Graduate Semester Course Offerings

Find the complete American Studies Department course slate on the Registrar's Schedule of Classes. Check back for more course descriptions throughout the registration period.

 


Fall 2019 Courses 

Suleiman Osman

R 5:10-7:00PM

CRN: 92073

This course is an intensive introduction to the history, debates, and methodologies that are

central to the field of American Studies. Students will analyze key texts, explore ways to

redefine the canon of American Studies scholarship, and begin to formulate ideas for future

research. This course is restricted to graduate students in American Studies.

 

Dara Orenstein

M 5:10-7:00PM

CRN: 93770

If it's the economy, stupid, then what's race got to do with it?  How has the accumulation of capital required the reproduction of race, both in and beyond the nation-state?  How has racial commodification shaped the value form of capital and the category of the human? What difference has difference made in the expansion of (and resistance to) global capitalism?  These and other questions inspire Cedric Robinson’s claim that “the development, organization, and expansion of capitalist society pursued essentially racial directions.” We will explore Robinson’s theory of “racial capitalism" in this reading-intensive seminar, first in the context of chattel slavery in the United States, and then across an array of more contemporary sites, from the prison industrial complex to domestic labor.

 

Elisabeth Anker

T 10:40-12:30PM

CRN: 98325

The topic of this year’s seminar will be “Freedom and Domination”.  Freedom is one of the most contested of political terms, and is taken to mean everything from individual self-mastery to the radically collective emancipatory overthrow of domination. This course will examine these varied interpretations of freedom, with specific focus on how the promise of freedom often, paradoxically, justifies war, domination, slavery, and oppression.  We will focus on freedom in relation to slavery, property, settler colonialism and decolonization, black feminism, indigenous political movements, and global empire. We will also examine concepts and practices of freedom that support emancipatory, world-making, and transformative action in historical and contemporary contexts. Readings to include John Locke, Karl Marx, CLR James, Saidiya Hartman, Lauren Berlant, Fred Moten, LeeAnne Simpson, Hannah Arendt, Orlando Patterson, and others.

 

Chad Heap

T 5:10-7:00PM

CRN: 97033

This graduate seminar explores the usefulness of gender and sexuality as categories of analysis in American culture. Focusing on the period since the Civil War, we will read broadly across the field of sexuality and gender studies in US social and cultural history, performance studies, ethnography, media and popular culture studies, and critical theory. We will examine the roles that gender and sexuality have played in shaping American culture from the late- nineteenth to the early-twenty-first century; the extent to which modernity and postmodernity gave rise to new categories of sexual and gender identity and experience; and the historically shifting meanings and cultural representations that have marked sexual difference. We will pay particular attention to the intersection of gender and sexuality with race, class, religion, citizenship, and the body; the spatial organization of gender and sexuality in relation to the city, the suburbs, the state, and globalization; and the role that cultural discourses and products— possibly including music, television, film, print media, stage performances, medicine, science, and the law—play in shaping the popular understanding of sexuality and gender and vice versa.

 

Katherine Ott

W 1:30-3:30

CRN: 91831

The world is populated by things. The objects that surround us are as strange, lovable, and scary as the people. People have always used objects to learn about and integrate themselves into the human community. This course explores the world of material culture -- where things come from, why they are made the way they are, their afterlife in recycling and regifting, and how we value them or not. Using history, we'll explore the major theories, issues and diverse viewpoints and practices in the field of material culture. And we meet at the Smithsonian. 

David Bjelajac

T 02:30PM - 05:00PM

CRN: 97034

The development of art history as a discipline from the eighteenth century to the present. An investigation of different art historical methodologies, including formal analysis, iconological, feminist, Marxist, semiotic and deconstructivist approaches.

Spring 2019 Courses

James Deutsch

Monday 6:10-8:00

CRN: 47295

This graduate-level seminar will explore the intellectual history of the academic field of folklore and folklife study in the United States. It will trace the rise of interpretation starting in the second half of the nineteenth century and conclude with contemporary times. Student presentations and discussions will focus on key figures in folklore theory whose careers illustrate particular interpretive techniques and positions. In addition to participation in class discussions, students will be expected to write a seminar paper (20-25 pages) on some aspect of American folklore scholarship and practice. The specific topic for the seminar paper will be selected in consultation with the instructor. The class will meet at a Smithsonian Institution facility near L'Enfant Plaza SW.

Amber Musser

Tuesday 6:10-8:00

CRN: 47296

This seminar brings together theoretical texts to examine the issue of precarity as a biopolitical formation. This means understanding precarity as a form of structural vulnerability enabled and sustained by neoliberalism, racialization, gender, and sexuality. In order to plumb the complex theoretical and political dimensions of precarity, we will focus on recent texts in affect studies, queer of color critique, and black studies in order to compare and contrast relations to queer theory, methodological commitments, and analyses of biopolitics.

