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)Artists Respond to Dangerous Times

This introductory studio art course focuses on how contemporary time-based artists engage their historical moment. We will look 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: Silas Howard

Catalog details

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 124(S)The Poetics of Place

The poet Edouard Glissant writes,"The landscape has its language. The very words and letters of the American novel are entangled in the strands, in the mobile structure of one's own landscape. And the language of my landscape is primarily that of the forest, which unceasingly bursts with life. I do not practice the economy of the meadow, I do not share the serenity of the spring." These lines suggest not only that each landscape inspires unique textual expressions but also that differing forms of literary language constitute environments unto themselves. We will explore a number of such literary environments with the aim of investigating a) how literary works evoke and grapple with the sensual and atmospheric qualities of places, b) how environment has played a role in shaping literary forms and canons, and c) the ways in which experimental engagements with place have broadened and disrupted our ideas about both literature and geography. Possible texts include Crevecoeur's Letters from an American Farmer, Wharton's The House of Mirth, Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Toomer's Cane, Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom, Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place, and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. We'll also consider geography and cartography as forms of narrative, looking at works like Dennis Wood's Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas. [ 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 156Thirteen Ways of Looking at Jazz

Not offered this year

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 short close analyses of multiple types of media, ultimately building up to an argumentative essay. 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 158(S)From Pocahontas to Crazy Horse: Representations of Native Americans in Popular Culture

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 166Politics and Prose: Invisible Man in Historical Context

Not offered this year

"I am an invisible man." So begins Ralph Ellison's treatise on black life in the United States in the middle of the twentieth 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 examines the novel and its themes in historical context: debates among black ideologues and leaders; links between culture and protest; and effects of black migration and urbanization. In addition to the novel the course also includes readings in black sociology, anthropology, law, literature, political science, education, folklife, and music. [ more ]

AMST 167(S)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 168(F)1968-1969: Two Years in America

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 201(F, S)Introduction to American Studies

To be an "American" means something more than U.S. citizenship. In this course, we focus on the problems and possibilities of American identity. Access to Americanness is shaped by factors such as class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, and region--categories which themselves change in meaning over time. Given the geographical, racial, and cultural diversity of the United States, the ways in which Americans imagine nation inevitably vary over time, according to place, and among different individuals and groups. Rather than a survey of any one aspect or period of American history, literature, or popular culture, this course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of American Studies, a field defined both by the range of texts we read (essays, novels, autobiographies, photographs, films, music, architecture, historical documents, legal texts), and by the questions we ask of them: How have different Americans imagined what it means to be an American? What ideas about national history, patriotism, and moral character shape their visions of Americanness? How do the educational system, mass media, government policies regarding citizenship and immigration shape American identities? How are boundaries of inclusion and exclusion in the nation drawn? What uses have been made of the claim to an American identity, and what is at stake in that claim? How have Americans imagined a national landscape, a national culture, and to what ends? [ more ]

AMST 202(F)History Behind the Headlines

What is the history behind some of the major issues covered by the media? And what are some of the differing perspectives on and interpretations of how to address some of the most significant issues that face us all? This course will challenge students to think historically about the present by introducing the methods and conceptual tools historians use to understand the past and how that may lead to a better appreciation of contemporary society. Students will be encouraged to become more critical readers of the media and thus better assess when and how history is used and abused in the public sphere. Throughout the semester, members of the History Department will visit the class and address how their field is represented in the media and political discourse. Because of its commitment to explore how people in different societies respond to the pressing issues of the day and 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 203(F)Black/Independent/Cinema

Trick question: Is black independent cinema (a) a marketing strategy, (b) a political project, or (c) an aesthetic tradition? In this course, we'll watch movies that are celebrated or obscure, crowd-pleasing or aesthetically demanding, militant or reassuring, or sometimes all of the above. But "all of the above" is a cheap answer to a trick question--the kind of thing you might say on the way out of the theater if you want to sound smart but don't really have an opinion of your own! Since the films we'll watch are not designed for a passive, silent viewer, one of our tasks will be to ask how we might constitute ourselves as the audience they call for. Our primary emphasis will be on basic theoretical questions--what makes a film "independent," and what makes it "black"?--but we'll aim for some historical coverage as well, moving backwards and forwards from a grounding in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Films may include Daughters of the Dust, Killer of Sheep, Do the Right Thing, Drylongso (Ordinary), The Spook Who Sat by the Door, The Brother from Another Planet, Dave Chappelle's Block Party, and others. [ 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 ]

AMST 208 TTime and Blackness

Not offered this year

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 209(F)Ecologies of Place: Culture, Commodities and Everyday Life

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(F)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 212(F)Race and Capitalism

This course will grapple with the analysis of capitalism that has emerged out of the Black radical tradition. Examining how the traces of slavery have continued in capitalism following emancipation, this intellectual and political tradition also foregrounds race as a material, concrete relationship that is visible in the organization of economic life: in the production of the goods and services necessary for society to reproduce itself. We will focus on Black freedom struggles, and their analyses and proposals towards achieving radical emancipation and racial justice. This seminar course will involve collaborative and individual research work. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

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 214(F, S)African American Environmental Culture from Slavery to Environmental Justice

Until the environmental justice movement rose to prominence over the past few decades and invited a more critical perspective on the connection between race and the environment, popular understanding of the American environmental (and environmentalist) tradition had effectively been whitewashed. But why? This course will work to find answers to that question while unearthing the deeper roots of African American environmental culture in conversation with key moments in African American history; from slavery to sharecropping, from migration and urbanization to environmental justice. With an interdisciplinary approach that considers sources as diverse as slave narratives, fiction, poetry, songs, photographs, maps, and ethnographies, we will consider African American intellectuals, writers, and visual and musical artists not always associated with environmental thought, from W.E.B. Du Bois and Zora Neale Hurston to the Black Panthers and Marvin Gaye. Evaluation considers active, informed participation in class discussion based on assigned readings, midterm and final exams, and three 5-7 page essays. Students are also expected to research and respond to one news article exploring some aspect of the intersection between race and the environment over the course of the semester, and to share your findings with the class for discussion. This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative requirement by examining the themes of empathetic understanding and power and privilege. Among many other paths of inquiry, we will examine how African American environmental culture has evolved in conversation with an historical context of discrimination, racism, and inequality. [ more ]

