Graduate Program in American Studies

Interdisciplinary Fields

Race, Ethnicity, and Modern Society
Urban Cultures
Cultural History and Artistic Production
The United States within a Global Context
The Operations of Social Institutions
Women’s and Gender Studies

Race, Ethnicity and the Modern Society
In this area of specialization students explore how notions of race and ethnicity are socially and historically constructed. Grounded in the theoretical frameworks supplied by fields such as sociology, anthropology, history, cultural studies, political science, and urban studies, courses examine the ways that race and ethnicity are historicized and systematized, as well as contested. Students analyze theories and definitions of race, ethnicity, and race relations, and how theories and concepts have changed over time. They study intersections among race, ethnicity, class, and gender as they are experienced on both individual and collective levels. Students explore how the media, music, literature, and the arts have formulated and transformed concepts of race. Race and ethnicity are examined, as well, in the contexts of contemporary debates on globalization, international migration, and immigration. How do social, political, and economic transformations affect ideologies of citizenship, whether at global, national or local scales? How does the emergence of global cities complicate ideas of citizenship?

Urban Culture
This specialization examines urban social structures, processes, and cultures from an interdisciplinary perspective. Drawing upon sociology, history, political science, economics, literature, and the arts, the concentration explores the historical development of cities, their social fabric, political-economic structures, and group dynamics. Students examine urban environments as places of both consensual and conflictual group relations, based upon social class, race, ethnicity, and gender. They study the relationships among urban social structure, urban institutions, and group interactions, especially with respect to political power, wealth, and social status, and the ways in which struggles among groups are related to urban change. Special attention is given to how changing demographics result in conflict and change in the urban environment, as well as how multiple cultural groups co-exist in urban environments. Students examine the diversity of cultural groups and cultural forms, including the music, art, language, and rituals manifest within urban life. They explore the ecology of cities, including issues of ethnic concentrations and neighborhood organization, the effects of demographic change through immigration and migration, and the impact of urban architecture, design, and transportation systems on the urban environment.

Cultural History and Artistic Production
This concentration is predicated upon the idea that an understanding of the relationship between a people and their cultural production is a vital one for any society. This is particularly true of United States, a country with a relatively brief, but dynamic, history and a broad array of influences stemming from the many ethnic, racial, and national groups that helped form and continue to inform its national fabric. Students study the relationship between cultural production and American society as well as contemporary trends and themes. Areas that are examined include the important role literature has played in shaping America's understanding of itself, the evolution of the fine arts and design from its beginnings to its leadership role in today's world, and the interface between urban life and popular culture. Similarly, American theater and music (particularly the unique place of jazz and the American musical) are examined, as is the role of the media, particularly television, in defining American society to both its citizens and the broader world.

The United States within a Global Context
The United States cannot be studied fully without seeing its political, economic, and cultural histories within a global framework. Since all of its inhabitants could trace their immediate or ancestral roots to other societies and nations, all aspects of American society manifest the global composite nature of its development. As an emergent world power during the last century–the purportedly “American” century–that now finds itself inextricably bound to a global, transnational system, the United States exerts tremendous influence on and is influenced by many economic, social, and cultural forces arising outside its geographic boundaries. Approaching these issues through the disciplines of the social science and humanities, students study multiple aspects of this global context, among them local, national, and transnational political, ethical, and legal issues; immigration and global movements of peoples; and the international effects of the exportation of American culture and the cultural hybridity within America resulting from the importation and appropriation of global and local artistic and behavioral practices.

The Operations of Social Institutions
This interdisciplinary field encourages scholarship in the social and cultural effects that the structures of social organization have on American life. Students study the historical, economic, and social foundations of governmental, corporate, and non-governmental social agencies. They engage in comparative analyses of the law and criminal justice systems, local, national, and transnational corporations, the news media, the healthcare and education systems, and local, state, and national governments.

Women's and Gender Studies
This area of concentration provides historical and theoretical perspectives on Women's and Gender Studies, both across and within disciplines and in relation to the recent developments in American Studies. Contemporary theoretical frameworks and methodologies within Women's and Gender Studies research analyze, in particular, the situation of women in American culture and life. Students work in fields as diverse as the law, philosophy, history, politics, literature, the arts, and popular culture.