Course Listings

Below are the descriptions for current and upcoming undergraduate and graduate courses in American Studies and U.S. Latina/o Studies. More information is available at Testudo, including available seats for each class.

Sample syllabi can be accessed by clicking on the course codes. Please note that many are sample syllabi and are likely to differ from actual syllabi used in current courses. Be careful to note the semester listed, though even current syllabi are still subject to change before the semester begins.

Summer 2014 Course Descriptions

AMST101

Introduction American Studies

CORE Humanities (HO) Course.  CORE Diversity (D) Course.

GenEd: Distributive Studies – Humanities; Diversity – Understanding Plural Societies.

Credit only granted for: AMST101 or AMST201. Formerly: AMST201.

What do you do in American Studies? Seems like a simple enough answer: “you study America.” This course evaluates the deceptive simplicity of such an objective by considering the diverse people and cultures that constitute America. This course is not a survey-course in American history or literature; instead, the purpose of this class is to introduce you to the interdisciplinary field of American Studies. How can we ask questions about American culture and society? To find out, we will explore the various methodologies and questions of the field through the consideration of canonical and contemporary work in the field. We will examine how we fit into a greater context by considering the role of difference, identity, and globalization in the American experience.

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AMST203

Popular Culture in America

CORE Humanities (HO) Course.

GenEd: Diversity – Understanding Plural Societies.

What is popular culture, how does it function, and why does it matter? Conventionally, “high culture” has been clearly distinguished from and privileged over “low culture.” High culture has enjoyed connotations of elite, at times even esoteric, importance and low culture has endured effective dismissal as something of vulgar irrelevance. But if we regard culture generally as essentially the ways in which we cultivate collective meanings about our lives and our place(s) in the world, what then might be the role of popular culture? What might be the scope and limits of a set of cultural forms that are considered to be, in their “popularity,“ commonly accessible? What possible contributions, for better and for worse, can popular forms offer to the cultivation of collective meanings in diverse American cultural contexts? Specifically, how does popular culture address the crucial notions of subjectivity and agency, notions that typically shape the parameters of meaningful life and — conversely — functional, if not actual, death? This semester, we will keep such questions in mind as we engage a variety of popular culture forms, including (but not limited to) music, film, television, and sports, with specific attention to how these forms relate to the everyday practices and beliefs of a contemporary American context. Because as participants we are, all of us, necessarily and inextricably implicated in any discussion of American popular culture, such as exploration will invoke our personal investments in the discussion. This approach will outline our terrain and provide the tools with which we can work through our questions thoughtfully, responsively, and responsibly. Through our diligent, collaborative, critical, and self-reflexive efforts, our class together will develop resources we can use to interrogate how popular culture matters to the most critical of meaning formations, the understanding of life and death.

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AMST205

Material Aspects of American Life

CORE History or Theory of Arts (HA) Course. GenEd: Distributive Studies – Humanities; Diversity – Understanding Plural Societies.

This course introduces students to material culture, to theories, questions, and methods of studying objects and things that surround us in everyday life. How do we use material things? What do they mean to us? We shall also explore how material goods and objects shape cultural ways, identities, and landscapes in contemporary America and how they intersect with such categories as race, class, gender, and sexuality, as well as discourses on memory and history.

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AMST298J

Are We There Yet?: Diversity, Multiracialism, and the Myth of American Progress

This course is dedicated to understanding the cultural politics of multiraciality (also referred to as mixed race) in 21st century United States. During the term, we will work to understand the ways in which discourses concerning mixed race people and relationships align with and/or challenge U.S. commitments to diversity and racial equality.

In order to create the framework for the study of mixed race in the U.S. we will begin the course by exploring the historical context in which contemporary multiracialism emerges, particularly looking at the rise of neoliberalism and multiculturalism in the U.S. We will then connect this history to multiraciality by exploring the political efforts to get mixed race identities officially recognized in the 1990s, commonly referred to as the “multiracial movement.” We will also examine some of the critiques facing multiracialism. We will conclude the term by looking at three case studies that serve as examples of how mixed race has entered the national imagination, and how this reflects U.S. political, cultural, social ideologies concerning race and racism in the 21st century.

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AMST298O

Digital Media and Cultural Politics in a Global World

Interested in the politics of the internet? Or just want to learn more about how digital media connect cultures across the globe? Then check out AMST 298O: Digital Media and Cultural Politics in a Global World. This Summer Session II course taught by Dan Greene will review massive cultural movements spread online and across borders, whether as political projects (the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street) or pop culture sensations (Gangnam Style, World of Warcraft). We’ll learn about the small corners of the Web where sexual subcultures make a home, and ask fundamental questions about what the internet is, who shapes it and how, and why a particularly precarious generation takes to the Web to make a space of their own. The course will take place online and students will use that space to its full advantage, exploring the politics of globalization as they play out in blogs, YouTube, and social networking sites, and designing research projects that focus on a border-crossing internet community of their choice. Questions about the course? Contact Dan Greene at dgreene1@umd.edu for more info.