AMST 215(S)Experimental Asian American Writing

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 socio-environmental conflict in the United States and Latin America from the time of European colonization to the present, it will examine key works from 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 environmental justice and the ideological critique of modernity. How have scholars made environmental sense of liberalism, colonialism, capitalism, nationalism, sexism, and racism? 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(S)The Cultural Politics of the 1970s

In popular imaginations today, the 1970s is often remembered scornfully as the "Me Decade" (as Tom Wolfe coined it) or nostalgically for its disco, drug culture, and bell bottom jeans (think That 70s Show). However, the 1970s marked a decisive (and divisive) moment of flux and transition in the United States away from the progressive mood of the 1960s to the conservative outlook of the 1980s. While many scholars have located the origins of contemporary neoliberalism in the 1970s, this course aims to unpack any simple historical trajectory by focusing rather on the social and cultural contradictions of the period. In analysis of film, fiction, memoir, performance art, and other cultural texts - as well as scholarly work from and about the period - we will consider how the history of the 1970s lends insight into contemporary questions of identity, social movements, political economy, and global politics. [ more ]

Taught by: John Andrews

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AMST 219(S)Introduction to Asian American Literature

Asian people have been living in what is now called the US since before the founding of the nation, and there is a significant body of literature written by Asian Americans from at least the 19th century, with the rise of transpacific migration on a large scale. Yet the history of something called "Asian American literature" begins with the revolutionary movements of the late 1960s, and has been reimagined in dramatically different ways over the subsequent decades. In this course, we'll read some of the major texts on which various concepts of Asian American literature have been grounded, along with others that complicate the category in useful ways. Readings may include works by Carlos Bulosan, Shawn Wong, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Jessica Hagedorn, Hisaye Yamamoto, Jose Garcia Villa, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, HT Tsiang, Linh Dinh, Amitava Kumar, Cynthia Kadohata, Sesshu Foster, and Lynda Barry. [ more ]

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 222(S)Asian American Visual Cultures

One of the most infamously racist images from American cultural archives is an illustration, accompanying an article titled "How to Tell Japs from the Chinese," that appeared in Life magazine in 1941. Visual media and representations--film, photography, comics, painting, sculptures, etc.--have always been central for shaping, re-shaping, and complicating the ways in which we understand and "see" race. As the Life magazine example demonstrates, our visual cultural archives have served as both reflections of and active agents of social meanings, structures, and ideologies of race. We will approach visual cultures and archives of Asian America as not merely representations of race but as particular vehicles for cultural politics: How have visual cultural texts engaged with and shaped our ideas about Asia/America? How has the visual medium facilitated both normative and counter-cultural ideas about Asian Americans? What are the ways in which visual culture has been and continue to be central to social and political life? We will examine a range of materials, from 19th and early 20th century Orientalia to contemporary Asian American graphic novels and films, both independent and mainstream. The class will also include at least one visit to the WCMA. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 224U.S. Latina/o Religions

Not offered this year

In this course, we will engage aspects of Latina/o religious experiences, practices, and expressions in the United States of America. Some attention will be given to historical contexts in Iberia and Latin America, as well as questions of how one studies Latina/o religions. Most of the course, however, will examine moments where religious expressions intersect with politics, popular culture, and daily life in the U.S.A. Given the plurality of Latina/o communities and religious lives in the U.S.A., we will engage certain selected religious traditions and practices by focusing on particular moments of religious expression as elucidated in specific historiographies, ethnographies, art, literature, and film. Rooting ourselves in the social, political, cultural, and historical contexts in which particular Latina/o religious formations arose, this Exploring Diversity Initiative course also examines issues of social and institutional power relations that influence particular religious formations. [ more ]

AMST 226(F)New Religions in North America

This course explores contemporary North America religions from a historical, sociological, and philosophical perspective. We will examine the historical and contemporary experiences of America's ever-expanding religious diversity, prominently featuring the voices of those traditionally excluded from older, Protestant-informed accounts of American religion. The focus of the course will be the exploration of the ever-expanding variety of new religions in North America, challenging students to engage the numerous cultural, philosophical, and methodological issues involved with the study of marginal religions. New religions often highlight cultural anxieties, e.g. loss of identity in contemporary secular societies, responses to new technologies, changing gender roles, globalization, etc. The study of new religions becomes, then, a closer, reflexive examination of contemporary American culture and its underlying tensions. For example, the Raelian Movement claims to have cloned the first human. Wicca, on the other hand, offers critiques of environmental depredation and traditional gender roles. In sum, we will explore the historical roots of the current boom in new religions, detail contemporary issues, and outline the possible forms new and emerging religions may assume in the coming years. This course will also have a website dedicated to the exploration of new religions, providing links to interesting sites, basic resources, and student essays/projects. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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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 228 T(S)North American Apocalyptic Thought

Apocalyptic thought pervades much of contemporary American culture, whether among Protestant evangelicals, new religions, novelists and filmmakers, or even scientists and environmentalists who warn of ecological catastrophe and the deadly consequences of nuclear proliferation. This course will introduce, using historical, sociological, and philosophical accounts, how North Americans have thought about and continue to think about questions of the End, both in a cultural and in a personal sense. [ more ]

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

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 230(S)U.S. Imperialism

Since the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, questions of imperialism have returned to the forefront of analyses of life and politics in the United States. This course will examine a long view of U.S. imperialism, from continental imperialism over Native peoples' lands, through overseas imperialism following the Spanish-American War, through the Cold War, and reaching into the War on Terror. We will engage long-standing models in the analysis of empire, and focus on cultural, economic, and political dimensions to examine the centrality of imperialism to the United States, and the history of the United States within a context of global histories. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

AMST 238Racial Formations and Transformations in America: 1945-Present

Not offered this year

Sociologist Howard Winant has argued that World War II heralded a significant "break" in racial order: that is, it signaled the beginning of marked shifts in how people--and the State--perceived, thought about, and managed race and racial inequality. Subsequent decades in the United States witnessed the end of segregation, passage of Civil Rights, liberalization of immigration policies, and the rise and dominance of "multiculturalism" in social, political, and academic spheres. These landmark events and shifts contributed to a narrative of progress as the defining story of race in post-war America. However, as Winant cautions, the "break" neither resolved nor abolished racism and racial hierarchies. Our class will examine how this narrative of racial progress has been constructed, as well as the ways in which it has been critiqued and complicated. In doing so, we will also pay attention to: shifting perception(s) of race/racial difference in global and transnational contexts, representations of race in cultural texts and discourse, cross-racial connections and formations, and inter-articulation of gender, sexuality, and class formations with race. This course reflects the goals of the Exploring Diversity Initiative through its comparative approaches to study of race and in its emphasis on the centrality of racial formations to the structure and logic of national life. [ more ]

