitionist; presidents like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; First ladies like Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison; advocates for women's rights like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and others. Providing a survey of early American history through the study of these individuals, students will have a deeper appreciation of how historical processes shaped leaders--and how leaders have shaped history. [ more ]

AMST 158From Pocahontas to Crazy Horse: Representations of Native Americans in Popular Culture

Not offered this year

In this class, we will explore a variety of media to interrogate depictions of Native peoples in the United States. By examining popular representations of iconic Native Americans (Pocahontas, Squanto, Sacagawea, and Crazy Horse, among others) in film, children's literature, websites, statuary and portraiture, etc., alongside scholarly interpretations of their lives, we can parse the creation and evolution of stereotypes about Native peoples and consider the cultural work that such imagery performs. For instance, why is it important to some people to imagine that Pocahontas lived happily ever after with John Smith, or that Squanto gave us the first Thanksgiving? Such national myths are based on kernels of historical reality, but they also elide important details and oversimplify the lives of both Native and European protagonists. By learning more about the complex Native individuals behind the stereotypes, we will face our assumptions, identify the cultural work these images perform, and question why certain portrayals of Native peoples continue to thrive. We will also interrogate other timely and recognizable images such as sports mascots and fictional characters to contemplate the ways that myths about Native pasts (and the stereotypes they engender) continue to affect real people living in this country today. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

AMST 165Slavery in the United States

Not offered this year

Slavery and freedom rose as concomitant ideologies--simultaneously and interrelated--critical to the development of the American colonies and United States. Few areas of American social, political, and economic history have been more active and exciting in recent years than the study of this relationship. This seminar introduces students to the most important aspects of American slavery, beginning with an examination of the international slave trade and traces the development of the "peculiar institution" to its demise with the Civil War. [ more ]

AMST 166(S)Politics and Prose: Invisible Man in Historical Context

"I am an invisible man." So begins Ralph Ellison's treatise on black life in the U.S. in the middle of the 20th century. Ellison's book Invisible Man appeared in 1952, won the National Book Award, and secured a prominent place in the canons of both American and African American arts and letters. Often studied for its literary crafting and for the ways it echoes the work of classic American writers, Invisible Man iterates the black past as it affects its protagonist. This course brings readings in black sociology, anthropology, law, literature, political science, education, folk-life, and music to bear on its examination of the novel and its historical themes, including debates among black ideologues and leaders; links between culture and protest; and effects of black migration and urbanization. [ more ]

AMST 167(F)Let Freedom Ring? African Americans and Emancipation

This course will examine African Americans' transition from slavery to freedom. In the years that encompassed the Civil War and immediately after, most African Americans changed from being legal property, able to be bought, sold, mortgaged, rented out, and leveraged into U.S. citizens, with the Constitutional right to male suffrage. This course examines this transition. How did it come about? To what extent were African Americans able to exercise their rights that the constitution guaranteed? How did Emancipation shape African American family relations, culture and demography? This is a research seminar. We will examine work of historians and discuss the contradictions and nuances of emancipation. Readings will include monographs, scholarly articles and heavy dose of primary sources, as many as possible written by African Americans themselves. Assignments include an original research paper on an aspect of Emancipation. We will devote considerable time throughout the semester to finding primary and secondary sources and on the writing process. [ more ]

AMST 1681968-1969: Two Years in America

Not offered this year

These two years were tumultuous ones worldwide. The escalation of the war in Vietnam, the Soviet invasion of Prague, the student uprisings in Paris and Japan, and the racial politics in the Summer Olympics held in Mexico City all had their counterparts that reverberated in the streets, college campuses, the halls of Congress, movie theaters, and concert halls and rock festivals in the United States. This first-year seminar will examine some of the major events of this time period in America: the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Democratic Convention in Chicago, as well as cultural trends such as the development of the anti-war movement, the push for curricular reforms on college campuses, and the rise of the "counter culture." [ more ]

AMST 202(S)History Behind the Headlines

This course challenges students to think historically about the present by introducing the discipline's methods and conceptual tools to explore the background of news stories. What are the histories behind the headlines, specially the major issues covered by the media? How do media and public discourses reflect the use (or abuse) history to interpret or represent those issues? Students will be encouraged to become more critical consumers of "the news," but more importantly to see themselves, their families, and their peers as part of a historical contingent who are affected by the past. To augment the course, guest speakers visit the class to talk about how the topics they research and are represented in public discourses. Because of its commitment to explore how people in different societies respond to the pressing issues of the day and on how people in various corners of the world are redefining and rethinking notions of rights, this course is part of the Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI). [ more ]

AMST 205Chicana/o Film and Video

Not offered this year

Hollywood cinema has long been fascinated with the border between the United States and Mexico. This course will examine representations of the U.S.-Mexico border, Mexican Americans, and Chicana/os in both Hollywood film and independent media. We will consider how positions on nationalism, race, gender, identity, migration, and history are represented and negotiated through film. We will begin by analyzing Hollywood "border" and gang films before approaching Chicana/o-produced features, independent narratives, and experimental work. This course will explore issues of film and ideology, genre and representation, nationalist resistance and feminist critiques, queer theory and the performative aspects of identity.Through a focus on Chicana/o representation, the course explores a wide spectrum of film history (from the silent era to the present) and considers numerous genres. By introducing various interdisciplinary approaches and theoretical methods related to race, representation, and the media, the course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative's themes of critical theorization and power and privilege. [ more ]

AMST 207(F)Introduction to Latina/o Literatures

This discussion course serves as an introduction; the reading list is not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive, but will rather provide a sampling or range of texts for students to engage. We will explore a number of readings across different genres (the novel, play, poem, short story, graphic novel). Students will endeavor to understand how each author defines Latinidad. What characterizes Latina/os for each of these writers and how do their works articulate the historical conditions out of which they emerge? How is Latina/o literature marked by notions of language, nationality, gender, sexuality, class, race, politics, form, and genre? The readings will provide both a survey of general ideas in the study of Latina/o literatures as well as specific case studies and historical examples from which we will extrapolate about the larger field. Readings include works by Tomas Rivera, Cristina Garcia, Cristy C. Road, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Junot Diaz, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, and more. This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative requirements as it offers students a comparative study of cultures and societies by examining the U.S. racial project of constructing a Latina/o people out of various peoples. Additional attention is given, under the rubric of power and privilege, to the specific economic and political institutions that structure Latina/o cultural production. [ more ]

Taught by: Alma Granado

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AMST 208 T(F)Time and Blackness

The concept of time is one of the most examined, yet least theorized, concepts in Africana Studies. While the field is saturated with historical studies and literary analyses that take up issues of cultural memory, both of which involve thinking about time, time itself is rarely the subject of sustained inquiry. This may be due to its abstractness as an idea and the level of analysis its conceptualization demands, or because time in the African American experience cannot be understood outside of the meaning of race, which itself is far from tangible. In this tutorial, "Time and Blackness," we will explore how African American writers across a number of genres understand time. We will read select texts of fiction as well as spiritual autobiographies, historical narratives, and sociological studies to understand how writers draw from -- and create --paradigms of time to organize their work. The following questions will structure our investigation: What are the constituent elements of time in African American writing? How does race shape the ways a writer conceives of the experience of time? In examining writings across genres, is there something that we can call an identifiable African-American "timescape"? [ more ]

AMST 209Ecologies of Place: Culture, Commodities and Everyday Life

Not offered this year

This course will explore the environmental implications of everyday life in modern America. It will ask how cultural, political, economic, and ecological systems interact to produce ordinary places and vernacular landscapes, from campuses to cul-de-sacs, farms to forests, nation-states to national parks. Combining approaches from cultural geography, environmental history, and political ecology, it will focus on the hidden lives of "things"--the commodities and technologies that form the basic building blocks of place: food, oil, water, wood, machines. With strong emphasis on local-global relations, it will look beneath the surface of the ordinary to reveal the complex networks of power, meaning, and matter that connect "here" to "there," "now" to "then," and "us" to "them." In so doing, it will pursue parallel goals: to understand the socio-spatial processes shaping today's global environment; and to explore the cultural systems through which those processes are understood and contested. Topics will include the bottled water controversy, factory farming and local agriculture, the political economy of lawns, and the cultural politics of invasive species. [ more ]

AMST 210Culture and Incarceration

Not offered this year

This seminar examines incarceration, immigration detention centers, and the death penalty from historical and contemporary perspectives. Students will study and examine interdisciplinary texts as well primary sources (legislature and criminal codes and writings by the incarcerated). The emphasis will be on the study of social attitudes concerning ethnic groups, gender/sexuality and class as they pertain to a "penal culture" in the United States. [ more ]

AMST 211(S)Race and the Environment

In contemporary societies, race remains an enduring impediment to the achievement of equality. Generally understood as a socially meaningful way of classifying human bodies hierarchically, race manifests itself in a number of arenas, including personal experience, economic production and distribution, and political organization. In this course, we will explore how race emerges in local and global environmental issues, like pollution and climate change. We will begin with a review of some of the landmark texts in Environmental Studies that address "environmental racism," like Robert Bullard's Dumping in Dixie and David Pellow's Garbage Wars. We will examine how and to what extent polluting facilities like landfills, oil refineries, and sewage treatment plants are disproportionately located in communities of color; we will also pay attention to how specific corporations create the underlying rationale for plotting industrial sites. After outlining some of the core issues raised in this scholarship, we will turn to cultural productions--like literature, film, and music--to understand how people of color respond to environmental injustice and imagine the natural world. [ more ]

AMST 213Black Politics in the United States

Not offered this year

Historically, African Americans have been treated as group members rather than as individuals by mainstream society; consequently, a very unique set of political attitudes and behaviors have developed among Blacks in the United States. This course explores the political history of African Americans as well as the relationship between African Americans and the American political system. Political elites as well as individual citizens and grassroots movements have influenced Black politics. In turn, we will focus on how national, state, and local governments have affected African American communities through the implementation of policies, some of which have been discriminatory while others have been aimed to ameliorate racial disparities. We will also analyze how Black Americans have responded through the political system. Since this course (nor any course) has the capacity to explore the vast history of Black politics, we will focus primarily on contemporary, African American politics between 1960 and the Obama era. Class time will be divided between lectures and class discussions. [ more ]

