The Department of American Studies is one of the most renowned American Studies departments in the country. In 2007, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s "Faculty Productivity Scholarly Index" for top research universities listed American Studies at Minnesota as second in the entire field. Indeed the work of our faculty has garnered acclaim both nationally and internationally, shaping conversations in fields such as American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Queer Studies, Women’s Studies, Film Studies, Jewish Studies, History, Anthropology, Literature, and Sociology.
In its most recent interdisciplinary experiment, the department has trained its skills on evolving what has become known within the larger field of American Studies as "post-nationalist American Studies." Popularized by the eponymous anthology in the year 2000, proponents of this iteration of American Studies called for a redoubling of the field’s efforts to think beyond the geopolitical and historical parameters of the U.S. nation-state and called for work with a transnational fluency. In the year 2001, the faculty within American Studies decided that we would make "post-nationalist American Studies" the center of our departmental vision. Uppermost on the departmental mind was how to institutionalize that interest in the domains of curricula, graduate recruitment, publishing and hiring. Soon thereafter faculty within the department reshaped our curricula at the graduate and undergraduate levels, redesigned our admissions and hiring priorities, and retailored our scholarly pursuits to boldly engage and direct the field’s new direction.
Despite the sometimes fragile nature of this interdisciplinary errand, it has allowed us to generate a departmental climate that—at the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels—models a dynamic engagement with the histories and literatures of various fields. The point of this interdisciplinary direction is to produce an American Studies that is not passive or imitative but one that is self-initiated. This interdisciplinary iteration is our way of saying to students and faculty—in a paraphrase of James Baldwin—that the disciplines and interdisciplines are stretched out here before you and you needn’t take them or leave them the way they were before you came in.