AMST 240(S)Latina/o Language Politics: Hybrid Voices

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 241(S)Performing Masculinity in Global Popular Culture

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(S)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. Readings 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 246 T(F)Black Asia: From King Kong to Kung Fu and Beyond

In the popular intuition of contemporary US culture, blackness and Asianness are often imagined as diametrically opposed. Yet the Asia/Pacific region has been crucial to the development of modern black culture since long before a Hawaii-born, Jakarta- and Honolulu-raised memoirist named Barack Obama was elected as the first African American president. In this tutorial, we'll consider how blackness and Asianness came to be opposed to each other, while exploring the rich and complex history of African American interest in Asia and the Pacific that this obscures. Course materials will be drawn from over a century of critical and creative reflections on the subject, including novels, films, music, visual art, journalism, and scholarly writing. This tutorial fulfills the EDI requirement by examining how concepts of racial and cultural difference emerge from local and global histories of inequality and political contestation. [ more ]

AMST 247(F)Modernist Regionalism

Many people think of regionalist writing as a formally and thematically unsophisticated genre focused on the realistic portrayal of "local color" and the provincial concerns of the small town. However, American modernist texts regularly challenge this supposition, combining the spirit of the local with the cosmopolitanism and innovative formal strategies of the avant-garde. At the same time, a closer look at the canonical texts of "high" modernism reveals that the regional and local often suffuse these texts in surprising ways. This course will revisit the genre of regionalist writing with the aim of finding the avant-garde and the international within regionalist texts and, in turn, uncovering the unexpected regionalism of the modernist avant-garde. We will read works by authors such as Sarah Orne Jewett, Charles Chesnutt, Sherwood Anderson, Willa Cather, William Faulkner, T. S. Eliot, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, Lorine Niedecker, Nathanial West, William S. Burroughs, and Jane Bowles. Our literary explorations will be supported by readings in critical theory and cultural geography, as well as our own reflections on the regional life of the Berkshires. [ more ]

AMST 252(S)A Perfect Storm: How Economic and Environmental Disaster Defined America During the Depression

What happens to environmental priorities and perspectives when the economy crashes? Since 2008, the "Great Recession" has been disastrous not only for Americans' financial well-being, but also for the political will to take action on climate change (to name just one environmental issue). But it wasn't always this way. The 1930s, one of the most traumatic decades of the twentieth century in America, actually spurred environmentally-conscious action in an economic context far worse than what we are experiencing today. Why? This class will explore the many ways Americans understood their diverse local environments and took action to save them during the Great Depression. Although the Dust Bowl is perhaps the most iconic of these environmental upheavals during the 1930s, this course will explore diverse geographical regions: from the Appalachian mountains to the (de)forested Upper Midwest, from the agricultural South to the Dust Bowl plains and the water-starved West. In each region, we will trace the impacts of economic turmoil on the environment and the people who depended on it for their livelihoods, as well as the way the economic disaster paved the way for the federal government's unprecedented intervention in environmental matters. Key texts will include John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (along with the John Ford film adaptation) and Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. [ more ]

AMST 255(S)U.S. Cuban Life-Writing: Nationalism, Narrative, and Exile

This course introduces students to the genres of life-writing that have become principal forms of artistic, social, and cultural expression amongst Cubans in the United States. Learning about several examples of life-writing including memoir, autobiography, testimonio, and the bildungsroman, students will question how literary form is linked not only to culture but also to the social, economic, and political conditions out of which authors and writings emerge. Common themes or narrative arcs across U.S. Cuban life-writing will be charted throughout the semester in order to understand the currency of particular stories of exile, displacement, and the American dream. The primary question of the course asks: how, and towards what ends, are the genres of life-writing utilized, adapted, and revised by those disavowed by the nation? Readings will include works by Eduardo Machado, Carlos Eire, Virgil Suarez, Gustavo Perez Firmat, Olga Karman, Evelio Grillo, Pablo Medina, Emilio Bejel, Mirta Ojita, and Emilio Estefan. This course works under the Exploring Diversity Initiative's theme of empathetic understanding allowing students to think through the experiences of exile, as well as the theme of power and privilege, examining how U.S. Cuban exile and writing about it has been structured by political, social, and economic institutions. [ more ]

AMST 263(S)Cold War Technocultures

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 267Race in the Americas

Not offered this year

This course is designed to provide students with a fundamental understanding of the historical development and changing dynamics of race in North America, the Caribbean, and South America. In doing so, we will take on the fundamental position that race is a meaningful classification of human bodies. The question we will keep in front of us at all times is this: How does social milieu determine the meaningfulness of race? Racial classifications, like all classifications, are collectively imagined, and appear mired in various spheres of social life. We will devote a fair amount of attention to the meaning of race in personal experience, economic production and distribution, political organization, and popular culture. The complexity of race will be explored within a number of writings by authors such as Michael Hanchard, Edwidge Dandicat, and Patricia Hill Collins. This EDI course explores the experiences and expressions of the culturally diverse peoples of African descent in the New World, as well as the myriad ways in which they confront, negotiate, and at times challenge dominant U.S. and/or European social hierarchies. [ more ]

AMST 272(S)American Postmodern Fiction

American fiction took a turn at World War II: the simplest way to name the turn is from modernism to postmodernism. The most obvious mark of postmodern narration is its self-consciousness; postmodern books tend to be about themselves, even when they are most historical or realistic. Already a paradox emerges: why would World War II make narratives more self-reflexive? The first book in the course, and the best for approaching this paradox, is Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Subsequent books: Nabokov's Pale Fire, Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Morrison's Beloved, DeLillo's White Noise, Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Johnson's Jesus' Son. [ more ]

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

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

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AMST 284Introduction to Asian American History

Not offered this year

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(S)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 ]

Taught by: John Andrews

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AMST 302Public Sphere/Public Space