AMST 215Experimental Asian American Writing

Not offered this year

Asian American literature did not begin in the 1980s with Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. Nor has the writing primarily been confined to autobiographical accounts of generational conflict, divided identities, and glimpses of Chinatown families. Asian American literature in English began with poetry in the late nineteenth century, and has encompassed a variety of aesthetic styles across the last century--from Modernism to New York School poetry to protest poetry to digital poetics. This course will explore Asian American writings that have pushed formal (and political) boundaries in the past 100+ years, with a particular focus on avant-garde writers working today. We will look at such authors as Jose Garcia Villa, Chuang Hua, Wong May, Theresa H., Cha, John Yau, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Tan Lin, Prageeta Sharma, Bhanu Kapil, and Tao Lin. [ more ]

AMST 216(S)Environmental Humanities: Theory and Practice

How does culture shape our use and imagination of the physical environment? And how does the physical environment shape culture in turn? These are the central questions of the environmental humanities. This course will explore the various ways in which scholars from a broad range of disciplines have sought to answer these questions by incorporating insights from social theory and cultural criticism. Focusing on studies of land and landscape in the Americas from the time of European colonization to the present, it will examine key works from fields such as environmental history, ecocriticism, environmental philosophy, and cultural geography, and it will survey the major methodological and theoretical commitments that unite these fields. Emphasis will be placed on the ideological critique of modernity. How have scholars made environmental sense of liberalism, colonialism, capitalism, nationalism, sexism, racism, and speciesism? How have these "isms" influenced our relations with the natural world, and how can the humanities help us both understand and change these relations for the better? This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity requirement. [ more ]

AMST 217Race(ing) Sports: Issues, Themes and Representations of Black Athletes

Not offered this year

Althea Gibson to the Williams Sisters. Julius (Dr. J) Irving to Michael Jordan. Jesse Owens to Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Throughout the 20th century, black athletes have broken through Jim Crow restraints, challenged racial stereotypes, and taken their sports to new heights of achievement. In this course, students will explore a range of black athletes in the 20th century, paying particular attention to the attitudes, stereotypes and experiences they endured. In addition, this course will prompt students to analyze the representation, perception, and commodification of black athletes in popular media forms. Students will trace trends, shifts and themes in representations of blackness across different sports and historical periods. Topics under study may include resistance against and affirmation of athletes as role models, racial slurs in sports broadcasting, common themes in commercialized images of the black male athlete, and distinctions in media coverage based on race and gender. Texts will include everything from critical essays and sociological studies to commercials and documentary films. In their final projects, students may put their newfound knowledge to the test by exploring their campus or hometown to investigate the role that race plays on their own playing field. [ more ]

AMST 218(F)The History of American Capitalism

This course surveys the history of American capitalism from the 17th century to the present. Organized around the twin themes of growth and inequality, it charts how a relatively minor group of colonies developed into a world economic superpower, and how this transformation has shaped how Americans have lived and worked. More than just a history of business titans, it looks in detail at how political and social contests have shaped the American economy. Among the topics we will discuss are: the differences between Native and colonial economies; the role of slavery in American economic development; the rise of wage labor and the gendering of economic activities; the effects of war, corporate consolidation, and new technologies; the shifting part played by America's governments in promoting, shaping, and sometimes constraining economic growth; the "financialization" of the American economy; and the striking rise in economic inequality in the late 20th century. As students of Leadership Studies, we will pay particular attention to the roles individuals and organizations have played in reshaping the contours of the American economy. Students should note that this course employs primarily qualitative modes of analysis; course work in economics is not presumed. [ more ]

Taught by: Mason Williams

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AMST 220(F)Introduction to African American Literature

What does it mean, socially, culturally, historically, personally, and spiritually, to be African American? No single, simple answer suffices, but African American literature as a genre is defined by its ongoing engagement with this complex question. This course will examine a series of texts that in various ways epitomize the fraught literary grappling with the entailments of American blackness. Readings will include texts by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, and Ishmael Reed. [ more ]

AMST 221Introduction to Urban Studies: Shaping and Living the City

Not offered this year

Generally, cities have been described either as vibrant commercial and cultural centers or as violent and decaying urban slums. In an effort to begin to think more critically about cities, this course introduces important topics in the interdisciplinary field of Urban Studies. Specifically, we will discuss concepts and theories used to examine the peoples and structures that make up cities: In what ways do socio-cultural, economic, and political factors affect urban life and development? How are cities planned and used by various stakeholders (politicians, developers, businesses, and residents)? How do people make meaning of the places they inhabit? We will pay particular attention to the roles of race, ethnicity, class, and gender in understanding and interpreting urban communities. Texts include works by anthropologists, historians, sociologists, cultural critics, cultural geographers, and literary writers. [ more ]

AMST 224(S)U.S. Latina @ Religions

In this course, we will engage aspects of Latin@ religious experiences, practices, and expressions in the United States of America. We examine moments where religious expressions intersect with politics, popular culture, and daily life in the U.S.A. Given the plurality of Latin@ communities and religious lives in the U.S.A., we will engage certain selected religious traditions and practices--such as popular Catholic devotions to Guadalupe, crypto-Judaism, curanderismo, Latin@ Muslims, and Santeria--by focusing on particular moments of religious expression as elucidated in specific historiographies, ethnographies, art, literature, and film. We will also consider, though more briefly, historical contexts in Iberia and Latin America, as well as questions of how one studies Latin@ religions. Rooting ourselves in the social, political, cultural, and historical contexts in which particular Latin@ religious formations developed, this EDI course examines issues of social and institutional power relations that influence particular religious formations. [ more ]

AMST 227Utopias and Americas

Not offered this year

Where does the term "new world" come from? What do we mean by "utopia," "utopian," and "utopianism?" What relationships exist between the people who imagine utopias and the lands they inhabit? This course considers the relationship between utopian imaginations and the imaginations of the lands and peoples in the Western hemisphere. We will spend some time studying utopian theory, ancient proto-utopias, and utopias in Latin America, though our main focus will be on particular examples of utopianism in the U.S.A. We will attend to particular instances of utopian social dreaming that re-imagine time, space, environment, gender, family, education, and power. While the U.S.A. is the main focus of the class, students are encouraged to pursue and bring to class utopian perspectives from other parts of the Americas. Students are also strongly encouraged to take questions from class and engage utopian images not listed on this syllabus but pertinent to our classroom learning. [ more ]

AMST 229Reel Jesus: Reading the Christian Bible and Film in the U.S.A.

Not offered this year

In this course we examine some of the myriad ways that Christian biblical narratives have appeared in certain movies. What are the overt and subtle ways that these films seek to interpret and employ biblical texts? Why do they draw upon the texts they do and read them as they read them? What can cinematic interpretations of biblical texts reveal to us about how these texts are used in broader U.S. culture? How does an awareness of this scriptural dimension in a work of "popular culture" affect our interpretation of both the film and the scriptural text's meanings? How do varying interpretations of biblical texts help us to understand cinematic meaning? By assuming that we can read both biblical texts and films in multiple and contradictory ways, this class can use film as the occasion for interpreting, analyzing, and debating the meanings, cultural functions, and affective responses generated by biblical narratives in film. Finally, this course asks us to analyze how movies may interpret certain biblical texts in order to crystallize and reflect certain political, economic, ethnic, racial, sexual, and social parameters of U.S. cultures. Attention to the biblical imagination of U.S. cinema and the cinematic imagination of biblical texts will necessitate interdisciplinary study of text and representation and a concern with the implications of ways in which we read texts and films. While this course will read selected biblical and extra-canonical texts, including selections from canonical and non-canonical gospels, the letters of Paul, and the book of Revelation, our foci will be on the way that movies (and the people who make them and watch them) seek to make meaning out of and with reference to these biblical texts. [ more ]

AMST 231(S)Approaches to Media Studies: Analyzing Mediated Difference

Media's influence in 21st century life is pervasive, and encompasses visual, sonic, and discursive formats. This course introduces students to a variety of quantitative approaches to the study of contemporary media. Simultaneously, we will explore questions of ethno-racial identity, gender, and sexuality. Structured around a series of hands-on exercises, this interdisciplinary class will enhance students' understanding of media forms and their interaction with various categories of identity. [ more ]

AMST 237(S)Religion, Politics, Culture: Islam in the United States

Malcolm X is likely the most prominent and influential Muslim figure in the history of the United States. His story represents two fundamental themes in the history of Islam in America: conflict between Muslims over what is "authentic" or "orthodox" Islam; and the ways that American history, politics, and culture determine the contours of "American Islam". This course will explore these two themes through an array of topics in the history of American Islam. In so doing, we will examine the complex relation between religion, politics, and culture in the United States. Beginning with the story of Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam, and other African-American Muslim movements, we will try to understand: What made Islam so appealing to millions of African-Americans throughout the 20th century? And were these genuinely "religious" and "Islamic" movements, or just racial/political "black nationalist" movements in the guise of religion? What counts as legitimately "Islamic", and who gets to decide? We will then move into the latter half of the 20th century and the post-9/11 debates over authentic Islam. What happened to American Muslim communities and organizations after the waves of post-1965 immigration from Muslim countries? How have debates about Muslim identity shifted over time, from being configured in terms of black separatism, to transnational/diasporic identity, to the attempts at articulating an indigenous "American-Muslim" identity? How have national narratives around 9/11 and the "War on Terror" impacted these debates over identity and "true Islam"? And how have these debates intersected with gender, racial, and ethnic politics? Throughout the course, we will be studying historical and anthropological material, autobiographies, novels, documentaries, films, and social media. The course fosters critical thinking about diversity by challenging assumptions of who Muslims are, what being American means, and what Islam is. It also focuses on the complex interaction of different dimensions of diversity, from religion to race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, gender, language, and age. [ more ]

