American Studies

An innovative department with 15 core faculty and 12 affiliated faculty members, American Studies explores the culture and politics of the United States, and the role of the United States in the world. The department is committed to analytical perspectives that integrate a range of disciplinary approaches, including history, literary/cultural studies, political and cultural theory, political economy, material culture studies, performance studies, and ethnography. Faculty and students analyze questions of race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of power in American life; transnational flows of culture, ideas and religious beliefs; the development and transformation of public cultures and spaces; and the ways that policy interacts with each of these areas of inquiry. Our faculty produces world-class scholarship and is committed to bringing that scholarship to a large public. At both the graduate and undergraduate level, we prepare students for careers in academic and popular education, media, journalism, cultural resource management, museums, and preservation, as well as for further education in law, medicine, academia, and elsewhere

University professor V.N. Gamble

Professors R.W. Longstreth, J.A. Miller, G. Wald

Associate Professors T.A. Murphy, M. McAlister (Chair), C. Heap, T. Guglielmo, J.K. Kosek, S. Osman, E. Peña

Assistant Professors E. Anker, J. Nash, C.L. Warren, J.N. Cohen-Cole, D. Orenstein

Professorial Lecturers R.D. Wagner, O. Ridout, F. Goodyear, N.E. Davis, K. Ott, J. Deutsch

Explanation of Course Numbers

  • Courses in the 1000s are primarily introductory undergraduate courses
  • Those in the 2000–4000s are upper-division undergraduate courses that can also be taken for graduate credit with permission and additional work
  • Those in the 6000s and 8000s are for master’s, doctoral, and professional-level students
  • The 6000s are open to advanced undergraduate students with approval of the instructor and the dean or advising office

AMST 1000. Dean's Seminar. 3 Credits.

AMST 1050. Explorations in American Culture. 0-3 Credits.

Exploration of different aspects of American culture depending on the topic. Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

AMST 1070. The American Cinema. 3 Credits.

History and criticism of American films. The course enables the student to recognize and evaluate cinema techniques, to express the evaluation clearly in writing, and to understand the role of films in the context of American culture. Laboratory fee. Same as AH 1070.

AMST 1100. Politics and Film. 0-3 Credits.

How American films interpret and challenge political power in America.

AMST 1160. Race, Gender and Law. 0-3 Credits.

Significant civil rights cases, critical race theory, feminist theory, and current public policy debates on domestic violence, mass imprisonment, sexual assault, and racial profiling.

AMST 1200. The Sixties in America. 3 Credits.

A survey of American society, culture, and politics during the decade of the 1960s. Topics include the civil rights movement, the student movement, the Vietnam War, and the counterculture.

AMST 2010. Early American Cultural History. 3 Credits.

How culture was important in the creation of the United States—in its origins as a colonial outpost and its expansion across the continent; in its hierarchies and expressions of power, especially as organized by race, class, ethnicity, or gender; in the creation of democracy and the valuing of free expression; and in the development of cities and the varied uses of the countryside. Same as HIST 2010.

AMST 2011. Modern American Cultural History. 3 Credits.

The effects of culture in the shaping of the United States since 1876. The role of the mass media; effects of cultural conceptions on the physical landscape; changing ideas of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality; and the political meanings of cultural conflict. Transnational influences on U.S. culture and effects of U.S. culture abroad. Same as HIST 2011.

AMST 2020. Washington, D.C.: History, Culture, and Politics. 0-3 Credits.

Introduction to interdisciplinary methods of studying the contemporary city. Major problems of metropolitan life, past and present, analyzed by faculty and community leaders. Emphasis on experiential team projects. Same as HIST 2020.

AMST 2020W. Washington, D.C.: History, Culture, and Politics. 0-3 Credits.

Introduction to interdisciplinary methods of studying the contemporary city. Major problems of metropolitan life, past and present, analyzed by faculty and community leaders. Emphasis on experiential team projects. Same as HIST 2020.

AMST 2071. Introduction to the Arts in America. 3 Credits.

A survey of American art from the period of colonial exploration and settlement to the postmodern present. Political and social meanings of painting, sculpture, architecture, prints, and photographs. The relationship of art to religion and nationalism; issues of class, race, and gender. Same as AH 2071.

