Core Research Strengths
Undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with faculty on internationally recognized research in the department’s specialty areas. Through an in-depth exploration of topics relating to culture, race, ethnicity, politics and citizenship, urban studies, gender and sexuality, religion and transnational impact, we are making new inroads on understanding how people live and interact with one another.
Cultural history and cultural studies are integral to nearly all our research. Faculty and students examine the cultural practices and lived experiences of an array of American communities, as well as the creative cultural productions of individuals and groups. Drawing on film and visual studies, media history, popular culture and cultural theory, our work also explores the relationship between cultural texts and U.S. society and politics more broadly.
American Studies has an extraordinary range of faculty and students who explore issues of race, ethnicity and power in their work. We have particular strengths in African American studies and the African diaspora, but our research touches on most aspects of race in the United States and our attention to this topic shapes nearly every other aspect of our program.
Politics and citizenship is central to coursework in American Studies, as the study of democracy, power, nation-building, freedom and “the people” influences nearly all other core research areas. Research and teaching in this area include foundational concepts in political theory, practices of citizenship and belonging, contemporary political events and the history of social movements and political economy.
The study of space and place, especially in U.S. cities, is a key component in much of our scholarship. Faculty and student research highlights the workings of urban culture, U.S. architectural history and the role of the built environment in shaping American life.
We examine topics relating to gender and sexuality from a historical, sociological or cultural studies perspective. Borrowing insights from queer studies, women’s history, feminist theory and the cultural history of the body, our faculty and students demonstrate that an examination of sexual and gender identities and desires is central to understanding American history and culture.
The Department of American Studies is nationally recognized for its scholarship on religion in the United States and the Americas. Our approach centers on the performance of religious identity and community, as these are constituted in a range of local and global sites.
The study of public culture and the politics of performance ties together many of our department’s interests in cultural history, politics and theory. Faculty and students work from interdisciplinary perspectives, combining ethnography, political theory, historiography and cultural studies to explore a broad range of self-fashioning and community-making practices, as well as examine how stories we tell about ourselves are conveyed through the media, museums and a range of other public forums.
Because of our location in the global city of Washington, D.C., faculty and students are deeply embedded in conversations about the role of the United States in the world. Our research highlights the transnational processes that have shaped the lived experiences of people within and beyond the United States, as well as the many ways that global flows of people, cultures and power are challenging and reworking the presumed centrality of the nation.