Taught by: Zaid Adhami

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AMST 240Latina/o Language Politics: Hybrid Voices

Not offered this year

In this course we will focus on issues of language and identity in the contemporary linguistic practices and literary production of various Latina/o communities. We will ask: How are cultural values and material conditions expressed through Latina/o language and literature? How does Latina/o identity challenge traditional notions of the relationship between language, culture, and nation? In what ways might Latina/o literary and linguistic practices serve as tools for social change? Building on an overview of common linguistic phenomena such as code-switching (popularly known as "Spanglish") and Latina/o English, we will also examine bilingual education, recent linguistic legislation, and the English Only movement. Throughout the course we will survey texts culled from a variety of literary genres, including theatre, autobiography, novels, and poetry by writers such as Sandra Cisneros, Junot Diaz, Martin Espada, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Dolores Prida, Richard Rodriguez, and Michele Serros, among others. Both directly and/or indirectly, these texts address Latina/o language politics, as well as the broader themes of power, community, ethno-racial identity, gender, sexuality, class, and hybridity. [ more ]

AMST 241Performing Masculinity in Global Popular Culture

Not offered this year

This course examines popular cultural contexts, asking what it means to be a man in contemporary societies. We focus on the manufacture and marketing of masculinity in advertising, fashion, TV/film, theater, popular music, and the shifting contours of masculinity in everyday life, asking: how does political economy change the ideal shape, appearance, and performance of men? How have products - ranging from beer to deodorant to cigarettes -- had their use value articulated in gendered ways? Why must masculinity be the purview of "males" at all; how can we change discourses to better include performances of female masculinities, butch-identified women, and trans* men? We will pay particular attention to racialized, queer, and subaltern masculinities. Some of our case studies include: the short half-life of the boy band in the US and in Asia (e.g., J/K-Pop), hip hop masculinities at home and abroad, and the curious blend of chastity and homoeroticism that constitutes masculinity in the contemporary vampire genre. Through these and other examples, we learn to recognize masculinity as a performance shaped by the political economy of a given culture. The course includes a field trip to a drag performance in Northampton. [ more ]

AMST 242(F)Americans Abroad

This course will explore some of the many incarnations of American experiences abroad between the end of the 19th century and the present day. Materials will be drawn from novels, short stories, films, and nonfiction about Americans in Europe in times of war and peace. We will compare and contrast the experiences of novelists, soldiers, students, war correspondents, jazz musicians, and adventurers. What has drawn so many Americans to Europe? What is the difference between a tourist, an expat, and an emigre? What are the profound, and often comic, gaps between the traveler's expectations and the reality of living in, say, Paris or a rural village in Spain? What are the misadventures and unexpected rewards of living, working, writing, or even falling in love in translation? Authors may include: Henry James, Langston Hughes, Martha Gellhorn, Ernest Hemingway, Elaine Dundy, Richard Wright, and Ben Lerner. Additional reading will be drawn from historical and critical works. All readings will be in English. This comparative course fulfills the EDI requirement because it is designed to highlight the challenges and benefits of cultural immersion abroad. It will focus on the linguistic, emotional, intellectual, and social adaptation skills that are required to understand others, and oneself, in new contexts. [ more ]

AMST 244(S)What They Saw in America

This course traces the travels and writings of four important observers of the United States: Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, G.K. Chesterton, and Sayyid Qutb. The course will consider their respective journeys: Where did they go? Who did they talk to? What did they see? The historical scope and varying national origins of the observers provide a unique and useful outsider's view of America--one that sheds light on persisting qualities of American national character and gives insight into the nature and substance of international attitudes toward the United States over time. The course will analyze the common themes found in the visitors' respective writings about America and will pay particular attention to their insights on religion, democracy, agrarianism, capitalism, and race. [ more ]

AMST 257(S)Beyond Tonto: American Indians in Film

In 1893, Thomas Edison unveiled the kinetoscope and allowed audience members to glimpse the Hopi Snake Dance by peeking into the device's viewing window. Since the birth of the motion picture, films portraying Native Americans (often with non-Native actors in redface) have drawn upon earlier frontier mythology, art, literature, and Wild West performances. These depictions in film have embedded romanticized and stereotyped ideas about American Indians in the imaginations of audiences throughout the United States and around the world. In this course, we will critically examine representations of American Indians in film, ranging from the origins of the motion picture industry to the works of contemporary Native filmmakers who challenge earlier paradigms. We will reflect upon revisionist narratives, the use of film as a form of activism, Indigenous aesthetics and storytelling techniques, reflexivity, and parody. Throughout the semester, we will view and discuss ethnographic, documentary, and narrative films. This course will satisfy the Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI) requirement as we will examine power relations, cross-cultural interaction, and Indigenous social experiences. [ more ]

Taught by: Doug Kiel

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AMST 263Cold War Technocultures

Not offered this year

With the Soviet Union's collapse at the end of the twentieth century and the emergence of the United States as an unchallenged victor and "new world" hegemon, have we lost a sense of the drama, fear, and unbridled terror that permeated American life during the Cold War? In this course we will set out to understand Cold War American culture(s) by examining the intersection of politics, aesthetics, and a range of major technoscientific developments during this period. The course will take shape in three parts. Part I will explore the emergence and role of the computer in shaping the distinctly American style of thought aimed at Soviet "containment". We will furthermore trace historical treads connecting MIT's legendary Whirlwind computer, the SAGE continental air defense system, nuclear wargaming at the RAND Corporation, artificial intelligence, and the advanced technologies, management strategies, and atrocities of the Vietnam War. Part II takes up the symbolic potency of the space race, which we will use as a conduit through which to explore the following events and developments: Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin's spaceflight, the Apollo moon landing, and American civil defense; the postwar science of cybernetics and the emergence of the now iconic cyborg; the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth report and the Gaia hypothesis; plans backed by NASA for the industrialization, humanization, and colonization of outer space; and Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, '"Star Wars". Finally, case studies considered in Part III will focus on moments of conflict and resistance, appropriation, and unintended consequences of the preceding and other Cold War technological developments, among them antipsychiatry and environmentalism; Project Cybersyn, an infrastructural causality of the US/CIA-backed Chilean coup of 1973; the American counterculture and the countercultural roots of neoliberalism(s). [ more ]

AMST 264(F)American Art and Architecture, 1600 to Present

American art is often looked at as a provincial version of the real thing--i.e., European art--and found wanting. This course examines American architecture, painting, and sculpture on its own terms, in the light of the social, ideological and economic forces that shaped it. Special attention will be paid to such themes as the Puritan legacy and attitudes toward art; the making of art in a commercial society; and the tension between the ideal and the real in American works of art. [ more ]

AMST 265Pop Art

Not offered this year

The use of commercial and mass media imagery in art became recognized as an international phenomenon in the early 1960s. Items such as comic strips, advertising, movie stills, television programs, soup cans, "superstars" and a variety of other accessible and commonplace objects inspired the subject matter, form and technique. This course will critically examine the history and legacy of Pop Art by focusing on its social and aesthetic contexts. An important component of the course involves developing skills in analyzing visual images, comparing them with other forms, and relating them to their historical context. [ more ]

AMST 266(S)Topics in American Literature: Freedom and Captivity

Letters from prison are as central to American literature as are dreams of freedom. This course explores the persistent concern in American literature and culture with forms of freedom and captivity in works ranging from William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation (1651) to Guantanamo Diary (2015) by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Literature will include essays and sermons, novels, slave narratives, captivity narratives, and letters from prison (Concord, Birmingham, Folsom State). The course will be weighted toward the 19th century, but will make constant reference to 20th- and 21st-century work as we explore the American carceral imagination in the shift from a slavery democracy to a penal democracy. We will view contemporary films that represent slavery and emancipation, (Django Unchained and Twelve Years a Slave), as well as visual art and photography. [ more ]

AMST 272(S)American Postmodern Fiction

American fiction took a turn at World War II: from modernism to postmodernism. The most obvious mark of postmodern narration is its self-consciousness. Already a paradox emerges: why would World War II make narratives self-reflexive? The best text for this paradox is Heller's Catch-22. Subsequent books: Nabokov's Pale Fire, Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Morrison's Beloved, DeLillo's White Noise, Johnson's Jesus's Son, Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. [ more ]

AMST 275 T(S)American Drama: Hidden Knowledge

The Buddha is said to have identified three things that cannot stay hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. What's the secret? Who is lying? Who is breaking the rules? American drama abounds with hidden knowledge and false representations. (This is not surprising: theatre is always on some level a deceptive practice, a place where one person pretends to be another, and where what is spoken is always open to skeptical scrutiny. We might say theatre is always lying as much as lying is always theatre.) This tutorial course will examine what lies hidden in American plays from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first. Beginning with excerpted critical and historical writings on secrecy and lying (The Adventures of Pinocchio, Machievelli's The Prince, Thomas Carlson's Lying and Deception: Theory and Practice, among others), we will proceed to a set of American plays from across a wide spectrum of playwrights, including Edward Albee, Suzan-Lori Parks, Sarah Ruhl, Sam Shepard, Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller, David Mamet, Amy Herzog, and others. Student papers will explore how hidden knowledge structures dramatic action, how different characters create and respond to untruths, and what can we learn in particular from American drama about a national relationship to honesty and its opposites. [ more ]

AMST 279From Cahokia to Casinos: Histories of Native North America from Precontact to the Present

Not offered this year

This course will introduce students to the Native histories of North America, from theories about the arrival of the "first Americans" to this continent, through the possibilities of early encounters and the challenges of different colonial systems, to the creation of the United States and subsequent policies of forced removal, allotment, assimilation, and education. We will also focus on Native responses to such policies, including the Red Power movement and other efforts aimed at gaining the right to be both Native and American. Finally, we will examine the issues facing Indian Country today (such as environmental worries, health concerns, and gaming and land rights) as Native peoples continue to fight to maintain their political, cultural, and territorial sovereignty in the face of what many see as an ongoing process of imperialism. Throughout, we will assume that Native Americans were and are active producers of their own histories; by seeing Native agency, adaptability, and tenacity, we can undermine the persistent "myth of the vanishing Indian". By the end of the course, students will be able to reevaluate their understanding of North American history in general and to answer the question of why Native American histories matter to all of us. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