Jamie Cohen-Cole

Friday 11:10-1:00

CRN: 42131

This is a research seminar in which students will write original research papers on an aspect of the cultural role of science, technology and/or medicine (STM) in America. STM has been, variously, a repository of truth and political authority, a means of imagining futures, a source of values, and site of conflict. If STM fields and their products have loomed large in American culture – even, to some, defining it – these fields have not been unmoved movers. The fields are subject to cultural and political forces and themselves have internal subcultures that are accessible to cultural critique just as much as any other aspect of American life. Thus a premise of the class is that STM and American culture, society, and politics mutually constitute one another. In writing original research papers, students may rely on sources ranging from archival materials to literary fiction, visual media, and/or material culture. We will begin by reading exemplary secondary articles that illustrate methods for the cultural analysis of STM. In certain cases, the best expression of methods has been written by historians who have looked at earlier periods. In those instances, we will examine both the methodological exemplars and the studies on American science. Students will then engage in individual research projects of their own choosing that are based in primary sources and that address important scholarly issues related to the role of STM in American culture.

David Bjelajac

Tuesday 3:30-6:00

CRN: 44140

This course explores the visual arts in relation to a wide range of natural/human sciences and socio-economic, ecological phenomena. Common readings will address the manner in which artists, designers and cultural reformers variously envisioned human bodies and nature’s resources in aesthetic terms adapted to capitalist development and transcontinental, transoceanic expansion. Covering several centuries, the course considers American landscapes, seascapes and representations of the West, which privileged white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant values. In vernacular architecture, humble log cabins and elaborate log structures bore conflicting symbolic meanings. The seminar examines Transcendentalist nature religion and post-Darwinian evolutionary theories of human development involving issues of race, class and gender. Inspired by Asian, African, and Native American art, Modernist painters and sculptors cultivated primitive, pre-rational experiences, which mysteriously seemed to correspond with the new subatomic physics of nature’s invisible, alchemical energies. For neurologists and psychologists, the visual arts assumed therapeutic value in treating neurasthenia or nervous disorders caused by the urban, capitalist distancing of American civilization from its mythic rootedness as “nature’s nation”.

 


Fall 2018 Courses

Chad Heap

W, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 22263

This course is an intensive introduction to the history, debates, and methodologies that are central to the field of American Studies. Students will analyze key texts, explore ways to redefine the canon of American Studies scholarship, and begin to formulate ideas for future research. This course is restricted to graduate students in American Studies.

Melani McAlister

T, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 24191

This course examines a range of theoretical and methodological tools for the study of culture, from Marxism and semiotics to queer theory and affect studies. The course is designed to teach students about the theoretical debates that led into and out of the classical work of the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies in the 1970s and 1980s, showing how Marxism, feminism, and other frameworks helped to shape the field at its founding, then exploring the many directions that “cultural studies” has taken in the decades since. Students will read Stuart Hall, Walter Benjamin, Adorno & Horkheimer, Frederick Jameson, Roland Barthes, and Paul Gilroy, as well as Hazel Carby, E. Patrick Johnson, Donna Haraway, Jennifer Nash, Ramzi Fawaz, Inderpal Grewal, Jaspir Puar, and others.

Nicole Ivy

M, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 26932

Interdisciplinary exploration of how representations of the physical form shape and are shaped by U.S. cultural, political, social, and economic discourse. Theoretical emphasis on race, gender, sexuality, labor, ability, and class.

Suleiman Osman

R, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 26934

What is the city? How have writers, reformers, theorists, planners and everyday residents analyzed, represented and inhabited the modern metropolis? Students will read scholarship on the social and cultural history of American cities, as well as theoretical works by authors such as Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau, WEB DuBois, Doreen Massey and David Harvey.Registration restricted to graduate students.

Katherine Ott

W, 1:30–3:30

CRN: 22000

This class is an introduction to the major theories, issues, and diverse viewpoints and practices in the field of material culture. Material culture refers to the objects and artifacts that populate the tactile and visual environment. Material culture is a form of evidence poorly understood and often dismissed, yet it is the primary component of the sensory world – it is through objects and images that people learn about and integrate themselves into the human community. Material culture carries and creates meaning. Some artifacts, such as the refrigerator, the spinning wheel, and the contraceptive pill, initiate new systems and support cultural transitions. Other objects, such as a wedding ring or a judge’s gavel, convey complex symbolic meanings. Still others, such as photographs and clothing, create personal identity. We will study the range of these relationships with material things. Registration restricted to graduate students. The class is taught by a Smithsonian history curator and meets off campus; contact Professor Ott at [email protected] for location details

 



Spring 2018 Courses

Jamie Cohen-Cole

R, 12:00-2:00

CRN: 34184

It is now commonplace in popular and scholarly discourse to draw metaphors which link humans and their communities, institutions, and forms of governance to the structures of individual machines and the networks works that connect them. By providing a language to describe nature, machines, individuals, and society in common terms, the ideas of cybernetics and computers have been means of conceptual transfer that has enabled a wide range of critical theories in cultural studies including models of the "encoding and decoding" of cultural texts to ideas of post-humanness, classical and neoliberalism, the anthropocene, and object oriented ontology. In so doing, computers and information technologies have facilitated the reimagining and reordering of the individual, the social, the institutional, and the state. So too have the cybernetic and computer sciences been central to the structural evolution of the academic-military-industrial complex and reshaped established a number of disciplines across the humanities, physical, biological, social and human sciences. This course provides an introduction to the human/machine metaphor, to its applications, and of how meanings of the metaphor have varied historically based the specific sub-cultural locations of their origination, application, and interpretation.

