The Department of American Studies in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota focuses on the interdisciplinary study of American culture(s). Students are trained to study U.S. cultures and their interactions. Students and faculty work in a variety of academic specialties, including literature, sociology, anthropology, geography, cultural studies, art history, urban studies, political science, women's studies, and the history of science. In addition, the Department of American Studies maintains a strong commitment to multicultural scholarship. We maintain important ties to African American Studies, Chicano Studies, American Indian Studies, and Asian American Studies. This handbook provides American Studies students with a road map describing our mission, our curriculum, our faculty, and our major.
The Major in American Studies is an interdisciplinary and comparative program of study that addresses the U.S. as the outcome of historical processes that are both national in contour and also global in scope. Such processes include migration, labor accumulation, land acquisition, cultural dissemination, implications of U.S. laws and policies, and identity formations around gender, sexuality, and race.
As an interdisciplinary enterprise, American Studies is not merely characterized by the accumulation of knowledge from different disciplines. It is the arena within which fields in the social sciences and humanities are re-imagined in coherent interrelationships. Students and faculty study within a variety of academic settings, which might include literature, history, sociology, anthropology, geography, cultural studies, art history, urban studies, political science and women’s studies. As a comparative enterprise, we study the U.S. in relation to other nations and cultures around the globe.
The Department of American Studies also includes the minor in Asian American Studies and cooperates with the Departments of African American and African Studies, American Indian Studies, Chicano Studies and Jewish Studies to make it possible for students to concentrate their work in one of those cultural areas.
The study of America within a global context invites you to understand society from multiple perspectives over time and space. You will learn how to address complex questions about the dynamics that have shaped Americans and the nation-race, culture, religion, economy, arts, ideas, music, and politics, as well as the ways in which the United States has attempted to shape other nations through war, economics and mass culture. Studying American Studies gives you the skills, perspective and context you need in order to live in a pluralistic and global world. Because of the uniqueness of our major, you can apply the skills gained from a degree in American Studies to all the disciplines, using those skills to negotiate a variety of perspectives. To this end, we train our majors to live, think, and work in a global world that demands not only experts but people who think critically, multiculturally, and creatively. That means considering issues of diversity and equity. We in American Studies meet that challenge by teaching you to apply the knowledge gained in our department to all spheres of your life. To accomplish these objectives our majors take foundational courses and then select a cluster of courses from throughout the College of Liberal Arts as well as American Studies giving students the opportunity to address problems that interest them.
The American Studies major is part of the liberal arts curriculum at the University. Like other liberal arts majors, it educates students to think globally, critically, and multiculturally. In American Studies, specifically, "thinking globally, critically, and multiculturally" means situating the United States within transnational processes around culture, migration, work, and commerce. The Department's policy of requiring students to take several courses in diverse fields also allows them to pursue their professional and intellectual interests without disciplinary restrictions. Consequently, our alumni apply the knowledge gained from American Studies to many different fields. Some are teachers in secondary or post-secondary education. Others pursue careers in business, law or medicine. Still others work in the world of museums as curators or consultants; or in government as administrators, researchers, or social workers, or in politics. We count among our alumni musicians, visual artists, historians, American studies scholars, writers and entertainers. American Studies provides a solid foundation for post-graduate study and for careers in many fields.