AMST 280(F)Introduction to Native American History

Long ignored and romanticized, Native American history has become a vibrant area of study rich with new scholarship. This course will grapple with the most important issues currently driving inquiry within the field. We will investigate pivotal developments in Native American history and build a foundation for future coursework in Native Studies. Course topics will include: the new worlds that Natives and various newcomers created, competing visions for what is now known as the United States, tribal sovereignty, federal Indian policy, notions of authenticity, structures of settler colonialism, resistance movements, Indigenous governance, cultural revitalization, conflict over natural resources, and urban experiences. We will also examine how stories about the Indigenous past have been politicized, and how Indigenous histories can reshape our broader understandings of American history and culture. This course will satisfy the Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI) requirement as we will examine shifting power relations and cross-cultural interaction in Native America. [ more ]

Taught by: Doug Kiel

Catalog details

AMST 284(F)Introduction to Asian American History

This course serves as the introduction to Asian American history, roughly covering the years 1850 to the present. It examines the lives of Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Indians, and Southeast Asians in America, and the historical reasons why they came to the US and their subsequent interactions with other ethno-racial groups in the United States. Topics include the anti-Asian exclusion movements, the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans, the increase of Asian immigration after the 1965 Immigration Act and the war in Viet Nam, and the impact of the events of September 11, 2001 on Asian American communities. These themes and others will be explored through the use of historical texts, primary documents, novels, memoirs, and films. This is an EDI course because it examines how people from different Asian countries and cultures interacted with each other and those already here in the US. Theirs is a story of immigration, exclusion, resistance, accommodation, and the process of "becoming American." [ more ]

AMST 300Lessons of 'The Game': The Wire and American Culture

Not offered this year

The critically acclaimed television program, The Wire, ran for five seasons on Home Box Office (HBO) between 2002 and 2008. Set in "inner city" Baltimore, the program addressed a wide array of topics, including, but not limited to, the urban drug trade, law enforcement, local city politics, labor unions, education, and the newspaper industry. Though a work of "fiction," sociologist William Julius Wilson has called the show an important and instructive portrayal of the "deep inequality in inner-city America." By contrast, some scholars and critics have decried the series and indeed, courses like this one, as examples of mainstream America's fascination with and acceptance of African American drug use, criminal tendencies, and corruption. In this course, we will not deconstruct The Wire per se, but use select episodes from the series to explore key issues in Africana Studies, ranging from political geography to a history of Baltimore and the "War on Drugs." Students should have some familiarity with the show. Africana Studies will show select episodes during Winter Study. Readings will include texts about African American urban life, such as Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street and Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day. Due to its attention to crime, drug addiction, violence, and urban decay, this course is a part of the Gaudino Danger Initiative. [ more ]

AMST 301(F)Theories and Methods in American Studies (Junior Seminar)

This course aims to provide a "how to" of American Studies from an integrative, multiracial, and socio-cultural perspective. Taking American culture as a site for testing classic and contemporary theories about how cultures work, the Junior Seminar in American Studies serves as an introduction to resources and techniques for interdisciplinary research. Students will be exposed to and experiment with a wide range of current theoretical and methodological approaches employed in American Studies and contributing disciplinary fields, and in the process gain a working competence in all four tracks of the major (Space and Place; Comparative Studies in Race, Ethnicity and Diaspora; Arts in Context; and Critical and Cultural Theory). The goal of the course is not only for students to develop knowledge of main currents in the field of American Studies but also to become practitioners through a series of assignments that will permit students to exercise their newfound skills. Students will thus, for instance, develop rhetorical analyses, gather ethnographic data, and "read" assorted spaces and buildings, as the class explores such problems or topics as national narratives, ethnoracial formations, the American prison system, and the circulation of commodities. [ more ]

AMST 304(S)Asian American Writing and the Visual Arts

This course examines the intersection of Asian American writing and the visual arts in a range of works: graphic novels, art criticism, collaborative projects between poets and visual artists, works that combine textual and visual elements, ekphrastic poetry, poetry "inspired by" paintings, video work, digital poetry, among others. Writers and artists to be discussed include Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Theresa Cha, Patty Chang, Mel Chin, Bhanu Kapil, Janice Lee, Tan Lin, Yoko Ono, Adrian Tomine, and John Yau. [ more ]

AMST 304The Sociology of Black Religious Experience

Not offered this year

The United House of Prayer For All People. The Nation of Islam. New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The African-American Buddhist Retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. While each of these groups reflects a different spiritual tradition, all are examples of the rich religious expressions of Black Americans. This course will introduce students to the landscape of Black religious practices in the United States. We will begin with a historical survey of the literature on Black religions. Our review will yield some of the primary themes of the Black religious experience--the injustices of modern racism, the significance of liberation, and continued meaning of Africa as a homeland. We will then investigate how secular processes like industrialization, commodification, and the modern media, alter understandings of the sacred in Black experience. [ more ]

AMST 306Queer of Color Critique: Race, Sex and Urban Life

Not offered this year

This seminar is an introduction to queer of color critique, a field of scholarship that seeks to intervene in the predominantly white canon of queer studies. We will examine the history of this line of critique, beginning with Black and Chicana feminisms and extending into present day issues and activism highlighting intersectionality, exploring how and why QOCC became a necessary intervention into the then still emerging field of queer studies. Our texts include scholarly works as well as science fiction novels, plays, films, diaries, and graphic novels. Methodologically, we draw on many fields of study, including anthropology, literary studies, feminist studies, and ethnic studies. We focus primarily but by no means exclusively on US contexts, paying particular attention to the role that urban environments have served for queer communities of color. Topics include: feminisms of color, inter-racial desire and fetishization, orientalism and colonial fantasy, black queer science fiction, transgender subjectivities, and the political economy of sexual desire. A key feature of this course will also be the inclusion of numerous and diverse authors to appear on Skype or in person to answer questions about their work as we read it in class. [ more ]

AMST 307(F)Experimental African American Poetry

Contemporary African American poets in various cities and towns across the nation--from New York City to Los Angeles, from Berkeley to Durham, N.C.--are currently producing a vibrant and thriving body of formally experimental work, yet this poetry is largely unknown to readers both within and outside the academy. This formally innovative poetry defamiliarizes what we normally expect of "black writing" and pushes us to question our assumptions and presumptions about black identity, "identity politics," the avant-garde (for example, is it implicitly raced?), formalism, socially "relevant" writing, the (false) dichotomy of form versus content, the black "community," digital poetics, and other issues of race and aesthetics. We will examine the writings of living poets, who range widely in age, and those of their avant-garde predecessors in the twentieth century. We will also be making links between this poetry and African American music and visual art. [ more ]

AMST 309(F)Womanist/Black Feminist Thought

This course explores the genealogy and development of black feminist and womanist thought. We will investigate the expansion of womanist thought from a theologically dominated discourse to a broader category of critical reflection associated more commonly with black feminism, analyze the relationship between womanism and black feminism, and review the historical interventions of black feminism. As critical reflections upon western norms of patriarchy, heterosexism, and racism, womanism and black feminism begin with the assumption that the experiences of women of color--particularly black women--are significant standpoints in modern western society. Through the examination of interdisciplinary and methodological diversity within these fields, students will be introduced to key figures including Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Katie Cannon, and will engage materials that draw from multiple fields, including, but not limited to, literature, history, anthropology, and religious studies. Fulfilling the EDI requirement, this course will explore how womanism/black feminism can be a bridge for empathetic understanding of diverse experiences, and will examine the varied social, political, and historical contexts that led to the formulation of womanism/black feminism as a tool to critique power and privilege. [ more ]

AMST 311Development of American Indian Law & Policy

Not offered this year

In this course, we will conceptualize Native peoples as nations, not merely racial/ethnic minorities. Students will learn about the unique legal landscape in Indian Country by charting the historical development of tribal governments and the ever-changing body of U.S. law and policy that regulates Indian affairs. We begin by studying Indigenous legal traditions, the European doctrine of discovery, and diplomatic relations between Native nations and European empires. We then shift our focus to treaty-making, the constitutional foundations of federal Indian law, 19th century U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and the growth of the federal bureaucracy in Indian Country. The course devotes considerable attention to the expansion of tribal governmental authority during the 20th century, the contemporary relationship between Indian tribes and the federal/state governments, and the role of federal Indian law as both a tool of U.S. colonial domination and a mechanism for protecting the interests of Indigenous communities. No prior background in law or Native American history is required. [ more ]

Taught by: Doug Kiel

Catalog details

AMST 312Chicago

Not offered this year

"The city of big shoulders has plenty of room for diversity," reads the official visitor's website for the City of Chicago. Focusing on this claim, this course asks students to think critically about what kind room has been made for diversity--social, spatial, and ideological. Additionally we examine the ways in which diverse social actors have shouldered their way into the imagined and physical landscape of the city. Working with ethnography, history, literature, critical essays, and popular culture, we will explore the material and discursive constructions of Chi-Town and urban life among its residents. Appreciating these constructions we also consider how Chicago has served as a key site for understandings of urbanity within a broader national and global context. [ more ]

AMST 313(S)Gender, Race, and the Power of Personal Aesthetics

This course focuses on the politics of personal style among women of color in an era of viral video clips, the 24-hour news cycle, and e-commerce sites dedicated to the dermatological concerns of "minority" females. With a comparative, transnational emphasis on the ways in which gender, sexuality, ethno-racial identity, and class inform standards of beauty, we will examine a variety of materials including commercial websites, histories, personal narratives, ethnographies, sociological case studies, and feminist theory. Departing from the assumption that personal aesthetics are intimately tied to issues of power and privilege, we will engage the following questions: What are the everyday functions of personal style among women of color? Is it feasible to assert that an easily identifiable "African American," "Latina," "Arab American" or "Asian American" female aesthetic exists? What role do transnational media play in the development and circulation of popular aesthetic forms? How might the belief in personal style as activist strategy challenge traditional understandings of feminist political activity? [ more ]