Not offered this year

The "public sphere," one of the core concepts of modern democratic thought, has taken on renewed significance in intellectual life today. This writing-intensive seminar looks briefly at the evolution of the term, but concentrates on its relevance to contemporary politics. Our investigations will center on the character and meanings of public space. We will look at space both as a key metaphor in political theory and as a medium of everyday practical struggle: that is, we will examine not only some of the most influential conceptions of public life, but also the political forces shaping and shaped by the practical design and use of the built environment. These examinations will combine critical reading and analytical writing with field observations, group work, and oral presentations. Our primary focus will be on the following topics: the relationship between ideas of citizenship and models of the public; the racing, gendering, and class-stratification of spaces (civic, residential, commercial, etc.); urbanity and suburbanization; the kinds of spaces and politics opened and closed by the internet and contemporary mass media; the effects of contemporary processes of globalization on political identity and democratic practices. Likely authors include Arendt, Berman, Davis, Delany, Foucault, Fraser, Gamson, Habermas, Hall, Harvey, Holston, Sennett, Sunstein, Virilio. [ 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 305Cities of the Anglophone Chinese Imagination

Not offered this year

The current academic vogue for the "diasporic" and the "transnational" has shifted the emphasis away from viewing ethnic literatures solely, or primarily, as minority national literatures and towards reading them more "globally." Such a re-framing, while potentially exciting, raises new questions. For example, what exactly is shared by subjects in a given diaspora? Does the term "diaspora" necessarily invoke the specter of racial essentialism? What happens to concepts of of race, racialization and racism when one moves away from local and national politics? Is the idea of a diasporic subject much less vexing than the idea of a racially minoritized person? How important a role does the shared English language play in these diasporas? In this course, we will look at the works of a specific diasporic literary group, English-language writers of Chinese descent, living in England, former British settler colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia) and other sites in Asia formerly colonized by the British. We will consider how geographic sites function as material spaces and places of the imagination and how the English language is itself a material and imaginary space. [ more ]

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

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 307Experimental African American Poetry

Not offered this year

Contemporary African American poets in various cities and towns across the nation--from New York City, Providence, and Newark to Durham, Chicago, and Los Angeles--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. Formally innovative African American poetry defamiliarizes what we normally expect of "black writing" and also pushes us to question our assumptions and presumptions about black identity, "identity politics," experimental writing (is the avant-garde 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. This course will examine the work of living poets who range in age from 30's to 80's, including Amiri Baraka, Ed Roberson, Nate Mackey, Will Alexander, Harryette Mullen, Tyrone Williams, John Keene, Fred Moten, Erica Hunt, and Renee Gladman. We will also look at the work of some of their avant-garde predecessors in the twentieth century (such as Bob Kaufman, Gwendolyn Brooks, Norman Pritchard, Russell Atkins), as well as critical work by Mackey, Moten, and Aldon Nielsen, among others. [ more ]

AMST 309Womanist/Black Feminist Thought

Not offered this year

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 310Race Wars in America

Not offered this year

This course examines the ways in which race/racism and war/militarism have operated as mutually constitutive processes throughout the twentieth century. At the same time that America's wars abroad--from the Philippines and Cuba in 1898 to Iraq and Afghanistan--have highlighted "new" and "old" forms of racism, they have also been central to shaping "common-sense" racial ideologies and projects. This class can be considered a broad cultural history of race and race-making, but our framework means to foreground the inherence of violence of the story and history of race, both recognizable and hidden. We will be particularly attentive to the uneven distribution and experiences of war and violence and the ways in which they are racialized and gendered. Given our topic and framework, then, keep in mind that there will be a fair amount of representations of physical and other kinds of violence in the course materials. Course materials will range from and include literary (selected works by Chester Himes among others) but also scholarly/theoretical (Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, etc.) and cultural/visual (including films, to be determined) texts. This course reflects the aims of Exploring Diversity Initiative by critically considering the rhetoric of "diversity" that often forgets the very real existence of violence in encounters with difference and otherness. [ more ]

AMST 311(S)Development of American Indian Law & Policy

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

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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(F)Gender, Race, and the Power of Personal Aesthetics

This course focuses on the politics of personal aesthetics among U.S. 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 personal style, 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 aesthetics 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 a tactic of resistance challenge traditional understandings of what it means to be a "feminist" in the first place? Readings include works by Susan Bordo, Ginetta Candelario, Patricia Hill Collins, Amira Jarmakani, Nadine Naber, Lisa Nakamura, Frances Negron-Muntaner, Kobena Mercer, and Catherine Ramirez, among others. [ more ]

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

Not offered this year

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 316(S)Sacred Cinema: Black Religion and the Movies

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 317Black Migrations: African American Performance at Home and Abroad

Not offered this year

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. [ 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 320(S)Dangerous Bodies: Black Womanhood, Sexuality & Popular Culture

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 321Theories of U.S. Power

Not offered this year

Is it true that the U.S. remains the most powerful country in the world due to the combination of noble values that its citizens hold dear? What does "American Freedom" mean at a time when the U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world? This course is designed to introduce students to different theories of "power" and how it functions in the contemporary world, using the United States as a case study. Beginning at the domestic level, we will explore how the U.S. has remained relatively politically stable despite deep racial divisions and polarizations of wealth. Are residents simply satisfied with their lives? Are they intimidated or physically prevented from seeking change? Or is control maintained in more subtle ways having to do with how we view ourselves and interpret the world? Moving to the international scale, we will analyze whether the United States should be deemed an empire, ways in which the country's economic and military influence has been justified, and how its position in the global economy and system of states is changing. Throughout, we will question how these forms of domestic and international power may be linked. The course will pair challenging theoretical texts with accessible accounts of historical events and contemporary social processes that exemplify the forms of power under examination. Using texts drawn from history, political science, philosophy, and American Studies, students will develop an understanding of key terms such as class, racial projects, hegemony, governmentality, citizen-subjects, colonialism, the world-system, and transnational states. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 322(S)Race, Culture, Incarceration

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 324(S)Blackness, Theater, Theatricality

Representations of African American life have pervaded the various genres and tiers of American culture, embodying a carnival of competing attitudes and perspectives. Many oddities and ironies result from this curious history. For example, African Americans as theatrical figures enter American consciousness via the minstrel stage, where white entertainers wearing burnt cork lampooned Negroes to amuse white audiences. Eventually, black performers created their own versions of minstrelsy, black playwrights created dramas more sympathetic to black life, and representations of black life proliferated in every noteworthy medium. This course will consider how attitudes about blackness have informed or deformed theatrical representations of African American life. It will examine major texts by African American writers, considering both their social importance and their aesthetic experiments and innovations. It will range from politically oriented works of social realism such as Theodore Ward's Big White Fog and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun to expressionistic protest works like Amiri Baraka's Dutchman and Slave Ship and Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls to August Wilson's earnest histories and the post-modern satires of Adrienne Kennedy and Suzan-Lori Parks. Alongside these, we will also consider a variety of comic traditions, ranging from minstrelsy to Spike Lee's film Bamboozled and characters created by comedians such as Jackie "Moms" Mabley and Richard Pryor. And how should we assess Porgy, a play by the white writer Dubose Heyward, which evolved into America's greatest opera, Porgy and Bess? This course will be an ongoing inquiry into the riotous theatricality of American blackness. [ more ]