Dara Orenstein

T, 6:30-8:20

CRN: 32275

A single book—Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains—anchors this graduate research seminar. In just the five months since its publication in June, Maclean’s intellectual and political biography of the economist James Buchanan has stirred up tremendous controversy, with its arguments and even its author's integrity debated in tweets, blogs, op-eds, petitions, and talk shows. We will work collaboratively to study the book and the furor surrounding it as a way to grapple both with the specific topics that MacLean investigates— conservatism, libertarianism, regionalism, the New South, the Beltway, the Radical Right, state violence, desegregation, white supremacy, massive resistance, education “reform” and school “choice,” think tanks, the Koch brothers—as well as with the general challenges of academic scholarship, such as how to develop a research question, how to identify and interpret primary sources, how to dialogue with other scholars, and how to distill half-baked hunches into clear, persuasive prose. The seminar will function like a laboratory, in that students will pursue individual projects as spin- offs from our collective case study. These projects will touch on MacLean’s historical concerns, however loosely, and/or will explore the meta-problem of what counts as academic authority in the age of fake news. The goal GRADUATE COURSES 2 AMST Spring 2018 will be to produce essays of 7,000-10,000 words, based on original research and intended for submission to journals, and drafts of which we will workshop with each other at the end of the semester. Midway through the semester, we will dialogue with MacLean in person.

Suleiman Osman

W,6:10-8:00

CRN: 32726

Elisabeth Anker

W, 2:00-4:00

CRN: 38199

Each year the course has a different theme, and this year it will be on neoliberalism, a political- economic-social system organized by the politics of freedom...especially the freedom of money over people. We'll ask: what are the cultural practices that have shaped the politics of neoliberalism? This class will examine the history, theory, cultural production and political imaginary of capitalism as and neoliberalism. We will emphasize the gendered and racialized forms of neoliberalism, with a focus on consumption, mass incarceration, work and welfare, the privatization of public life especially in education and politics, transnational capital, global migration, climate change, and self-help literature. The first half of the class will examine central texts for the cultural study of capitalism and neoliberalism. The second half of the class will focus on cutting-edge American Studies scholarship.

Richard Longstreth

M, 3:30-6:00

CRN: 37354

During the fifteen-year period after World War II, the shape and character of the American landscape experienced profound changes. The highly centralized organization of cities that had dominated growth patterns since the early republic began decisively to shift to more diffuse patterns.Industrial production became ever more scattered and relied on sophisticated technological processes. Corporate offices likewise were relocating into what were formerly considered rural or quasi-rural sites. Retail activities regrouped along arteries far removed from the city center. Suburban residential development occurred at an accelerated pace and for the first time lay within reach of a major segment of the populace. At the same time, the urban core was experiencing accelerated decay and became subject to massive clearance programs. Central and outlying sections alike were shaped and reshaped by massive highway construction programs. A variety of renewal programs captured the limelight, but few proved effective in reversing the prevalent trend. Design was also experiencing significant changes. Only recently cast as extreme and freakish, avant-garde modernism rose to the fore in architectural training and also in building campaigns for commerce, industry, and education. The United States now led the world in fostering a rich spectrum of approaches to design that made the environment of preceding decades seem markedly dated. Among other topics explored are the impact of widespread motor vehicle use on the metropolis, the rise of a mass consumer market for goods and housing, fundamental shifts in popular taste, critical views of the city, and the undercurrent of persistence in traditional patterns of settlement. This year the seminar will focus on the dualities of the boom in outlying areas and the decline of inner-city areas. The growth of the 3 AMST Spring 2018 periphery beyond the traditional scope of bedroom communities (suburbs in the nineteenth century sense) will be explored. No less attention will be given to efforts at urban revitalization through commercial and institutional projects as well as efforts to lure the middle-class in-town and to segregate the poor. Participants may choose from a wide range of topics concerning architecture, landscape, and urbanism, as well as cultural, economic, social, and technological factors that have an impact on the built environment for their research paper.