AMST 314(F)Groovin' the Written Word: The Role of Music in African American Literature

In an interview with Paul Gilroy, Toni Morrison once said, "Music provides a key to the whole medley of Afro-American artistic practices." Morrison is not the only one who believes that music speaks to numerous aspects of the African American experience. From Sterling Brown and Zora Neale Hurston to John Edgar Wideman and Suzan Lori-Parks, many African American authors have drawn on music to take political stands, shape creative aesthetics, and articulate black identity. In this course, students will explore the work of these authors and more, investigating music's ability to represent and critique African American culture in their literature. Texts will cover a range of literary forms including poetry, plays, short stories and novels alongside theoretical and critical essays. Students will discuss such key issues as assimilation into mainstream culture, authenticity claims on black music, and music used as a tool for protest. Additionally, class assignments will include musical examples in spirituals/gospel, blues, jazz, and rock/rhythm and blues. While this class requires students to practice in-depth literary and performance analysis skills, students are not required to have technical musical knowledge. [ more ]

AMST 315Blackness 2.0: Race, Film and New Technologies

Not offered this year

Media theorists have raised three key questions regarding representations of race (or the lack thereof) within contemporary media forms: (1) Is race a liability in the 21st century where utopian forecasts suggest a race-free or `post-race' future" (2) Is there more to new media and race than assumptions about a 'digital divide'? (3) Are race distinctions truly eliminated with digital technologies? In this course we will respond to these questions by investigating the nuanced ways that race becomes constructed in popular media forms. Although we will largely focus on representations of blackness in modern film, we will also explore the implications of `new' medias and technologies upon the categories of race, gender, and sexuality. We will, for example, consider how avatar-based social and entertainment medias become viable forums for conceptualizing race, and whether or not these formats are somehow `better' spaces in which racialized `bodies' can exist. Additional discussion topics may include: how racial discourses in the `real world' are (or are not) reshaped and redefined in the virtual world; blogosphere politics; social networking; gaming and the virtual world; activism on the web; and fandom in the twitter era. [ more ]

AMST 316Sacred Cinema: Black Religion and the Movies

Not offered this year

Although they represent different genres, what popular films Madea's Family Reunion (2006), First Sunday (2008), The Princess and the Frog (2009) have in common is that they each offer complex and at times contradictory images of black religious expression in North America. These films, which present varied perspectives of African American experience, implicitly and explicitly engage themes inherent to the study of religion, such as the role of faith in decision-making processes and the use of religious tradition as a means of reinforcing or contesting socio-cultural norms. This course is as much about the use of film to study black religious expression as it is about the use of paradigms of religious thought to study the intersections of gender, race, and religion in film. We will study films of different genres to facilitate discussion about the various dimensions of black religious expression. Conversely, we will use images, metaphors, and teachings found in Religious Studies to discuss what appears on screen. Through interdisciplinary, critical approaches in Film Studies and Popular Culture Studies, this course will examine how black religious expression pervades modern cinema, and will offer constructive strategies for engaging in dialogue with this phenomenon. [ more ]

AMST 317(S)Black Migrations: African American Performance at Home and Abroad

In this course, students will investigate, critique and define the concepts migration and diaspora with primary attention to the experiences of African Americans in the United States and Europe. Drawing on a broad definition of performance, students will explore everything from writing and painting to sports and dance to inquire how performance reflects, critiques and negotiates migratory experiences in the African diaspora. For example, how did musician Sidney Bechet's migration from New Orleans to Chicago to London influence the early jazz era? How did Katherine Dunham's dance performances in Germany help her shape a new black dance aesthetic? Why did writer James Baldwin go all the way to Switzerland to write his first novel on black, religious culture in Harlem? What drew actor/singer Paul Robeson to Russia, and why did the U.S. revoke his passport in response to his speeches abroad? These questions will lead students to investigate multiple migrations in the African diasporic experience and aid our exploration of the reasons for migration throughout history and geography. In addition to critical discussions and written analysis, students will explore these topics through their own individual and group performances in class. No prior performance experience is necessary. [ more ]

AMST 318California: Myths, Peoples, Places

Not offered this year

"Now I wish you to know about the strangest thing ever found anywhere in written texts or in human memory...I tell you that on the right-hand side of the Indies there was an island called California, which was very close to the region of the Earthly Paradise." As far as we know, the name "California" was first written in this passage by Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo, ca. 1510. Within a few decades, it came to be placed first on the peninsula of Baja California and then upon a region stretching up the Western coast of North America. What aspects of this vision are still drawn upon in how we imagine California today? How did certain narratives of California come to be, who has imagined California in certain ways, and why? What is the relationship between certain myths, the peoples who have imagined them, and the other peoples who have shared California dreams? In this course, we will examine some of the myths that surround California by looking at a few specific moments of interaction between the peoples who have come to make California home and the specific places in which they have interacted with each other. Of special interest will be imaginations of the Spanish missions, the Gold Rush, agricultural California, wilderness California, California as "sprawling multicultural dystopia," and California as "west of the west." [ more ]

AMST 319Ethnographic Approaches to Africana Studies

Not offered this year

Ethnography is the systematic study and recording of human cultures. It involves the collection and analysis of information from multiple sources including (but not limited to) first-person accounts, life histories, interviews, observations, and autobiographical materials. Within Africana Studies, ethnographic approaches have been utilized to reflect complex narratives of black experience throughout the Diaspora. This seminar is a critical introduction to the theory, method, and practice of ethnography in Africana studies. We will explore a variety of cultures and settings, and discuss the practical, methodological, and ethical issues related to ethnography. Three broad questions will dominate our discussions: 1) What are the theoretical, practical, and stylistic tools needed to fashion compelling ethnographies that get to the heart of what it means to document Africana experience? 2) What are the ethical and political implications of representing Africana perspectives in fieldwork studies? 3) What are the strengths and limitations of ethnography as a research method in Africana studies? Each student will utilize the materials covered in the course to research and write his or her own ethnography. [ more ]

AMST 320Dangerous Bodies: Black Womanhood, Sexuality & Popular Culture

Not offered this year

Whether presented as maternal saints, divas, video vixens, or bitches, black female celebrities navigate a tumultuous terrain in popular culture. This course considers the ways that black female celebrities such as Oprah, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Janet Jackson, and Michelle Obama negotiate womanhood and sexuality, and the popular landscapes through which we witness that negotiation. It also engages contemporary black feminist scholarship, which most frequently presents the presentation of black female bodies in popular media forms as exploitive. We will review historical stereotypes of black women in popular media forms, discuss the history of the "politics of respectability" within black culture, engage black feminist responses to these types, and examine theoretical approaches to assess social constructions of womanhood and sexuality. We will also consider provocative questions relevant to discussions of contemporary black sexual politics: Should we view these women as feminists? Are they merely representatives of cultural commodification and control of black women's bodies? Do these women best exemplify the reiteration of problematic characterizations? Are they positive models for demonstrating female empowerment, agency, or "fierceness?" This course explores the histories of representation of black female figures in popular culture, and in so doing, troubles contemporary considerations of black womanhood and sexuality. [ more ]

AMST 322Race, Culture, Incarceration

Not offered this year

This course explores racially-fashioned policing and incarceration from the Reconstruction era convict prison lease system to contemporary mass incarceration and "stop and frisk" policies of urban areas in the United States. Also explored will be political imprisonment in the Untied States. [ more ]

AMST 323Comic Lives: Graphic Novels & Dangerous Histories of the African Diaspora

Not offered this year

This course explores how the graphic novel has been an effective, provocative and at times controversial medium for representing racialized histories. Drawing on graphic novels such as Jeremy Love's Bayou and Ho Che Anderson's King: A Comic Biography, this course illustrates and critiques multiple ways the graphic novel commingles word and image to create more sensorial access into ethnic traumas, challenges and interventions in critical moments of resistance throughout history. Students will practice analyzing graphic novels and comic strips, with the help of critical essays, reviews and film; the chosen texts will center on Africana cultures, prompting students to consider how the graphic novel may act as a useful alternate history for marginalized peoples. During the course, students will keep a journal with images, themes and reflections and will use Comic Life software and ipads to create their own graphic short stories based on historical and/or autobiographical narratives. [ more ]

AMST 327(S)Racial and Religious Mixture

The very term "mixture" implies that two or more distinct substances have been brought together. Distinctions of race and religion are social fictions; yet, the lived ramifications of these social fictions involve tense struggles over the boundaries of racial and religious communities. These boundaries are not just ideas but also practices. In the history of the Americas, mixed racial and religious identities and experiences have more often been the result of violent clashes than romantic encounters. Still, the romanticization of the New World as a geography that makes such mixtures possible reaches back to the earliest days of Spanish conquest in the Americas. This course critically reconsiders varying ways that racial and religious mixtures have been imagined, defined, challenged, negotiated, and survived under imaginative and legal rubrics of mestizaje, creolization, transculturation, passing, syncretism, religious hybridity, and mixed race studies. Focusing on how different peoples have critically theorized and made meaning about and out of racial and religious differences and interconnections, this EDI course investigates the ways that knowledge about mixture and difference have been critically constructed and transformed. [ more ]