AMST 2120. Freedom in American Thought and Popular Culture. 0-3 Credits.

AMST 2120W. Freedom in American Thought and Popular Culture. 0-3 Credits.

America was founded on the premise of providing freedom to its people. But what, exactly, is freedom? The question has been debated in America since its founding and continues today; this course examines varied answers provided by American political thought and popular culture. Same as PSC 2120.

AMST 2125. Varieties of Feminist Theory. 3 Credits.

Classical and contemporary texts on feminist explanations of women’s status. Relationships within the sex/gender system and arrangements based on class and race. Evaluation, through the lens of feminist theory, of several academic disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Same as WSTU 2125. Prerequisite: WSTU 1020 or WSTU 2120 or permission of instructor.

AMST 2144. Explorations in Historical Geography. 3 Credits.

Examination of selected themes in the cultural geography of the United States over the course of its history, in relation to an overview of the historical geography of the country. Same as GEOG 2144.

AMST 2320. U.S. Media and Cultural History. 3 Credits.

History and analysis of 20th-century U.S. media and culture, including the rise of consumer culture, film, and television. Racial, gendered, and national identities in the context of modernism, mass culture, and globalization. Same as HIST 2320.

AMST 2350. U.S. Religion and Politics. 3 Credits.

How religion and politics have influenced each other in the United States and how Americans have understood those influences. Religious violence; conflicts between faith and science; religious factors in racial and gender politics; and the separation of church and state. Same as HIST 2350.

AMST 2380. Sexuality in US History. 3 Credits.

Examination of the changing social organization and meaning of sexual practices and desires in American culture, with particular attention to the relationship between sexuality and gendered racial and class identities and politics. Same as HIST 2380/ WSTU 2380.

AMST 2410. 20th-Century U.S. Immigration. 3 Credits.

Survey of immigration policy and immigrants’ lives. How immigrants have changed the United States and how the United States has changed immigrants. Same as HIST 2410.

AMST 2440. The American City. 3 Credits.

An interdisciplinary introduction to the ethnic, cultural, political, and architectural landscape of the American city. Urban theory, race and ethnicity, urban history, planning and architecture, city politics, and cultural representations of the city. Same as HIST 2440.

AMST 2490. Themes in U.S. Cultural History. 3 Credits.

Topical examination of the ideas, values, and modes of expression that have made American life distinctive, as revealed through a cross-cultural or global perspective. Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs. Same as HIST 2490.

AMST 2490W. Themes in U.S. Cultural History. 3 Credits.

Topical examination of the ideas, values, and modes of expression that have made American life distinctive, as revealed through a cross-cultural or global perspective. Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs. Same as HIST 2490.

AMST 2495. Special Topics in African American History. 3 Credits.

Concentration on specific issues central to the African American experience. Consult the Schedule of Classes for issues to be addressed.

AMST 2520. American Architecture I. 3 Credits.

Stylistic properties, form and type characteristics, technological developments, and urbanistic patterns are introduced as a means of interpretation of historic meaning. Buildings are analyzed both as artifacts and as signifiers of social, cultural, and economic tendencies. 1600–1860. Same as AH 2154.

AMST 2521. American Architecture II. 3 Credits.

Continuation of AMST 2520. Stylistic properties, form and type characteristics, technological developments, and urbanistic patterns are introduced as a means of interpretation of historic meaning. Buildings are analyzed both as artifacts and as signifiers of social, cultural, and economic tendencies. 1860–present. Same as AH 2155.

AMST 2533. Material Culture in America. 3 Credits.

Review and analysis of the cultural messages embedded in our material surroundings. Consideration of a range of humanly created artifacts, ranging from specific objects to vast landscapes. Same as ANTH 2533.

AMST 2710. The United States in Global Context, 1898–Present. 0-3 Credits.

How the 20th- and 21st-century U.S. has been engaged globally, both politically and culturally, with attention to global culture, transnational ideas and social movements, foreign policy, and economic transformations. Same as HIST 2710.

AMST 2730. World War II in History and Memory. 0-3 Credits.

Examination of Americans’ histories and memories of World War II. Same as HIST 2730.

AMST 2730W. World War II in History and Memory. 0-3 Credits.

Examination of Americans’ histories and memories of World War II. Same as HIST 2730.