AMST 325Capitalism in Indian Country

Not offered this year

Indigenous people are often imagined as somehow outside of capitalism, whether consigned to a distant past, or imagined as living anachronisms in relation to contemporary capitalism. In this course, we will work against these assumptions, examining the historical development of capitalism in North America in relation to indigenous places and communities. Through our focus on capitalism in Indian country, we will examine the roots of American property law, wage labor, and large-scale production on Native lands, and Native peoples who were capitalists in their own right. We will examine the histories of political and economic dependency, and ask questions about how "development" has been defined and practiced over Native communities. We will also look closely at the long history of Native land struggles, and links between capital accumulation and ecological destruction. Our economic focus will help us approach the ways the Native peoples have survived colonialism. [ more ]

AMST 326(S)Space Time

Space Time explores conflicts over how these two dimensions were understood in the decades surrounding the 1969 landing on the Moon. For NASA and the government which supported it, the ability to fly men to outer space and return them safely was evidence for the power of a technocratic realism, in which time was linear, space homogenous, and stories ballistic in their trajectories. Simultaneously, however, Cold War geopolitics, rapid social change, and the creation of an electronic mass culture made such Newtonian realism seem an increasingly inadequate basis for representing the world. What kinds of language might prove able to express the experience of time, space, and speed opened up by a flight to the Moon? Works studied will likely include Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow; Wolfe, The Right Stuff; Mailer, Of a Fire on the Moon; as well as films, memoirs, and readings in cultural history and language theory. [ more ]

AMST 327(F)Feeling the Present

Feelings, moods, and affects are typically understood as bound to individual persons. However, this course examines not only how feelings and moods are profoundly collective but also why and how these collective moods have come to matter in contemporary culture, politics, and economy. Focusing on current and classic scholarship in critical political economy, neoliberalism, and affect studies - as well as film and popular culture - we will attend to the ways in which anxiety, depression, hope, rage, and other moods figure into everyday life, work, social movements, and other key sites. Topics considered include: mental health and the pharmaceutical industry; the social implications of financialization; the Tea Party and its political influence; the rise of social media; and the recent housing crisis. [ more ]

Taught by: John Andrews

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AMST 328 T(S)Immaterial Labor

In the last 50 years, the character of work and labor has fundamentally changed as the economy has increasingly involved transnational markets, media culture, and networked technologies. Although industrial production has not disappeared--far from it-- we have witnessed a dramatic rise in knowledge and information work, the service economy, advertising,finance,biotechnologies, and other kinds of labor whose "product" is fleeting, emotional, and/or affecting bodily capacities. As a result, the distinction between work and leisure is more and more blurred as activities from blogging to watching television to working out at the gym become economically valuable. Drawing on a range of classic and contemporary literatures on the subject (including those by Karl Marx, Paul Lafargue, Hannah Arendt, Kathi Weeks, Sylvia Federici, Hardt & Negri, Richard Sennett, and Sunder Rajan), this tutorial will examine how the proliferation of immaterial labor is reconfiguring our understanding and experience of class, race, nation, gender, sex, and everyday life. [ more ]

Taught by: John Andrews

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AMST 329Cultures of War: U.S. Wars in Asia and American Culture

Not offered this year

The nations and continent of Asia have often figured as sites onto which the U.S. has projected various hopes, anxieties, and desires since the 18th century. Throughout the 20th century, the rise of U.S. as a global power has been inaugurated and marked perhaps most prominently through its wars in Asia--in the Philippines, Pacific Islands, Korea, Viet Nam. This class explores how America's military interventions in Asia have impacted and shaped numerous aspects of American life: how have representations and remembrances of different wars been instrumental in shaping national identities and narratives? How have these wars also been central to our understandings of and discourse about race in America? And why and how has the work of "culture" been central to wars and vice versa? While the main focus of the class is on the making of American culture, we will also examine non-U.S. centric texts and critiques and in doing so, our approaches and methods of analyses will seek to be mindful of ways in which certain ideas of "America"--and nationalism--gets privileged. [ more ]

AMST 330Connective Approaches to Race, Ethnicity, and Diaspora

Not offered this year

This course explores the overlapping, intersecting, and intertwined experiences of distinct enthoracial communities in the United States. Students will investigate these experiences from a relational and connective point of view to tease out the contested meanings of nation, citizenship, community, rights, and struggle. For example, we will examine the 1947 school desegregation case involving Mexican Americans in California, Mendez v. Westminster, and its relationship to African American civil rights, Puerto Rican migration, and Japanese internment. Mendez v. Westminster, when approached from a connective perspective, reveals a multiracial and diasporic landscape that is more complex than previously considered. A connective approach to Race, Ethnicity, and Diaspora allows us to uncover important episodes of collaboration and tension that have been rendered invisible when studied independently. Working with ethnography, history, literature, critical essays, visual culture, and popular culture, this course focuses on the complicated bonds among multiracial constituencies and potential future forms of collaboration. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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

Not offered this year

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), New Orleans Sketches (William Faulkner), The Moviegoer (Walker Percy), A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy O'Toole), Why New Orleans Matters (Tom Piazza), 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(F)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(F)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 334(F)Sexual Economies

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 338(F)The American Renaissance

The mid-nineteenth century was evidently a good time to be an American writer. Thoreau's Walden and Melville's Moby-Dick, Emerson's essays, Hawthorne's and Poe's fiction, abolitionist writings by Harriet Jacobs and Harriet Wilson, and the groundbreaking poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson were all produced around this time. We will read through this essential period of American literature by asking how key authors imagine the relationship between the self and its community. Does the individual exist in splendid isolation? Or are we terrifyingly open to the people around us? These texts will help us explore the politics of belonging as they played out in a nation headed toward Civil War and conscious of its fractures. We'll see how much we can make this past work speak to our present moment. And we will jump in to arguments among scholars about who belongs in the canon of great American literature, whether it's a good idea to categorize texts by time and place, and what we should be reading literature for. [ more ]