AMST 328(F)Media Events

Today, live broadcasts of historic events draw together wide audiences, creating modern rituals that invite participation and foster a sense of membership in society. Media events, as Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz argue, include "contests" such as political campaigns and sporting events, "charismatic missions" such as the moon landing, and "rites of passage" such as state funerals and national memorial services. This course will examine media events as a modern form of ritual. Preliminary readings will include theoretical treatments of ritual by thinkers such as Emile Durkheim, Claude Levi-Strauss, Mary Douglas, and Victor Turner as well as more recent adaptations of these theories for the age of mass media. We will then examine several case studies, reading scholarly interpretations of media events while also delving into media representations firsthand by viewing news coverage, analyzing magazine and newspaper articles, examining photographs, and--for more recent events--exploring the role of social media. How do modern media events compare with the forms of ritual described in classic theoretical texts? Are they merely "spectacles" or "pseudo-events" that serve political and/or corporate interests, or are they sources of genuine solidarity and wellsprings for civic participation? What role do political comedy and satire play in shaping and framing media events? Has the rise of social media transformed our experience of these events? Have catastrophic events such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks--which we can increasingly "witness" in real time through various media sources--become a new kind of media event? We will focus primarily on the U.S., but will also work to draw comparisons. Throughout the semester, each student will develop a significant project on an event of his or her choosing. [ more ]

Taught by: Christina Simko

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AMST 329(F)Revolt and Revelation in 20th-Century Americas

Writing in 1971, Dominican priest and Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez asked "Is the Church fulfilling a purely religious role when by its silence or friendly relationships it lends legitimacy to dictatorial and oppressive government?" Such a question encapsulates the sometimes agonistic and other times deeply intertwined relationships between religious institutions, religious thought, and movements for political transformation in the 20th century Americas. This course examines those forms of "God-talk" broadly termed "liberation theologies" that critiqued and challenged social relationships of class, colonization, race, culture, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, and ecology. These theologies were borne out of and in turn deeply shaped struggles against oppressive regimes and structures in the Americas, and as such we will focus on some specific theological writings--such as those of Gutierrez--and their relationship to distinct social movements and struggles over land, economy, and political power, especially in Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, and the United States of America between 1960-2000. This EDI course examines issues of social and institutional power relations that influence particular religious formations as well as the way religious formations respond to and structure social and institutional power relations [ more ]

AMST 331(F)New Orleans as Muse: Literature, Music, Art, Film and Theatre in the City

This course will look at the representation of a city and how it has influenced artists. Students will read, listen to, and view a selection of the literature, music, film and art that represent the city from both pre-flooding and current re-building. Reading selections will include examples such as Harper's Weekly (Lafrcadio Hearn), The Awakening (Kate Chopin), A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams), The Moviegoer (Walker Percy), Why New Orleans Matters (Tom Piazza), A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy O'Toole), New Orleans Sketches (William Faulkner), One Dead in the Attic (Chris Rose). Film examples such as A Streetcar Named Desire, An Interview with a Vampire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Briton, When the Levees Broke, Treme, Waiting for Godot (in the 9th Ward). Music selections from examples such as Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, The Meters, Kermit Ruffins and the Rebirth Brass Band. Art selections will come from a variety of sources such as THE OGDEN Museum of Southern Art and Prospect 1, 2, & 3. [ more ]

AMST 332(S)Race, Gender, and Performance from Literature to Social Media

What different conversations around the topic of "diversity" might be had if we think of race, gender, and sexuality as performative? How might the analytic of performance equip us in this course to identify marginalized modes of being and to enact anti-xenophobic strategies for everyday practice? In this course we will study multiple forms of contemporary performance (including performance art, visual art, sound art, social media, literature, politics, and performance of everyday life) by artists of diverse racial, gender, and sexual identification to think about belonging and alternative forms of world-making. We will explore these questions in a United States context through engagement with cultural texts that destabilize ideological binaries of female/male, black/white, heterosexual/homosexual, subject/object, and human/non-human, including scholarship in critical ethnic studies, queer of color critique, and affect studies. We will begin with linguistic philosopher J.L. Austin's theory of the performative speech act, and proceed with theorists including Judith Butler and Jose Esteban Mu?oz to consider gender and racial performativities. Artists studied will range from the conceptual (including Adrian Piper, Nao Bustamante, and Yoko Ono) to the popular (including Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, R. Kelly). This course will engage foundational texts to performance studies and offer an interdisciplinary approach to scholarship in gender and sexuality studies, critical ethnic studies, and performance studies from the 1970s to the present. This course recognizes a suspicion for diversity discourses that universalize human experience and asks: how do we resist normativizing forces without reinforcing the regulating logics of those forces? This EDI course will critically engage with diversity from the heterogeneous and multiple perspectives of racial, sexual, and gender minorities, asking students not only to examine the diversity of human experience but to explore the political stakes of creative expression through interdisciplinary methods and forms. [ more ]

Taught by: Vivian Huang

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AMST 333(S)An American Family and "Reality" Television

An American Family was a popular documentary series that featured the Loud family from Santa Barbara, California, whose everyday lives were broadcast on national television. The series generated an enormous amount of media attention, commentary, and controversy when it premiered on PBS in 1973. Today, it is regarded as the origin of so-called "Reality TV." In addition to challenging standard rules for television programming, the show challenged social conventions and asked viewers to think seriously about family relations, sexuality, domesticity, and the "American dream." Documenting the family's life over the course of eight months, the series chronicled the dissolution of the Louds' marriage and broadcast the "coming out" of eldest son Lance Loud, the first star of reality television. In this class, we will view the An American Family series in its entirety, research the program's historical reception, and analyze its influence on broadcast and film media, particularly on "reality" television. A final 16- to 20-page research paper will be prepared in stages, including a 6- to 8-page midterm essay that will be revised and expanded over the course of the semester. [ more ]

AMST 334Sexual Economies

Not offered this year

This course examines various forms of sexual labor in a variety of global contexts with an emphasis on contemporary anthropological and sociological research and its implications for public policy. Our topics include: (a) traditional sex work (e.g., pornography, escorting, street prostitution, brothels, sex tourism), (b) sexualized labor without physical contact (e.g., stripping, burlesque, phone/online sex), and also (c) contemporary debates about sex trafficking and sex worker migration. Because of our ethnographic focus, the readings for this class will frequently foreground the lived experiences of sex workers from a variety of nations, races, classes, and backgrounds in order to explore the broader social implications of our subject matter. A key component of this course is a field trip to New York City to meet with sex workers and sex worker rights advocates. (Note: students should be advised that we will necessarily encounter and discuss adult content and images that some may find offensive.) [ more ]

AMST 336 T(S)Two American Poets: Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery

This tutorial focuses on the work of two major American poets who are known for their "difficult" poetry. In some respects, Stevens (1879-1955) and Ashbery (b. 1927) book-end twentieth-century poetry: Stevens is a major Modernist poet, perhaps the most philosophically oriented American poet of the twentieth century, and Ashbery is considered by most critics to be the most important American poet alive. Students will do close readings of their poems (and one play, "Three Travelers Watch a Sunrise", by Stevens), as well as read their writing on poetry and art. We will discuss the overlaps between Stevens' and Ashbery's work and lives--their having grown up in the Northeast and attended Harvard, what some see as the abstractness of their writing, their mastery of tone, among others--but also the differences: Ashbery's sexuality, his having lived in France, the supposedly more "avant-garde" nature of Ashbery's work, and so on. Along the way, we will ask questions about the nature of poetic difficulty, of abstraction, of the (lyric) poetic speaker in their works, of poetic tone, of the link between the poem and the world (e.g., in description), of the thinking and philosophizing that poems do. We will also ask about their links to major poetry "movements" (Modernism, the New York School) and pose questions that are rarely asked about their poetry, such as "What are the politics, implicit and explicit, in their poems?" "What are their views about the United States and American society and culture?" "What assumptions about race, gender and class are embedded in their poetry?" And, always, we will be paying close attention to the question of form and language in Stevens' and Ashbery's poetry. [ more ]

AMST 337(S)Latina/o and Indigenous Literatures

Indigeneity has been central conceptually, theoretically, culturally, and politically in Latina/o and indigenous literatures. We will examine points of commonality and contention in the ways U.S.-based Latina/o and indigenous writers represent, explore, and employ indigeneity. How have these writers articulated indigeneity as a theoretical concept, cultural signifier, and epistemology? How do conceptions of sovereignty and self-determination shift across these works and the historical contexts from which they emerge? Further, what roles do space, place, and land play in the embodiment of indigeneity in Latina/o and indigenous literatures? Students will read short stories, novels, poetry, and drama by writers such as alurista, Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga, Hector Tobar, Simon Ortiz, Louise Erdrich, Craig Santos Perez, Alani Apio, and Leslie Marmon Silko. [ more ]

Taught by: Alma Granado

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AMST 338(F)The American Renaissance

"The American Renaissance" keeps shifting and expanding since it was named in 1941. It once centered on New Englanders (plus Whitman) in intersecting circles who produced masterpieces between 1850 and 1855, Transcendentalists or doubters of Transcendentalism. Emerson and Thoreau were Transcendentalist neighbors; they knew Hawthorne; they were very intrigued by Whitman; Hawthorne and Melville knew each other, though Hawthorne did not know what to make of his increasingly desperate friend. It took the twentieth century to know what to make of Melville; also to find its way to a genius unknown to any of them (Dickinson). Perhaps the jury is still out on a genius from another region (Poe); and only in the last decades has the work of another Southerner, the escaped slave Harriet Jacobs, found its way to the canon. Now the term "The American Renaissance" includes writing from 1830 to the Civil War (and its aftermath), the first great era of American writing, whose explosive cultural energy was provided by Puritan optimism and its shadow, Evangelical fervor, expansive Jacksonian democracy, slavery, and the looming crisis of slavery. [ more ]

AMST 339(F)Latina/o Musical Cultures: Sounding out Gender, Race, and Sexuality

In this class we will investigate a wide variety of Latina/o popular musical and dance forms, with particular emphasis on questions of gender, sexuality, and ethno-racial identity. Employing interdisciplinary materials and approaches, this course focuses on the sonic and visual analysis of contemporary Latina/o popular music and the identities of its producers, performers, and audiences. We will focus on the following questions, among others: How are the various facets of Latina/o identities expressed through popular music and dance? In what ways do gender, sexuality, and ethno-racial identity inform the performance and interpretation of particular Latina/o musical forms? What unique role does sound play in our understanding of popular music and identity? [ more ]

AMST 342 T(S)Interior Lives: Ninteenth-Century American Literature and the Idea of Home