David Bjelajac

T, 3:30-6:00

CRN: 34639

Four decades ago, Edward Said’s seminal book Orientalism (1978) established a binary analytical paradigm for explaining how academicians and governments in the West constructed cultural “otherness” or subordinating stereotypes of “the Orient.” This ideology of western superiority served to justify European and American imperialism in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia as a whole. More recent, revisionist scholarship, has transformed the dualistic model of western Orientalist constructs to comprise a heterogeneous range of cultural, ideological positions that are dependent upon the contingencies of specific historical traditions, geo-political interests and aesthetic, religious practices. Americans from the colonial period onward have defined themselves in relation to the ancient Israelites and the biblical history of the Holy Land. The pyramid decorating the Great Seal of the United States and the obelisks of the Bunker Hill and Washington Monuments suggest national rootedness in ancient Egyptian wisdom. On the other hand, the seminar will also explore Orientalism in terms of political resistance to oppression. African-Americans identified with Hebraic opposition to slavery, but they also later celebrated Egyptian art and architecture in conjunction with civil-rights activism and Ethiopia’s victory over Italian colonialism at the Battle of Adowa (1896). The seminar will also consider nineteenth-century feminist sculptors’ sympathetic representations of powerful, yet tragic, orientalist heroines such as Cleopatra and Zenobia, the third-century Queen of Palmyra resisting Roman domination of the Middle East. In commissioning history paintings, landscapes and sculptures for the United States Capitol, Supreme Court and other public buildings, politically dominant white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS) fused the traditional imperial trope of civilization’s westward course with Christian and Masonic transnational notions of millennial progress to forge the expansionist ideology of America’s Manifest Destiny, which undergirded “open-door” world trade or “dollar diplomacy.” The seminar will end by exploring the visual culture of Orientalism in relation to U.S. imperial conquest of the Philippines, the post-WWI propaganda campaign against communism, and, finally, the the advent of the Cold War marked by the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In response to the atomic bombings and the wartime internment of Japanese-American citizens, many painters, sculptors and Beat Generation artists campaigned against nuclear weapons. African-American civil rights activists linked their use in Japan to American segregationist policies and to the nation’s pervasive domestic racism, which further fueled the Cold War and U.S. imperial ambitions in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

 


Fall 2017 Courses

Joseph Kip Kosek

F, 12:30-2:20

CRN: 82411

This course is an intensive introduction to the history, debates, and methodologies that are central to the field of American Studies. Students will analyze key texts, explore ways to redefine the canon of American Studies scholarship, and begin to formulate ideas for future research. This course is restricted to graduate students in American Studies.

Elaine Pena

R, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 84677

“You show me a 50-foot wall and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder at the border. That’s the way the [U.S.-Mexico] border works,” then Governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano told the Associated Press in 2005. More than ten years later, plans to build a “giant wall” are still in play. This graduate seminar asks why constructing a wall is often a go-to answer for many heads of state seeking to protect national interests. It also asks, what, if anything, does that default answer tell us about national security logics and issues of religion, race or ethnicity? The course explores the long history of barrier construction efforts between the United States and Mexico alongside immigration policy shifts, in response to 9/11, and in real time. The course also draws our attention to on-going construction efforts of fences and barriers in border zones across the globe [i.e. India, Israel, Hungary] as well as the planning of “gated communities” to mark off space within cities. Seminar readings draw from cultural anthropology, political science, geography, and social history to deepen our understanding of nationalism and ethnonationalism, anxieties linked to unauthorized economic migrants, unaccompanied minors, and refugees, security’s relationship to territory, “tactical infrastructure,” and the notion of “the insecure American.”

Chad Heap

T, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 86722

This graduate seminar explores the usefulness of gender and sexuality as categories of analysis in American culture. Focusing on the period since the Civil War, we will read broadly across the field of sexuality and gender studies in US social and cultural history, performance studies, ethnography, media and popular culture studies, and critical theory. We will examine the roles that gender and sexuality have played in shaping American culture from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century; the extent to which modernity and postmodernity gave rise to new categories of sexual and gender identity and experience; and the historically shifting meanings and cultural representations that have marked sexual difference. We will pay particular attention to the intersection of gender and sexuality with race, class, religion, citizenship, and the body; the spatial organization of gender and sexuality in relation to the city, the suburbs, the state, and globalization; and the role that cultural discourses and products— possibly including music, television, film, print media, stage performances, medicine, science, and the law—play in shaping the popular understanding of sexuality and gender and vice versa.

Tom Guglielmo

T, 12:00-2:00

CRN: 86723

This class will offer an interdisciplinary history of race and racism in the modern United States. Reading a mixture of theoretical and empirical texts, we will explore topics as diverse as Jim Crow and immigration, mass incarceration and settler colonialism, racial capitalism and white nationalism, Islamophobia and Japanese American internment; civil rights and Black Lives Matter. Along the way we will consider specific historical questions about particular times and places as well as broader theoretical ones about structure and agency; power and resistance; state and society; local, national, and transnational scales of analysis; social, cultural, and emotional dimensions of life; relational and reflexive scholarship; and the intersections between -- among other things -- sexuality, gender, class, and race.

Katherine Ott

W, 1:30–3:30

CRN: 82114

This class is an introduction to the major theories, issues, and diverse viewpoints and practices in the field of material culture. Material culture refers to the objects and artifacts that populate the tactile and visual environment. Material culture is a form of evidence poorly understood and often dismissed, yet it is the primary component of the sensory world – it is through objects and images that people learn about and integrate themselves into the human community. Material culture carries and creates meaning. Some artifacts, such as the refrigerator, the spinning wheel, and the contraceptive pill, initiate new systems and support cultural transitions. Other objects, such as a wedding ring or a judge’s gavel, convey complex symbolic meanings. Still others, such as photographs and clothing, create personal identity. We will study the range of these relationships with material things. Registration restricted to graduate students. The class is taught by a Smithsonian history curator and meets off campus; contact Professor Ott at [email protected] for location details.