AMST 2750. Latinos in the United States. 0-3 Credits.

AMST 2750W. Latinos in the United States. 0-3 Credits.

Exploration of the term Latino and its impact on discussions of race, identity, and citizenship expectations throughout U.S. history. How geographic, linguistic, aesthetic, political, and economic factors construct Latino identity and influence policymaking and international relations. Same as ANTH 2750.

AMST 3151. American Art in the Age of Revolution. 3 Credits.

Same as AH 3151.

AMST 3324. US Urban History. 3 Credits.

History of American urban life and culture from the colonial era to the present, focusing on transitions from pre-industrial to industrial and post-industrial forms. The social and spatial configuration of U.S. cities, and the urban politics of race, class, and gender. Same as HIST 3324.

AMST 3350. US Social History. 3 Credits.

AMST 3350: Daily life, institutions, intellectual and artistic achievements of the agrarian era, 16071861. AMST 3351: The urban-industrial era from 1861 to present. Same as Hist 3350-3351.

AMST 3351. US Social History. 0-3 Credits.

The urban–industrial era from 1861 to present. Same as HIST 3351.

AMST 3352. Women in the United States to 1865. 3 Credits.

Survey of women’s experience in U.S. history, the way gender has organized relations of power, and the impact of race, region, class, and ethnicity on women and on gender roles. (Same as HIST 3352, WSTU 3352).

AMST 3352W. Women in the United States. 3 Credits.

Survey of women’s experience in U.S. history, the way gender has organized relations of power, and the impact of race, region, class, and ethnicity on women and on gender roles. Same as HIST 3352/ WSTU 3352.

AMST 3353. Women in the United States II. 3 Credits.

Continuation of AMST 3352. Survey of women’s experience in U.S. history, the way gender has organized relations of power, and the impact of race, region, class, and ethnicity on women and on gender roles. Same as HIST 3353/ WSTU 3353.

AMST 3360. African American History I. 3 Credits.

Survey of the African American experience, emphasizing the contributions of black Americans to and their impact upon American history. Same as HIST 3360.

AMST 3361. African American History II. 3 Credits.

Continuation of AMST 3360. Survey of the African American experience, emphasizing the contributions of black Americans to and their impact upon American history. Same as HIST 3361.

AMST 3362. Black Women in U.S. History. 3 Credits.

Black women from the Middle Passage to contemporary times. Same as HIST 3362/WSTU 3362.

AMST 3362W. Black Women in U.S. History. 3 Credits.

Black women from the Middle Passage to contemporary times. Same as HIST 3362/WSTU 3362.

AMST 3810. Planning Cities. 3 Credits.

An examination of historical and contemporary trends and dynamics in urban planning in the United States and abroad. Same as GEOG 3810. Prerequisite: GEOG 1001.

AMST 3811. Historical Archaeology. 3 Credits.

Survey of the basic data and methods of research in the material culture of recent history. Same as ANTH 3811.

AMST 3835. Historical Archaeology Field Program. 3 Credits.

Practical experience with a variety of excavation and laboratory techniques in historical archaeology; specific site and topics announced in the Schedule of Classes. Same as ANTH 3835.

AMST 3900. Critiquing Culture. 3 Credits.

Modes of analysis, including ethnography and other cultural studies methods, applied to examination of the interaction of cultural texts and practices with structures of power. Theories and themes central to American studies; scholarly debate about mass culture, ideology, visuality, discourse, and affect. For departmental majors; minors admitted with permission of instructor.

AMST 3900W. Cultural Criticism in America. 3 Credits.

Modes of analysis, including ethnography and other cultural studies methods, applied to examination of the interaction of cultural texts and practices with structures of power. Theories and themes central to American studies; scholarly debate about mass culture, ideology, visuality, discourse, and affect. For departmental majors; minors admitted with permission of instructor.

AMST 3901. Examining America. 3 Credits.

Modes of power and forms of identification within and across U.S. national borders. Social constructions of the nation; forms of diversity and identity, such as race, gender, and sexuality; and the transnational flow of people, ideas, culture, and religion. For departmental majors; minors admitted with permission of instructor.

AMST 3950. Special Topics. 3 Credits.

May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs. Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes.

AMST 3950W. Special Topics. 3 Credits.