We often discuss US history in terms of leaving home: the escape from an old world and the discovery of a new one, the journey from a civilized east to a western frontier, the violent displacement of indigenous peoples and Africans from their native lands. In contrast to these narratives, this course is about staying home. It will explore houses as both actual structures and imaginary places in the work of several major nineteenth-century American writers. We will think about the home as a real space whose walls, windows, and doors organized domestic life-- how and when individuals worked, ate, slept, had sex, were enslaved, raised children, cared for the sick, and died--and study the home's functions as a metaphor for big, abstract ideas about privacy and politics, individualism and nationhood, escape and return, freedom and oppression. Through careful examination of fiction and personal narratives, as well as poetry, photographs, and domestic manuals, the class will consider what it meant to be "at home", what it meant to be imprisoned there, and what it meant to run away. The syllabus will include writing by J.H. Banka, Gustave de Beaumont and Alexis de Tocqueville, Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Harriet Jacobs, Herman Melville, Florence Nightingale, Edgar Allan Poe, Jacob Riis, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton, as well as secondary materials by Gaston Bachelard, Russ Castronovo, Michel Foucault, Diana Fuss, Caleb Smith, and Wharton (on decorating). [ more ]

AMST 343 T(F)Representations of Racial-Sexual Violence from Enslavement to Emancipation

This tutorial examines representations of and resistance to racial-sexual violence from enslavement to post-emancipation and contemporary culture in the United States. Texts include: legal articles; historical analyses such as D'Emilio et al., Intimate Matters; Hartman, Scenes of Subjection; Smith, Killers of the Dream; McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street; and films such as Griffith, Birth of a Nation; Micheaux, Within Our Gates; Gerima, Bush Mama. The primary focus is on black life, vulnerability to violence and mobilization for freedom during antebellum, postbellum/Reconstruction years of the 19th century; and 20th century convict prison lease system, Jim Crow segregation, mass incarceration. [ more ]

AMST 346Latinas/os and the Media: From Production to Consumption

Not offered this year

As Latina/o Studies and Media Studies scholars have long noted, the media plays a key role in the construction of (trans)national identities. As such, this interdisciplinary course will focus on the areas of advertising, print media, radio, internet, television, media policy and audience studies in an attempt to answer the following: How do Latinas/os construct identity (and have their identities constructed for them) through the media? How are Latina/o community practices shaped by the media, and vice versa? What research methodologies best capture the complex relationship between consumer, producer, and media text? How are Latina/o stereotypes constructed and circulated in mass media? Where do issues of consumer agency come into play? How might media provide a means for affecting social change at both the local and global levels? In what ways do popular media impact our understanding of ethno-racial identities, gender, sexuality, class and nation? Readings include works by scholars such as Arlene Davila, Juan Gonzalez, Stuart Hall, Henry Jenkins, America Rodriguez, Joseph Torres, and Angharad Valdivia, among others. [ more ]

AMST 351(F)Objects that Speak: Contemporary Engagements with the Archive of American Slavery

In "The Lives of Infamous Men" Michel Foucault writes about his interest in the individuals he glimpses while reading prison records: "All those lives destined to pass beneath any discourse and disappear without ever having been told were able to leave traces--brief, incisive, often enigmatic--only at the point of their instantaneous contact with power." Only through these encounters with power are these lives thrust out of anonymity and into the historical record. The writers and artists in this course raise similar concerns about visibility and power as they engage with archives produced by slavery in the US. Students will closely examine work by novelists, critics, theorists, and visual artists who return again and again to several questions about slavery's material afterlife: Is it possible to reconstitute a history marked by silences, invisibility, and what Orlando Patterson famously calls "social death"? How can we revisit documents like plantation records, slave ship logs, or a racist social-scientific photographs without recapitulating their original violence? How might we appropriate such documents for anti-racist ends? Readings will include literary texts by Octavia Butler, Charles Johnson, Gayle Jones, Toni Morrison, M. Norbese Philip, and Derek Walcott, critical and theoretical writing by Colin Dayan, Darby English, Edouard Glissant, Saidiya Hartman, Fred Moten, and Hortense Spillers. We will also look at visual art by Romare Bearden, Glenn Ligon, Betye Saar, Lorna Simpson, Kara Walker, and Carrie Mae Weems. [ more ]

AMST 364(F)History of the Old South

During the course of the semester, we shall investigate two broad, interrelated topics: slavery in the antebellum South, and the impact of slavery on Southern civilization. Our approach will be primarily topical. In the first half of the course, we shall look at subjects like the foreign and domestic slave trade, patterns of work and treatment, the nature of the master-slave relationship, resistance and rebellion, and slave cultural, social, and family life. The second half of the course will concentrate on the influence of the institution of slavery on the mind, social structure, and economy of the Old South, and slavery's impact on Southern politics and the decision for secession in 1860-61. [ more ]

AMST 365History of the New South

Not offered this year

A study of the history of the American South from 1877 to the present. Social, political and economic trends will be examined in some detail: the rule of the "Redeemers" following the end of Reconstruction; tenancy, sharecropping, and the rise of agrarian radicalism; Southern Progressivism; the coming of racial segregation and the destruction of the Jim Crow system during the years of the Civil Rights movement; Southern politics during the depression and post-World War II years. [ more ]

AMST 367(S)Race and Inequality in the American City

In the past half-century, American cities have gotten both much richer and much poorer. The making of "luxury cities" has gone hand-in-hand with persistent, concentrated poverty, extreme racial segregation, mass incarceration, and failing public services---social problems borne primarily by people of color. This course will examine social inequalities in American cities from the Second World War to the present, with particular attention to the racialization of these inequalities. Among the topics we will cover are: housing and employment discrimination; deindustrialization; urban renewal; the War on Crime and the War on Drugs (and their consequence, mass incarceration); education; and environmental sustainability. We will ask: How have city leaders and social movements engaged with urban problems? How have they tried to make cities more decent, just, and sustainable? Under what circumstances has positive leadership produced beneficial outcomes, and in what circumstances has it produced perverse outcomes? In the written assignments, students will apply scholarly knowledge to propose a public history exhibit and to weigh in on a contemporary urban issue in the form of an op-ed piece. [ more ]

Taught by: Mason Williams

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AMST 369American History in Film

Not offered this year

Film can tell a story in ways that words alone cannot; films about history can "re-enact" the past for the purposes of entertainment. But like words, they can inform or dis-inform. Because the narrative arc requires resolution, movies may gloss over complexities. And yet, filmmakers also can deploy tools and methods that delve deeply into the intimacies of a singular life, the intricacies of a singular experience, or the nuances of a singular interaction. This course uses popular films about 19th and 20th century American history explore the following questions: What do movies about America history (generally and specifically) convey about American culture? How have depictions of ideas, events, and people in American history changed over time? What historical depictions were or are controversial, when, and why? Why have certain films about American history sustained popularity? Films include Birth of a Nation; Gone with the Wind; Casablanca; Tora! Tora! Tora!; Malcolm X; Apocalypse Now; and others. [ more ]

AMST 379(F)American Pragmatism

Along with jazz, pragmatism stands as the greatest uniquely American contribution to world culture. As the music wails in the background, we will study the classic pragmatists: William James, C. S. Peirce, and John Dewey. We will continue with the contemporary inheritors of the tradition: Cornel West, Richard Rorty, and Hilary Putnam. Although it has influenced both analytic and continental philosophy, pragmatism is a powerful third philosophical movement. Always asking what practical difference would it make, our authors investigate the central questions and disputes of philosophy, from epistemology and metaphysics to ethics and religion. Rather than seeing philosophy as an esoteric discipline, the pragmatic philosophers (with the possible exception of Peirce) see philosophy as integral to our culture and see themselves as public intellectuals. [ more ]

AMST 383(F)Whiteness and Race in the History of the United States

If race is socially and historically constructed, then the study of race relations in the U.S. extends to the topic of whiteness. And if we are never without the past, then "whiteness" must be a part of current discussions about American political culture, citizenship, and social issues. This course uses the prism of race to explore social, political, and economic development in U.S. history, following the development of "whiteness" through a chronology that begins in colonial Virginia, travels through immigration in the nineteenth century, examines racial politics and popular culture in the twentieth century, and ends with a look at the current issues. This course is framed by several questions: What about other analytical categories, like gender and class (or region or ethnicity or sexuality): how have these experiences shaped and been shaped by the racial category of whiteness? Because historically whiteness has carried overtones of power, privilege, and wealth in the United States, the course necessarily critiques the roots of racial disparities. This class is not for the faint-hearted. Informed participation is necessary to its success. The course fulfills the requirements for the Exploring Diversity Initiative because it examines the differences and similarities between white Americans and other American cultures, and because it explores whiteness as a prism for understanding the operations of power and privilege in American society. [ more ]

AMST 400(F)Real Indians: Indigeneity and the Authenticity Problem

In settler societies, Indigenous peoples must be recognized by the state as sufficiently authentic in order to have rights as legitimate Indigenous peoples. This constitutes a structural dilemma in which Indigenous people face considerable pressure to embody external stereotypes and racial expectations. In this seminar, we will engage with recent scholarship in Native American and Indigenous Studies that addresses indigeneity as a political status, a supposed biological category and frozen temporal/geographic state, and a social experience. Our readings will also engage feminist and queer perspectives on the problem of authenticity and we will devote attention to the appropriation of Indigenous culture by non-Indigenous people. Our primary focus will be on Anglophone settler states, especially the United States and Canada, but we will occasionally draw upon examples elsewhere in the world. Moreover, we will discuss indigeneity as a source of global affinity among colonized peoples and as a human rights framework within the United Nations. This course will satisfy the Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI) requirement as we will critically engage colonial power structures and processes of othering. [ more ]

Taught by: Doug Kiel

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AMST 403New Asian American, African American, Native American, and Latina/o Writing