 


 Spring 2017 Courses

Suleiman Osman

T, 6:10-8:00

CRN: 57053

With memorials, museums, historic districts and tourist sites, cities today are repositories of memory. This interdisciplinary course will introduce students to scholarship on public memory and urban space. How does urban space shape and reflect the way we remember the past? How have the politics of memory and battles over the past shaped cities like Los Angeles, New York, Richmond and Washington DC?

Elizabeth Anker

W, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 54889

Democracy is one of the most frequently used and least agreed upon terms in political life. Variously conceptualized as equality, public dissent, individual expression, antagonism, a free market economy, or a mix of all of these ideas, “democracy” has been used to justify many disparate social practices. This course will examine the practice and possibility of democracy, with a focus on the violence that inheres to so many of its forms. Is violence constitutive of democracy? What are the relationships between violence and democracy in various racialized, political, economic, and gendered practices? Topics will include slavery and emancipation, capitalism and neoliberalism, human rights, colonial and decolonial violence, civil disobedience, and various imaginative dreamworlds of democratic possibility.

Jamie Cohen-Cole

W, 12:10-2:00

CRN: 53426

What is nature and what is natural? What is unnatural? What is artificial? This reading and discussion seminar examines how the answers to these questions are products of specific, historically contingent cultural formations. What we humans experience of the natural, artificial, and unnatural comes filtered by specific personal, cultural, institutional, religious, and political formations that vary in time and place. Even how the line that divides the natural from the artificial varies depending on who draws it and where, how, and when the drawing happens. This class will focus on when and how natural things, society, and human artifacts carry moral and political weight; the relationships among nature, truth, and objectivity; how and why some people but not others have more authority to speak about or fashion nature and its opposites; and the making of spaces, technologies, and institutions that construct the natural and the artificial. We will approach these questions through recent and classic critical studies on nature as artifice. Topics to be considered will include, among others, space, landscape, and environment; climate and the anthropocene; cybernetics, information technology and artificial reality; the biological and social scientific construction of human natures (e.g. by ethnicity, race, sex, gender, and sexuality); and the association of specific socio-political formations (e.g. capitalism, imperialism, or democracy) with the construction of the natural and its others.

Joseph Kosek

T, 12:00-1:50

CRN: 52492

This graduate research seminar requires each student to write a scholarly article based on original research in some aspect of United States cultural history. Topics may include, but are not limited to, popular culture, cultural politics, intellectual cultures, consumer culture, or cultures of social movements. The goal is to produce a manuscript of 8,000 to 10,000 words that could be submitted to an academic journal. Class meetings will focus on crafting a topic, doing primary research, assembling bibliographies, formulating arguments, using evidence, editing drafts, and writing clearly.

Melani McAlister

W,10:00-11:50

CRN: 53026

This seminar will examine the history of US involvements on the world stage from the late 19th to 21st centuries, looking at politics, culture and religion. We will consider US foreign policy and the politics of race; the transnational flow of cultures and people; the significance of religious identities that both defend and transcend national borders, and the role of the state, capital, and NGOs in various forms of governance and power. We will work with a number of case studies, using secondary historical scholarship, primary sources (including film, novels, and documents), and theoretical readings (on governance, affect, gender, etc.). Registration restricted to graduate students only.

Elaine Pena

MW, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 57302

This upper-level undergraduate and graduate-level seminar explores borders (the literal edge or limit of a territory) and boundaries (intra-societal differences). The course highlights the U.S.- Mexico border but it also draws our attention to border zones across the globe to help us assess and challenge what is local and particular about border space. Seminar readings draw from 8 AMST Spring 2017 cultural anthropology, cultural geography, and performance studies to examine classic tensions among state formation, sovereignty, and nationalism. Using a variety of optics and approaches, assigned readings seek to deepen our understanding of global immigration and accompanying anxieties, various forms of border security, and the impact of transport, customs, and trade on border zones. They also examine the production and reinforcement of social categories—how residents living in an either/or environment strategically recognize and deny cultural forms or call upon intangible heritage to make territorial claims and refine intra-group hierarchies.

Richard Longstreth

MW, 4:10-6:00

CRN: 57605

This course investigates selected aspects of contemporary preservation practice in the U.S., including the survey and documentation of historic properties, the nature of historic districts and the changes to which they are subjected over time, the bearing of physical context for historic properties, the meanings of significance in historic preservation and the criteria by which it is determined, and the implications of new design within a preservation framework. The primary focus of this course is on physical aspects of preservation and on the broad issues these aspects represent. While class lectures and discussions will address these concerns in a general way, the opportunity to explore some matters in detail and out in the field will be afforded by the semester assignment. The class will undertake in-depth historical analysis of a neighborhood/community in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, coordinating this work with residents, civic organizations, and local officials. Through detailed survey of properties and research using pertinent archival and published sources, as well as through oral histories and field work, this project will result in a wide-ranging exploration of those characteristics that make the area in question historically significant. Places examined by previous classes range from mid-nineteenth- century agricultural settlements to mid-twentieth- century suburban enclaves, a portion of the U.S. Route 1 commercial corridor to an urban renewal precinct in Washington. This work has in turn led to a number of National Register and/or local districts as well as thematic studies.