May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs. Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes.

AMST 4400. Independent Study. 1-3 Credits.

Open to a limited number of American studies majors as directed research or as an internship with a Washington museum or historical society. Approval of advisor required.

AMST 4450. Internship. 1-3 Credits.

Open to a limited number of American studies majors pursuing an internship directly related to the study of American culture. Students must make the case for a scholarly project that emerges from the internship and must write a significant final paper. Approval of a supervising faculty member required for registration. P/NP grading only.

AMST 4500. Proseminar in American Studies. 3 Credits.

For American studies majors. Directed research and writing on special topics. Prerequisite: at least two of the required courses for the major (AMST 2010, AMST 2011, AMST 3900, AMST 3901). May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

AMST 4500W. Proseminar in American Studies. 3 Credits.

For American studies majors. Directed research and writing on special topics. Prerequisite: at least two of the required courses for the major (AMST 2010, AMST 2011, AMST 3900, AMST 3901). May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

AMST 4510. Senior Honors Thesis. 3 Credits.

AMST 5701. Selected Topics. 0-4 Credits.

AMST 5701W. Selected Topics. 0-4 Credits.

AMST 6100. Scope and Methods in American Studies. 3 Credits.

Consideration of American studies as an area for research and teaching; introduction to bibliography. Required of candidates for the degree of Master of Arts in the field of American studies.

AMST 6110. Cultural Theory and American Studies. 3 Credits.

Major issues in critical and cultural theory as they relate to American culture. Various interpretive approaches including discourse analysis, cultural studies, new historicism, anthropological theory, etc. Prerequisite: AMST 6100 or permission of instructor.

AMST 6120. Theories and Practices in the Study of Media. 3 Credits.

Examination of theories and methods in the study of media and popular culture; case studies explore specific issues related to cultural products such as film, television, music, and the Internet.

AMST 6190. Topics in American Studies. 3 Credits.

May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

AMST 6195. Research Seminar in American Studies. 3 Credits.

May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

AMST 6210. The United States in a Global Context. 3 Credits.

Analysis of the cultural constructions of the nation and international power, comparing the context of the 18th and 19th century, European colonialism, and U.S. expansion in the 20th century. The role of literature and mass media in furthering the logic of globalization. Readings are both theoretical and historical.

AMST 6410. Readings in American Cultural History. 3 Credits.

Studies in the cultural history of the United States.

AMST 6420. Religion & American Culture. 3 Credits.

Interdisciplinary analysis of religious beliefs, practices, and representations in the United States, as well as intersections of the religious and the secular. Relationships of religion to race, gender, capitalism, science, mass media, and material culture. Same as HIST 6420.

AMST 6430. Gender, Sexuality, and American Culture. 3 Credits.

AMST 6431. Gender, Sexuality, and American Culture. 3 Credits.

Continuation of AMST 6430. The changing social organization, cultural representation, and meaning of gender and sexuality in the United States, with emphasis on their relationship to race, class, region, nationality, empire, and globalization. 1877 to present. Same as HIST 6431/ WSTU 6431.

AMST 6435. Readings on Women in American History. 3 Credits.

Important works in American women’s history; evolution of the field in historiographical context. Same as HIST 6435/ WSTU 6435.

AMST 6450. Race in America. 3 Credits.

Interdisciplinary analysis of the history of race and its changing political, social, and cultural meanings in the United States. Transnational racial formations, struggles for and against civil rights, multiracialism, and interracialism. Same as HIST 6450.

AMST 6455. American Social Movements. 3 Credits.

The history of social movements in the United States, with emphasis on civil rights, feminism, conservatism, and labor in local, national, and transnational contexts; the historical rise and fall of these movements and their larger impact on American life. Same as HIST 6455.

AMST 6470. Cityscapes. 3 Credits.

Interdisciplinary examination of the American city, including urban theory, history, planning, architecture, urban politics, and cultural representations of the city. Same as HIST 6470.

AMST 6475. US Urban History. 3 Credits.

History of American urban life and culture from the Colonial era to the present, focusing on the transitions from pre-industrial to industrial and post-industrial forms, the social and spatial configuration of U.S. cities, and the urban politics of race, class, and gender. Same as HIST 6475.