Not offered this year

Critics reading minority writing often focus on its thematic--i.e., sociological--content. Such literature is usually presumed to be inseparable from the "identity"/body of the writer and read as autobiographical, ethnographic, representational, exotic. At the other end of the spectrum, avant-garde writing is seen to concern itself "purely" with formal questions, divorced from the socio-historical (and certainly not sullied by the taint of race). In the critical realm we currently inhabit, in which "race" is opposed to the "avant-garde," an experimental minority writer can indeed seem an oxymoron. In this class we will closely read recent work by Asian American, African American, Native American and Latino/a writers which challenges preconceptions about ethnic literature, avant-garde writing, genre categorization, among other things. The writing done by these mostly young, mostly urban, poets and fiction writers is some of the most exciting being written in the United States today; their texts push the boundaries of aesthetic form while simultaneously engaging questions of culture, politics, and history. Reading them forces us to re-think our received notions about literature. Authors to be read include Will Alexander, Sherwin Bitsui, Monica de la Torre, Sesshu Foster, Renee Gladman, Bhanu Kapil, Tan Lin, Tao Lin, Ed Roberson, James Thomas Stevens, Roberto Tejada, and Edwin Torres. [ more ]

AMST 405Home and Belonging: Displacements, Relocations, and Place-Making

Not offered this year

The metaphor of "home" and idea of "belonging" bring insight to theories and investigations centered on community building and identity formation within and across national borders. These constructions give us an indication of what people value, what is worth fighting for, as well as what is considered expendable. Our objective in this course is to interrogate constructions of home and belonging by studying how individuals, communities, and nations are transformed by experiences of dislocation, migration, and renewed place-making. What are the ways a sense of belonging shapes these identities and the investments made in these formations? Working with ethnography, history, memoir, literature, critical essays, and documentary film, we will consider the personal and political uses and meanings of memory, nostalgia, and imagination in "rooting" migrating subjects in place and time. Among the many case studies we will examine are the politics of homeland among Cuban-Americans, Native American and West Indian festive forms, and place-claiming and racial sincerity among African Americans. This course explores the experiences and expressions of racialized populations in the United States, focusing on the myriad ways in which they confront, negotiate, and at times challenge dominant U.S. hierarchies of race, culture, gender and class. [ more ]

AMST 408(S)Envisioning Urban Life: Objects, Subjects, and Everyday People

What is the relationship between real life in urban communities and the multiple ways in which they are imagined? What does it mean to be "urban," to live in an "urban community," or to be the product of an "urban environment"? Who do we think the people are who populate these spaces? This course takes a critical look at specific populations, periods, and problems that have come to dominate and characterize our conceptions of the quality, form, and function of U.S. urban life. A few of the topics we may cover include historical accounts of the varied ways in which poverty and "urban culture" have been studied; race, class, and housing; the spatial practices of urban youth and the urban elderly; and gendered perspectives on social mobility and community activism. Finally, this course will explore how diverse social actors negotiate responses to their socio-spatial and economic circumstances, and, in the process, help envision and create different dimensions of the urban experience. The course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative requirement as it explores how various forms of urban inequality affect the collective experience of social actors in diverse race and class categories. It focuses on the complex and contradictory ways in which urban residents confront, negotiate, and at times challenge social and structural inequalities and the changing political economy of U.S. cities. [ more ]

AMST 411Transnationalism and Difference: Comparative Perspectives

Not offered this year

In the age of satellite television, e-mail, and mobile applications such as WhatsApp and Skype, transnational living has rapidly emerged as the norm as opposed to the exception. However, what does it really mean to "be transnational"? How are the lived experiences of transnational individuals and communities shaped by categories of difference such as gender, ethno-racial identity, sexuality, and class? What impacts do the growing number of transnational citizens and residents in the U.S. have on our understanding of "American" identity in the local, national, and global contexts? In this interdisciplinary, comparative course we will analyze recent theories regarding the origins and impacts of transnationalism. Particular attention will be paid throughout the semester to the interplay of gender, ethno-racial identity, sexuality, and class in connection with everyday transnational dynamics. The broad range of case studies examined includes China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Middle East. [ more ]

AMST 416U.S. Settler Colonialism and Empire

Not offered this year

Colonialism in American history is too often regarded as a finite period ending with independence or the "closing of the frontier," but as Patrick Wolfe argues, "settler colonialism is a structure, not an event." This seminar debunks the myth of the US as an "empire of liberty," and delves into a new generation of scholarship that frames settler colonialism and imperialism as deep-seated organizing principles that have characterized the United States since its founding. We approach settler colonialism as an enduring set of power relations and governmental practices that uphold Euro-American domination and seek to eliminate Indigenous power. The course covers topics such as: ideas of Manifest Destiny, military conquests of Native peoples, the shifting role of the US throughout the world during the twentieth century, mass incarceration as a means of social control, the post-9/11 Global War on Terrorism, the colonial present in Indian Country, and Indigenous decolonization movements and their global parallels. [ more ]

Taught by: Doug Kiel

Catalog details

AMST 456(F)Civil War and Reconstruction

An examination of one of the most turbulent periods in American history, with special emphasis on the changing status of Afro-Americans during the era. During the war years, we shall study both the war itself and homefront conditions: military, naval, political, economic, and especially social aspects will be examined in some detail. Our study of Reconstruction will concentrate on the evolution of federal policy toward the Southern states and the workings out of that policy in the South, particularly as it relates to the freedmen. [ more ]

AMST 462(F)Art of California: Pacific Standard Time

In this course, we will study the visual arts and culture of California after 1960 and consider the region's place in modern art history. We will focus on a series of recent exhibitions organized as part of a Getty initiative entitled Pacific Standard Time. Diverse in scope, these shows explored important developments in postwar art in California, including feminist art, African American assemblage, Chicano collectives, Modernist architecture, craft, and queer activism. In this seminar, we will pursue research projects directly related to the art exhibitions we study, and examine southern California conceptualism, photography, performance, painting, sculpture (including assemblage and installation), and video by artists both canonical and lesser known. Student projects will analyze the critical responses to the exhibitions, while also exploring the roles of archives, art criticism, and curatorial practice in contemporary art history. This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative requirement as it offers students a comparative study of cultures and societies and provides various interdisciplinary perspectives on the art and visual culture of a specific region. [ more ]

AMST 465Race and Abstraction

Not offered this year

Minority artists--writers and visual artists mainly and, to a lesser degree, musicians--face a difficult "double bind" when creating works of art: the expectation is that they, like their racially marked bodies, will exhibit their difference by means of concrete signifiers (details, tropes, narratives, themes) of racial difference. Thus, the work is judged primarily in terms of its embodied sociological content (material, empirical) and not by "abstract" standards of aesthetic subtlety, philosophical sophistication, and so on. At the same time, in the popular and academic imaginary, minority subjects and artists poets occupy a single abstract signifying category--homogeneous, undifferentiated, "other," marginalized, non-universal--while racially "unmarked" (white) artists occupy the position of being universal and individual at once. The irony, of course, is that, say, an African American poet's being read as an abstract signifier does not mean that the black subject or writer is seen as capable of engaging in abstract ideas. This course will ask questions about the problem of race and abstraction by looking at the work of various African American and Asian American writers, visual artists and musicians--including Will Alexander, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, David Hammons, Yayoi Kusama, Tan Lin, Nathaniel Mackey, and Cecil Taylor--as well as critics. We will pay particular attention to formally experimental works. This course will ask questions about the problem of race and abstraction by looking at the work of various African American and Asian American writers, visual artists and musicians--including Will Alexander, John Keene, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, John Yau, Cecil Taylor, David Hammons, and Yoko Ono--as well as critics. We will pay particular attention to formally experimental works. [ more ]

AMST 469(F)Notions of Race and Ethnicity in American Culture

While "race" and "ethnicity" have always played fundamental roles in shaping the course of American culture and the definition of who is or who can be an "American," our understanding of these concepts of race and ethnicity has often been less than clear. The purpose of this seminar is to examine how Americans have defined and articulated the concepts of race and ethnicity at various points in our history and how these ideas have been expressed in art, policy, practice, and theory. This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative because it examines various dynamics of power structures based on race and ethnic politics, as well as class and gender relations. [ more ]

AMST 478Cold War Landscapes

Not offered this year

The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union set in motion dramatic changes to the natural and built environments of many nations between 1945 and 1991. Nuclear test and missile launch sites, naval installations, military production operations, and border securitizations are just a few of the most obvious ways in which the stand-off between the two countries altered rural and urban landscapes around the world. But one can also see the Cold War as setting in motion less immediately direct but nonetheless profound changes to the way that many people saw and planned for the environments around them, as evidenced, for instance, by the rise of the American suburb, the reconstruction of postwar Europe, and agricultural and industrial initiatives in many developing nations. We will begin this seminar by exploring several distinct "Cold War landscapes" in the United States, then move on to examining others in Europe and the Soviet Union. We will spend the final weeks of the semester discussing examples from other parts of the world. Our approach to our topics will be interdisciplinary throughout the semester, and students are welcome to write their research papers on any geographical area of the world. [ more ]

AMST 490 T(S)The Suburbs

The suburbs transformed the United States. At the broadest level, they profoundly altered spatial residential geography (especially in terms of race), consumer expectations and behavior, governmental policies, cultural norms and assumptions, societal connections, and Americans' relationship to nature. More specifically, the different waves of post-World War II suburban development have both reflected large-scale shifts in how power and money have operated in the American political economy; and set in motion deep-seated changes in electoral politics, in Americans' understandings of how their income should be used, and in how the built landscape should be re-imagined. This tutorial will explore the rich historical literature that has emerged over the last twenty years to provide students with a history of the suburbs, to see the suburbs as more than simply collections of houses that drew individual homeowners who wanted to leave urban areas. We will focus most of our attention on the period from 1945 through the 1980s. Some of the questions we will consider will include: how did the first wave of suburban development bring together postwar racial and Cold War ideologies? Is it possible, as one historian has argued, that suburbs actually created the environmental movement of the 1960s? And how have historians understood the role that suburbs played in America's conservative political turn, leading to the election of Ronald Reagan? [ more ]