Jamie Cohen-Cole

M, 12:30-2:00

CRN: 57480

This class is required for first and second year PhD students, but it is designed to bring together American Studies graduate students of all levels (MAs and PhD students who are in coursework and those writing dissertations). Students read and comment on shared work, and to learn about key components of the academic process, from figuring out where to submit a journal article to learning how to conceptualize a dissertation. Every student’s written submission or conference paper will have a formal comment from another student, along the lines of what is done at conferences. The faculty member provides written comments on all written submissions. Students are expected to make a commitment to the course for the full year, to participate in all assignments, and to read and be prepared to discuss all of the work presented.

David Bjelajac

T, 3:00-5:30

CRN: 55505

This course covers new scholarship on American art and visual culture from the era of the American Revolution through the Civil War and Reconstruction periods of the nineteenth-century. Issues of race, class and gender will be analyzed in relation to the various ways that Americans imagined their national identity within a global network of capitalist development and expansion.

 


Fall 2016 Courses

Suleiman Osman

F, 10:00-11:50

CRN: 12601

This course is an intensive introduction to the history, debates, and methodologies that are central to the field of American Studies. Students will analyze key texts, explore ways to redefine the canon of American Studies scholarship, and begin to formulate ideas for future research. This course is restricted to graduate students in American Studies.

Dara Orenstein

T, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 15445

If it's the economy, stupid, what's race got to do with it? How has the accumulation of capital required the reproduction of race? In what ways has racial commodification shaped both the value form of capital and the category of the human? These and other questions animate Cedric Robinson’s influential claim that “the development, organization, and expansion of capitalist society pursued essentially racial directions.” We will explore Robinson’s theory of “racial capitalism" in this reading-intensive seminar, first in the context of chattel slavery, and then via an assortment of specific cases from contemporary U.S. history, from the prison industrial complex to domestic labor. In addition to Robinson, readings will include seminal works by authors such as Ian Baucom, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, C. L. R. James, Walter Johnson, Robin D. G. Kelley, Lisa Lowe, Manning Marable, and Sidney Mintz. This course is restricted to graduate students.

Calvin Warren

W, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 14739

Scientific fields place great emphasis on “method” to conduct research and produce scholarship. As a strategy of execution, a method can provide clarity and focus for a research agenda. In the humanities, however, a “method” can signify certain rigidities and obsessions with teleology and calculation, which are often critiqued or, at times, rejected. Although the word “method” is often at odds with the theoretical and philosophical agenda of particular work in the humanities, a humanities scholar still relies on a set of “procedures” and “strategies” to accomplish a research agenda. In this course, we will review various procedures and strategies to transform ideas into articles/texts. Each participant will practice a certain procedure, with the objective of finding a procedure that works best to accomplish a research agenda. The course will review many procedures, including Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis, Phenomenology, Surface Reading, Intertextuality, and historical “fabulation,” among others. This course is restricted to graduate students.

Jamie Cohen-Cole

M, 12:30-2:00

CRN: 16633

This class is required for first and second year PhD students, but it is designed to bring together American Studies graduate students of all levels (MAs and PhD students who are in coursework and those writing dissertations). Students read and comment on shared work, and to learn about key components of the academic process, from figuring out where to submit a journal article to learning how to conceptualize a dissertation. Every student’s written submission or conference paper will have a formal comment from another student, along the lines of what is GRADUATE COURSES 8 AMST Fall 2016 done at conferences. The faculty member provides written comments on all written submissions. Students are expected to make a commitment to the course for the full year, to participate in all assignments, and to read and be prepared to discuss all of the work presented. This course is restricted to American Studies graduate students.

Jenna Weissman Joselit

W, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 15638

This seminar explores the changing nature of Jewish life, domestically as well as transnationally, from the 1950s on through our own day. Training its sights on a array of cultural phenomena, it looks at the ways in which contemporary Jews, especially those in the United States, reckon with rupture, dissent and, above all, with freedom. Registration restricted to graduate students only.

Bibiana Obler

T, 2:30-5:00

CRN: 17474

On the occasion of the Phillips Collection’s exhibition “People on the Move: Beauty and Struggle in Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series,” this seminar will examine the history of African-American art. Lawrence himself was a history painter of the African-American experience—or should we say the American experience? The category of African-American art is vexed: to paraphrase Stuart Hall, what is this “African-American” in “African-American art”? Why bracket “African-American” artists from other “American” artists—and from modern and contemporary artists across the globe? Artists have both embraced and rejected the category of “black art.” We will reach back to investigate the origins of this history and forward to its future—or demise. We will draw heavily on local resources including the Phillips, SAAM, Howard University Art Gallery, NMAA, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open in September 2016.