AMST 339Latina/o Musical Cultures: Gender, Race, Sexuality and the Dynamics of the Everyday

Not offered this year

In this class we will investigate Latina/o popular musical and dance forms, with particular emphasis on questions of gender, sexuality, and ethno-racial identity. We will focus on the following questions, among others: How are the various facets of Latina/o identity expressed through the "popular" or the everyday? In what ways do categories of difference such as gender, sexuality, and ethno-racial identity inform the performance as well as the interpretation of Latina/o musical forms? How are we to understand cultural phenomenon such as the most recent Latin music "boom"? Employing cultural studies concepts and methods, students will conduct an original semester-long research project in stages and complete one ethnographic exercise. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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AMST 340(F)The Aesthetics of Transnationalism in American Literature

Transnationalism describes the continuous flow of goods, people, and ideas within the agitated dynamics of a globalized and modern world. Typically, research in transnational American Studies promotes investigations of American culture in its myriad appropriations in local and specific contexts on a global scale by defining borders as permeable and flexible. But how does transnationalism become visible on the level of textual aesthetics? We will be looking at aesthetic representations of transnationalism in a select body of narrative texts from the American Revolution to 9/11: Olaudah Equiano;s The Interesting Narrative (1789); Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World (1859); Henry James' Daisy Miller, A Study (1899); James Baldwin's Another Country (1962); Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy (1990); Cristina Garcia's Monkey Hunting (2003); and Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2006). This course fulfills the critical theorization theme for the Exploring Diversity Initiative through its comparative analysis of scholarship and literature on transnationalism American identity. It invites students to re-think present and historical concepts of American identity by tracing senses of self which are not confined within national borders. [ more ]

Taught by: Silvia Schultermandl

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AMST 343 T(S)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 346(S)Latinas/os and the Media: From Production to Consumption

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 353(F, S)Apocalypse in Post-War America: Environmental Fear From the Atomic Age to Climate Change

One dominant strain of the postwar American environmental imagination has been fear, from diffuse anxiety to paralyzing terror. This course will explore this culture of fear through a variety of topics in postwar American environmental consciousness, including the specter of atomic annihilation, the anti-ecotoxics and environmental justice movements, food security, and climate change. We will also explore issues surrounding the idea of wilderness, the relation of native peoples and other minority groups with the landscape, the natural environment in urban spaces, human labor in the natural environment, and the ways in which a variety of disciplinary perspectives such as law, politics, and public health inform our historical understanding of environmental fear. Key texts will include Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. [ more ]

AMST 357(S)Literature of World War I

The summer of 2014 marks the centennial of World War I, an historical cataclysm that caused over 37 million casualties, precipitated several revolutions and the fall of four empires, led directly to World War II, and shattered the fantasy of irreversible, peaceable progress for European civilization. The Great War also provoked startling new modes of literature, as artists strove to respond to the unprecedented horrors of trench warfare and to traumatic social and political transformations. In this course we will explore the War and the social and cultural upheavals it precipitated, as represented in historical texts and reflected in the poetry of Owen, Sassoon, Blunden, Graves, and Jones; in such novels as Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, Ford's Parade's End, Hasek's The Good Soldier Svejk, Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, and Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway; and in films by such directors as Renoir, Milestone, Eisenstein, and Kubrick. We will examine the contrasts in these texts between the War and the misleadingly idyllic years preceding it, and between the trenches and a domestic life which was tantalizingly nearby and psychically distant. We will also explore some of the revolutionary movements triggered by the War, and the domestic upheavals in class and gender relations and in sexual and other social norms that accompanied the War and marked a rupture in European civilization. [ more ]

AMST 362(S)Difference and Desire

Do we desire that which is different from us, or the same? Why are we taught to celebrate and embrace "difference," but most often in terms closer to sheer tolerance than attraction? Can difference---or sameness---be characterized as a moral good? Politically, is difference a goal or an obstacle? How and where do we encounter the "other" in ways that change who we are? This course will probably not answer these questions tidily but will definitely bring them up over and over again, refining them through close reading of poetry, graphic novels, fiction, philosophy, and film from the latter half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. We will encounter literary works by Roland Barthes, Alison Bechdel, Junot Diaz, Marguerite Duras, Ariana Reines, Adrian Tomine, Monique Truong, as well as films by Rainer Warner Fassbinder, Isaac Julien, and Eric Rohmer. As we court these scintillating primary texts, we will also flirt with secondary authors in psychoanalysis, queer theory, feminism, black studies, and postcolonial studies. As the aim of our course is to explore and interrogate the notion of social difference itself, we will participate in the College's Exploring Diversity Initiative. This EDI course will focus on the power relation between queer sexuality and heteronormativity in twentieth-century culture, as well as on the relationship between queerness as lived experience (cultural practice) and queerness as metaphor (institutional and psychic life). [ more ]

Taught by: Seulghee Lee

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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 365(S)History of the New South

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 369(S)American History in Film

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 370(S)Immigrant Social Movements: Bridging Theory and Praxis

What routes are available to immigrant communities seeking to fight for inclusion and political participation? Do undocumented immigrants have rights in the United States and if so, what are these rights? Also, what agencies, political bodies or local/national organizations are responsible for making such determinations? Focusing on the activism of undocumented immigrant communities (parents, youth and allies), this course analyzes political mobilization by a group of individuals thought by many not to have rights. In doing so, comparisons will be drawn with the strategies and campaigns of those in the LGBT community and that of civil rights activists of the 1960s. Seeking to understand the origins and effects of what anthropologist Nicholas DeGenova refers to as "migrant illegality," students in this course will become familiar with the factors leading to international migration, the role of laws and federal/state policies in criminalizing and disenfranchising migrants, and the various forms of resistance in which undocumented communities have engaged in order to fight oppression and marginalization. Readings and course materials will be highly interdisciplinary drawing from disciplines such as ethnic studies, sociology, anthropology, political science and legal studies; course readings will be supplemented by films and an experiential learning component. As part of this component students will meet outside class hours to work with a local community-based organization over the course of the semester and write a 15-page final paper that connects course readings with their fieldwork experience. This course also works under the Exploring Diversity Initiative theme of "power and privilege" in examining the legal, cultural, social and political conditions that lead to the creation of a migrant underclass. [ more ]