AMST 6480. Theory and Practice of Public History. 3 Credits.

Theoretical and practical dimensions of public history, as illustrated by recent controversies surrounding public exhibitions and debates on revisionist history as well as more traditional means of presenting the past in public forums. Same as HIST 6480.

AMST 6495. Historic Preservation: Principles and Methods. 3 Credits.

The scope and purpose of the preservation movement in the United States, with focus on developments since the 1960s. Preservation theories, attitudes toward the past and toward design, the intent and impact of legislation, approaches to documentation, the concept of significance, and preservation as an instrument of change. Same as HIST 6495.

AMST 6496. Historic Preservation: Principles and Methods. 3 Credits.

Continuation of AMST 6495. The scope and purpose of the preservation movement in the United States, with focus on developments since the 1960s. Preservation theories, attitudes toward the past and toward design, the intent and impact of legislation, approaches to documentation, the concept of significance, and preservation as an instrument of change. Same as HIST 6496.

AMST 6520. Economics of Preservation. 3 Credits.

Analysis of economic techniques and benefits used to encourage the retention and reuse of historic buildings and districts in the United States. Emphasis on revitalization of older commercial centers and the Mainstreet program. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

AMST 6525. The Politics of Historic Preservation. 3 Credits.

Overview of the political issues, forces, events, and players that have shaped contemporary preservation practice, with an emphasis on public policy issues that have not been resolved and continue to confront preservation objectives. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

AMST 6530. Field Methods in Architectural Documentation. 3 Credits.

In-depth thematic examination of cultural landscape, focusing on field techniques for recording, analysis, and interpretation of historic properties. Work at field sites is supplemented by lectures, discussion, and readings.

AMST 6550. Seminar in American Architecture. 3 Credits.

Advanced research problems addressing artistic, cultural, social, technical, and urbanistic aspects of American architecture in the 19th and 20th centuries. Topics vary. Prerequisite: AMST 2520 or AMST 2521 , or permission of instructor.

AMST 6560. Vernacular Architecture. 3 Credits.

AMST 6561. Seminar:American Folklife. 3 Credits.

Research and discussion on the traditional cultures of various geographical regions of the United States. Analysis of folk art, craft, and architecture; regional and ethnic identities. Same as ANTH 6561.

AMST 6562. Folklore Theory. 3 Credits.

An intellectual history of American folklore research; analysis of particular theories and methods. Same as ANTH 6562.

AMST 6563. Topics in American Folklife. 3 Credits.

A seminar devoted to a variety of subjects related to folklore and folklife, such as public folklore policy, folk music, or ethnic folklore and culture. Specific topic to be determined by the interests of available faculty and the needs of the folklife program.

AMST 6709. Interpretation in the Historic House Museum. 3 Credits.

Seminar integrating advanced practices of museum education with current scholarship in architectural history, material culture, and social history. Extensive use of Washington museum resources. Admission by permission of instructor. Same as EDUC 6709.

AMST 6710. American Material Culture. 3 Credits.

Opportunities for research and publication based on historical objects in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution.

AMST 6720. American Decorative Arts I. 3 Credits.

Recognition and evaluation of domestic artifacts from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

AMST 6721. American Decorative Arts II. 3 Credits.

Continuation of AMST 6720. Recognition and evaluation of domestic artifacts from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

AMST 6730. Studies in American Art and History. 3 Credits.

Selected problems and themes in American cultural history involving the use of artistic materials in different media; emphasis on methodology and analytic techniques. May be repeated for credit. Same as AH 6255.

AMST 6835. Historical Archaeology Field Program. 3 Credits.

Practical experience with a variety of excavation and laboratory techniques in historical archaeology; specific site and topics announced in the Schedule of Classes. Same as ANTH 6835.

AMST 6930. Independent Study. 3 Credits.

Limited to master’s and doctoral candidates. Written permission of instructor required.

AMST 6998. Thesis Research. 3 Credits.

AMST 6999. Thesis Research. 3 Credits.

AMST 8998. Advanced Reading and Research. 3-9 Credits.

Limited to students preparing for the Doctor of Philosophy general examination. May be repeated for credit.

AMST 8999. Dissertation Research. 3-12 Credits.

Limited to Doctor of Philosophy candidates. May be repeated for credit.