Joseph Kip Kosek

W, 10:00-11:50

CRN: 17339

This graduate seminar focuses on religious people, communities, and cultures in historical and contemporary America, as well as the shifting categories of “religious” and “secular” themselves. We will consider the ways that serious attention to religion might change our perspective on other subjects, including: race and ethnicity; gender, sexuality, and the family; capitalism and consumer society; scientific knowledge; mass media; social and political movements; material and visual culture; nationalism and transnationalism. The course will also explore how scholars in different fields, such as anthropology, sociology, history, and law, have brought their disciplinary lenses to bear on the study of religion. Registration restricted to graduate students only.

Richard Longstreth

MW, 4:10–6:00

CRN: 15447

This course addresses the scope and purpose of the preservation movement in the U.S., focusing on developments since the 1960s. Topics investigated include the development of ideas and approaches to preservation at home and abroad since the late 18th century; the legal framework developed at the national, state, and local levels to foster preservation; the nature of an dynamics between public- and private-sector preservation organizations; and key facets of the research process essential to determine significance and set priorities to protecting historic properties. Throughout the course, both pragmatic and conceptual aspects are explored, as are the implications of preservation practice on broader realms, ranging from our attitudes toward 9 AMST Fall 2016 the past to the tangible benefits for a community or business. Preservation must be a practical line of work imbued with political, technical, and economic expertise, but its ultimate worth is as a form of cultural expression. Classroom lectures and discussions are supplemented by visits from a number of prominent figures in the field – both nationally and locally – who afford behind the scenes insight current initiatives and challenges. Registration restricted to graduate students.

Carol Stapp

T, 11:10-1:00

CRN: 13722

Enjoy first-hand encounters with an astounding array of museums through five class trips (including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House and Woodlawn Plantation; the Woodrow Wilson House; George Washington’s Mount Vernon; Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens; and President Lincoln’s Cottage). You’ll meet knowledgeable practitioners, who’ll give you a behind-the-scenes perspective on the challenges of interpretation—from living history to virtual visits—in America’s home-grown museum type. A short report focused on a National Park Service site (Arlington House or the Clara Barton National Historic Site) provides the groundwork for a field project in conjunction with the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. The field projects are presented to FDNHS staff members, who join us for a poster session at the end of the course. Registration restricted to graduate students. This class meets off campus for at least six sessions. Please plan for sufficient travel time before and after class.

Katherine Ott

W, 1:30-3:30

CRN: 12275

This class is an introduction to the major theories, issues, and diverse viewpoints and practices in the field of material culture. Material culture refers to the objects and artifacts that populate the tactile and visual environment. Material culture is a form of evidence poorly understood and often dismissed, yet it is the primary component of the sensory world – it is through objects and images that people learn about and integrate themselves into the human community. Material culture carries and creates meaning. Some artifacts, such as the refrigerator, the spinning wheel, and the contraceptive pill, initiate new systems and support cultural transitions. Other objects, such as a wedding ring or a judge’s gavel, convey complex symbolic meanings. Still others, such as photographs and clothing, create personal identity. We will study the range of these relationships with material things. Registration restricted to graduate students. The class is taught by a Smithsonian history curator and meets off-campus; contact Professor Ott at [email protected] for location details.

 


Spring 2016 Courses

Melani McAlister

M, 2:00-3:30

CRN: 77301

Calvin Warren

R, 2:00-3:50

CRN: 73950

This course will examine the recent “pessimistic turn” in cultural theory. We will read texts that present pessimistic and negative thematics (e.g. Queer Negativity and Afro-pessimism) and critiques of such positions. In particular, we will wrestle with the cultural imperative to “be happy,” the problem/solution paradigm undergirding theories of the good life, the productive uses of failure/foreclosure, and the reconfiguration of categories such as “life,” “death,” and “humanity.” This course will give priority to theoretical/philosophical perspectives and will include work by Giorgio Agamben, Lee Edelman, Frank Wilderson, Jared Sexton, Jose Esteban Munoz, Judith Halberstam, and David Marriott, among others.

Richard Wagner

R, 4:10-6:00

CRN: 74706

This course will provide an understanding of the relationships between historic preservation and the cultural, social and economic dimensions of sustainability with specific reference to how current and future policies affect both sustainability and preservation. It will consist of assigned readings and in-class discussions. Each student will be expected to develop and GRADUATE COURSES 6 AMST Spring 2015 present a paper on a topic related to historic preservation.

Elisabeth Anker

W, 2:00-3:50

CRN: 76106

Freedom is one of the most contested of political terms, and is taken to mean everything from individual self-mastery, to the free market, to the radical emancipatory overthrow of domination. This course will examine these varied discourses of freedom, with specific focus on how the promise of freedom often justifies war, domination, slavery, and oppression. Contrary to many schools of thought that locate freedom in sovereignty and free choice, we will examine how pursuits of free choice and sovereignty often exacerbate rather than overcome horrific conditions of unfreedom. We will first examine some of the most important theoretical and historical texts on freedom, and then focus on three areas of political concern: economic inequality, in which freedom is used to legitimate the market economy; racism, in which freedom has been used to justify slavery and racialized oppression; and the ecology of the anthropocene, in which freedom has been used to legitimate unsustainable patterns of development. Yet throughout the class we will also examine concepts and practices of freedom that support emancipatory, world-making, and transformative action that aim to challenge inequality, racism, and climate change.