Taught by: Kevin A Escudero

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AMST 372 T(F)American Modernist Fiction

Modernism among writers began in the second half of the nineteenth century and continued through perhaps World War II; we shall concentrate on fiction from around the 1920s, by such writers as Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Toomer, Cather, and Stein. Modernism tends to be difficult and elitist, though such writers as Fitzgerald and Hemingway tried to make popular careers out of its methods. Its reception has always been controversial and paradoxical: modernism either unleashes revolutionary thinking or displaces it (and either alternative may be its value); it either allows expression to repressed forms of sexuality or re-represses them; it either registers new racial realities or is specifically designed to keep racial structures in place. In this tutorial we shall address both American modernist fiction and its reception, and thus will conduct a continuing investigation of the relation of obscure meaning and imputed historical significance. [ more ]

AMST 376(F)Silent Film

For many contemporary filmgoers, the silent era represents a cinematic Dark Ages in which the lack of sound and spectacular special effects makes its films seem quaint or primitive. Yet silent cinema represents an era of unparalleled transformation in which structures of narrative and the language of visual representation were virtually re-invented to meet the needs and the potentialities of a new medium, and the very relationship between art and entertainment was re-defined, producing hundreds of films that are the aesthetic equal of any contemporary work. The absence of synchronous sound allowed silent cinema a visual freedom that fostered forms of artistic experimentation unattainable in sound cinema, leading some aestheticians to proclaim the artistic superiority of silent cinema. In this course we will survey classic narrative films by such directors as D. W. Griffith, Erich von Stroheim, and Abel Gance; stars of silent cinema such as Greta Garbo, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Rudolph Valentino; the flowering of American silent comedy in the work of Chaplin and Keaton; the creation of exciting new modes of political art by Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Vertov, and other directors of Soviet montage cinema; expressionist, surrealist, and other avant-garde work by such filmmakers as Murnau, Dulac, Man Ray, Bu?uel, and Dreyer; and brilliant silent films by major directors better known for their sound films, such Ernst Lubitsch, Yasujiro Ozu, and Alfred Hitchcock. Films will be regularly accompanied by readings in aesthetic and film theory. [ more ]

AMST 379American Pragmatism

Not offered this year

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 380(F)Amiri Baraka and Audre Lorde

In both literary content and political disposition, Audre Lorde and Amiri Baraka were radically different people. Lorde was a queer feminist icon credited with furthering the concepts of intersectional identity and black feminism, while Baraka was accused throughout his career of obliviously brazen machismo and criticized for his use of homophobic invective. Baraka endorsed the very notions of leadership and community from which Lorde crafted an identity of marginality, and Lorde endorsed a community-bound poetics contrasted to Baraka's avant-gardism. But for all their differences, Lorde and Baraka were arguably the two most significant African American writers of the late twentieth century, and, however surprisingly, they staked similar conceptual territory, addressing such themes as the possibility of spiritual self-discovery, the possibility of liberatory consciousness, the significance of emotions in building community, and the relationship between sexuality and racial identity. We will explore such issues by way of closely attending to their texts, and since another similarity between them was a prolific range of genre, we will have the opportunity to delve into poetry, essays, fiction, drama, and memoir, with a slight but definite preference for their poetry. We will also place these writers in their political and philosophical contexts, sampling secondary sources on the Black Arts movement, queer theory, contemporary American and African American poetry, and transnational black studies. As we will be discussing two writers whose collective contribution to minority discourse is nothing short of monumental, our course will participate in the College's Exploring Diversity Initiative. Specifically, this EDI course will emphasize the ongoing historical negotiation between blackness and white supremacy in the contemporary period, in addition to the relationship between queer sexuality and blackness. [ more ]

Taught by: Seulghee Lee

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AMST 381(S)Who's Afraid of Failure?

Success is demanding, as any Williams student knows, and all that discipline-hard work, sacrifice, perseverance-can come to seem an end in itself. But as the great theorist of children's animation and stoner movies Jack Halberstam has noted, sometimes failure turns out to be a better bet than success: it can reveal the blindspots of dominant ideologies, while opening up alternative ways of living in the world. This course will take a long detour through meditations on failure emerging from queer theory, Asian American studies, and black studies, with a particular interest in what failure can reveal about higher education and related disciplinary institutions, such as prisons or the so-called "internment camps" for Japanese Americans during World War II. This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity requirement by considering how the stigmatization of difference and justification of social inequality are inscribed in supposedly neutral rubrics of success and failure. Readings may include Halberstam's Queer Art of Failure, Junot Diaz's Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and works by Fred Moten, Roderick Ferguson, Angela Davis, Hisaye Yamamoto, Toshio Mori, Nella Larsen, Victor Lavalle, and others. Students will also have the opportunity to bring these concepts to bear on other social concerns and/or cultural objects (music, film, etc.) of their choice, as we attempt to figure out just what a course in cultural criticism might be good for in a society infatuated with success. What are you planning to do with that liberal-arts degree, anyway? [ more ]

AMST 383Whiteness and Race in the History of the United States

Not offered this year

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 politics, citizenship, and social issues. Focusing on how historians have written about whiteness in American history, this course uses the prism of race to explore social, political, and economic development in U.S. history. The class follows 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 election season. This course is framed by several questions: What is whiteness, and what has it meant in the history of the United States? Who is (and is not) white? 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 391(S)American Portraits

We've all seen pictures of ourselves that we thought got it right, and others we've rejected as wrong. What exactly makes the difference? This class will weigh the powers of words and pictures to represent persons, asking how artists in each medium try to define and convey something that feels like the truth of character. Is that truth hidden deep in our souls? Or is it the case that what you see, moment to moment, is all there is? We'll think through these aesthetic and psychological questions with a range of (mostly) nineteenth-century texts and an array of visual media. We'll see, too, how portraits confer or deny political and social power. Our texts will give us examples of the deadly male gaze (Poe), the mania for phrenology, the potential for daguerreotypes to reveal a villainous heart (Hawthorne), the existential and political consequences of passing (Larsen), the possibility that you are what you wear (James), and the promise of fingerprinting to prove who's who (Twain). These instances of fixing or manipulating identity will show us how slippery and how potent the concept of identity has been -- and still is -- in American culture. The class will participate in the college's Exploring Diversity Initiative by encouraging students to be critically aware of the stakes and the consequences of one's visibility or invisibility, to explore the intertwined history of misperception and subversive camouflage, and to reflect on the uses of different versions of selfhood. [ more ]