Chad Heap

W, 10:00-11:50

CRN: 72785

This graduate research seminar takes as its subject the role of identity and the body—whether sexualized, racialized, gendered, politicized, modified, commodified, sanctified, etc.—in American culture. We will focus on individual research and writing, as well as on reading and commenting on each other’s work. Each student will produce an original, article-length (7,000-10,000 words), primary-source-based, scholarly research essay with the goal of ultimately submitting it for publication in an academic journal. Class meetings will focus on developing a research question, identifying primary sources, situating one’s research within existing scholarship, formulating arguments, using evidence, and drafting and revising a clearly written, final essay.

Elaine Peña

M, 5:10-7:00

CRN: 73453

This graduate research seminar uses a combination of ethnographic, place, and performance oriented methods to analyze the backstage logistics of cultural production. Additionally, participants will spend the semester honing in on the political economic dimensions of their objects of study (e.g. acts, texts, artifacts, ideas, images, encounters, etc.). We will spend class time discussing how to craft research questions, conduct literature reviews, identify sources, and acquire evidence. The goal of this course is to produce a 20-page research paper. Students will have the opportunity to workshop paper drafts in class.

Suleiman Osman

T, 2:00-3:50

CRN: 77121

What is the city? How have writers, reformers, theorists, planners and everyday residents analyzed, represented and inhabited the modern metropolis? Students will read scholarship on the social and cultural history of American cities, as well as theoretical works by authors such as Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau, Doreen Massey and David 7 AMST Spring 2015 Harvey.

Richard Longstreth

MW, 4:10-6:00

CRN: 78137 This course investigates selected aspects of contemporary preservation practice in the U.S., including the survey and documentation of historic properties, the nature of historic districts and the changes to which they are subjected over time, the bearing of physical context for historic properties, the meanings of significance in historic preservation and the criteria by which it is determined, and the implications of new design within a preservation framework. The primary focus of this course is on physical aspects of preservation and on the broad issues these aspects represent. While class lectures and discussions will address these concerns in a general way, the opportunity to explore some matters in detail and out in the field will be afforded by the semester assignment. The class will undertake in-depth historical analysis of a neighborhood/community in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, coordinating this work with residents, civic organizations, and local officials. Through detailed survey of properties and research using pertinent archival and published sources, as well as through oral histories and field work, this project will result in a wide-ranging exploration of those characteristics that make the area in question historically significant. Places examined by previous classes range from mid-nineteenth-century agricultural settlements to mid-twentieth-century suburban enclaves, a portion of the U.S. Route 1 commercial corridor to an urban renewal precinct in Washington. This work has in turn led to a number of National Register and/or local districts as well as thematic studies.

David Bjelajac

T, 3:00-5:30

CRN: 77042

As seen in diverse media and contexts, artists of the United States have represented numerous mythic, religious figures from Greco-Roman, Egyptian and Judeo-Christian antiquity to construct a consensual nationalist identity from an extremely violent, conflicted history of socioeconomic exploitation, territorial expropriation, racism, anti-immigrant nativism, gender inequality and sexual repression. Nevertheless, by the early 20th century, as the United States became a Pacific power, architectural sculptures of Confucius and the Prophet Muhammad also began to celebrate American imperialism's civilizing mission. Beyond this investigation of nationalist, imperial icons, the seminar examines the interrelationships of labor, nature and the metaphysics of God's divine architecture. As an analogue of God's creation, imaginative reconstructions of Solomon's Temple variously engaged Jews, Christians, Newtonian deists, Freemasons and Mormons. More broadly, we shall investigate how the materials and practices of artisans and artists constituted an alchemical, hermetic search for the philosopher's stone or that secret substance/formula capable of perfecting the earthly, global microcosm in harmony with the heavenly macrocosm. The winged Greek/Roman god Hermes/Mercury, the secretive, androgynous god of both merchants and thieves, guided travelers, escorted souls and employed eloquence to healingly reconcile matter with the divine logos. Hermes/Mercury closely identified with the Egyptian god Thoth, or the alchemist-magus Hermes Trismegistus (thrice-great), a legendary figure who personified an ancient literature and visual culture of occult wisdom that shaped the material, spiritual lives of diverse religious communities, fraternities and learned groups from the colonial era to the present. Advances in telecommunications, evolutionary social sciences and nuclear physics encouraged spiritualist communications with angels and the deceased. At the same time, white, Anglo- 8 AMST Spring 2015 Saxon Protestant theories of racial, ethnic superiority fostered other-worldly aestheticism among Gilded Age robber barons turned art collectors/connoisseurs.