AMST 403American Music

Not offered this year

One way to write the cultural history of music is to trace the authority with which different people can say "You are hurting my ears." So writes Carlo Rotella, one of the historians whose work we will read in this course as we approach American popular music as an object of cultural studies and the new, interdisciplinary field of sound studies. We will study particular performers and styles (e.g. Elvis, Billie Holiday, punk and hip hop) in the context of the histories of labor; social migration; political and economic shifts; racial ideologies; and the culture industry. Moving from the late-nineteenth-century to the present, and through agrarian to industrial to postindustrial social configurations, we will study music and extra-musical noise as a means of expressing resistance and accommodation, as the basis of community-formation and disruption. We will pay special attention to uses by American musicians and audiences of forms originating outside of American geopolitical borders in the context of global capitalism and American hegemony. Texts include works of history, cultural criticism, sound culture, and ethnomusicology; audio performance recorded in the field, in the studio, and in concert; and documentary and fiction films. [ more ]

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 407Neoliberalism: A Key Concept for Our Times

Not offered this year

Neoliberalism is, in essence, the belief that unencumbered market mechanisms will maximize prosperity and happiness. Over the past thirty years this idea has come to shape the global economy, the ways governments function, and how individuals understand themselves and their relations with other people in their lives. However, political movements around the world have challenged these principles -- pointing to growing wealth inequality, environmental destruction, and negative cultural changes that have followed the implementation of neoliberal policies. This interdisciplinary course will provide students with a detailed understanding of the concept and these ongoing debates. We will begin by tracing the rise of neoliberal thinking in the fields of economics and public policy. We will then explore its impact on American society, relying on sociological accounts of changes in welfare provision and education, as well as analyses of the political implications of reality television shows. Anthropological studies will help us assess neoliberalism's effects on the Global South. The course will conclude by looking at political movements resisting neoliberalism and asking whether the current economic crisis marks the end of this policy agenda and mode of governance. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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

Not offered this year

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 409Senior Seminar: Sentimental Empire

Not offered this year

America's expansions and interventions throughout its national life have evoked both sentiment and violence. While imperialist ventures themselves--often manifested as acts of war, although not exclusively--were violent, the cultural logic and rhetoric that accompanied, represented, and remembered them embraced sentimental language and imagery. Our course examines this apparent contradiction of U.S. imperialism to ask whether and how the sentimental has not only masked but also supplemented and enabled violence of empire. We will also consider how sentiment and violence together function as ways to govern and discipline empire and its subjects. Our scope will include specific sites and histories (including but not limited to westward expansion, Philippine-American war, Cold War) as well as broader theoretical perspectives and implications through engagement with contemporary American Studies scholarship on U.S. empire. This class reflects the aims of the Exploring Diversity Initiative by critically reconsidering the operations of power and management of difference as they have been shaped and enabled by ideology and culture. [ more ]

AMST 410American Avant Garde Poetry Since 1950

Not offered this year

This course examines American poetry from what one critic has called "the other side of the century"--the lineage of poetry descending from two Modernist forebears, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. Focusing on experimental poetry since 1950, we will read poems and essays by those working in Black Mountain, New York School, Beat, Black Arts, Language, Conceptual, Flarf, and digital poetries and poetics. [ more ]

AMST 411(F)Transnationalism and Difference: Comparative Perspectives

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 412(F)Latina/o Collectivities: Family, Community, Nation

This seminar will interrogate the three scales of belonging and un-belonging that are the family, the community, and the nation. Each of these, as social constructions, are sights of contestation and cooperation. Students endeavor to understand the everyday identifications made by the Latina/o subject through these scales. The central questions of the course will be: How has the family, the community, and the nation been utilized by Latina/o subjects and towards what ends? What are the social, political, economic, and affective possibilities and limitations within such practices of belonging? How do these possibilities and limitations emerge within the Latina/o condition? What alternative modes of Latina/o social belonging and/or political collectivity can we imagine? As a senior seminar, emphasis will be placed on students generating and leading discussion of a range of both foundational texts as well as current monographs. Readings will include primary writings from Jose Marti, Jose Vasconcelos, and Elizabeth Martinez; theoretical foundations from Benedict Anderson, Miranda Joseph, Kath Weston, Paul Gilroy, Patricia Hill Collins, and Friedrich Engels; and contemporary, critical Latina/o scholarship with an emphasis on literary, sociological, and cultural analyses from Richard T. Rodriguez, Marisel C. Moreno, Gilda L. Ochoa, and David J. Vazquez. This course will be of particular interest and use to those students engaged with Latina/o Studies, American Studies, Literary Studies, and/or Queer Theory. It also falls under the critical theorization theme for the Exploring Diversity Initiative through its comparative analysis of collectivities across differences within and beyond Latina/o peoples. [ more ]

AMST 415Edward Said

Not offered this year

Edward Said (1935-2003), one of the major critics of the last century, is best known for his groundbreaking 1978 book Orientalism, which inaugurated the field of postcolonial studies, and for his activist work on behalf of the Palestinian peoples. But his intellectual interests were wide-ranging: from French literary theory to Vico to Middle East politics to Glenn Gould. A true public intellectual, Said was a rarity among university academics. Besides writing several important scholarly books, he also wrote for various non-academic publications, such as The Nation, Al-Ahram, and The London Review of Books; co-founded, with the musician Daniel Barenboim, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra; and, from 1977-1991, served as a member of the Palestinian National Council. In this course, we will focus on works that represent different, though interconnected, facets of Said's oeuvre: his more strictly literary critical work (Beginnings and The World, The Text, and the Critic), his work on society and culture (Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism), his writings on the Palestinian question and the Middle East (The Question of Palestine, Covering Islam, From Oslo to Iraq), his writings on music (Parallels and Paradoxes co-authored with Daniel Barenboim), and his late work (On Late Style). We will also examine criticism of his work--Orientalism in particular. [ more ]

AMST 416(S)U.S. Settler Colonialism and Empire

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

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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 462Art of California: Pacific Standard Time

Not offered this year

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. Class meetings and projects at the Williams College Museum of Art will provide the opportunity to see and study artworks first hand, especially with the exhibition Now Dig This!: Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980, which will be on display at WCMA during the fall semester. 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 465(S)Race and Abstraction

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 478(S)Cold War Landscapes

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 ]