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AMST328F

It’s Bigger than Hip Hop: Politics, the Personal/Personnel, and the Public

Where is Hip Hop going? This simple query is one deliberated by many, from big business music executives to teachers, community activists, and youths weathering the storms of divestment in urban centers, advanced global capitalism, the advancement of the prison industrial complex, and a host of other micro and macro problems that have stripped many communities of valuable resources. Hip Hop, a culture born out of the social ills noted above, emerged as an artistic and political response to a changing urban landscape. However, its commodification over the years has caused many to question its usefulness as a political tool, with some of its proponents and critics longing for a return to its (grass)roots, where political ferment and a zealous commitment to combat oppression and injustice were considered the order of the day.

Keeping with our spirit of inquiry we ask, what are the debates within Hip Hop that have emerged and continue to emerge over the years? It is a broad question, but it is one that will be addressed here, with special attention to constituencies often marginalized within much of the public discourse(s) around hot-button topics and issues related to Hip Hop. This course specifically addresses Hip Hop’s origins; intergenerational tensions and continuity between the “hip hop generation” and its generational predecessors; Hip Hop’s attendance to gender relations, representation, style and the politics of consumption; pedagogy, activism and the political sphere; and the false local/global divide. Hip Hop, like any other culture, does not exist in a vacuum, and it cannot be detached from structural processes, the greater histories of identity politics, and the civil engagement of people of color in the U.S. To that end, students will look at Hip Hop as part of a dialogical and dialectical universe that engages issues of race, class, ethnicity, nationality, generation (age), geography, capitalism, resistance, coalition, and freedom.

As an interdisciplinary course, students will engage with course themes through a variety of texts and media from diverse fields and ontological perspectives. The materials we will use include books, articles, music, radio broadcasts/podcasts, films, television programming, and websites.

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AMST328G

From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin: Childhood and the Politics of Safety in America

From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin: The Politics of Childhood and Safety in America. (Summer Session: 2014). This online course will examine the ways in which children and adolescents have been understood as being “worthy of protection,” “innocent,” “resilient,” ”at-risk,” “delinquent,” “lost,” “dangerous,” and/or “endangered” based on social constructions of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, class, residence (urban, rural, suburban), and age. We will explore the ways that these labels particularly restrict youth of color’s access to: the full rights of citizenship, public spaces, and often life using Till and Martin’s stories among others as ways to understand this socio-historical trajectory of privilege and inequality among boys and girls in America.

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AMST386

Experiential Learning

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AMST398

Independent Studies

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AMST429L

The Documented Life: Constructing Our Digital Identities

The course will be about documenting identity (both personal and community identities) with digital media. We’ll be looking at topics ranging from posting selfies on Instagram to using our phones to record live events like concerts; from the relationship between our media and our memories to the archiving of oral histories of a place. We will explore the motivations behind wanting to document every aspect of life and the results of the pervasiveness of documentary media in our everyday lives as individuals and as people in a larger community.

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AMST429O

From Chiquita to Cholas, Latin Lovers to Lowriders: Fashioning Latinidad in the U.S.

AMST429O is an online-only summer course with a focus on how fashion has historically functioned in Latina/o communities as a means of identity formation, community building, and resistance to racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and dominant narratives in the United States. As an online-only course, we’ll be using online spaces such as a course blog, video lectures, video chats, and Tumblr as our classroom. Also offered as USLT498N.

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AMST429Z

Great Directors of Asian and Asian American Cinema

Through the perspectives of transnationalism and globalization, the course will discuss selected film masterpieces by important Asian directors and Asian-American directors in their social and cultural contexts. The directors to be discussed include Kurosawa in Japan, Ray in India, Zhang Yimou in China, Ann Hui (Hong Kong), Clara Law (Hong Kong), Ang Lee (Taiwan, US), Wayne Wang (Hong Kong, US), Peter Wang (US), Trinh T. Minh-ha (Vietnam, US),Rea Tajiri (Japanese-American), Kayo Hatta (Japanese-American),Mira Nair (Indian-American), Deepa Mehta (Indian-Canadian). Also offered as AMST429Z and FILM 429X

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AMST698

Directed Readings in American Studies

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AMST899

Doctoral Dissertation Research

Summer 2014 USLT Course Descriptions

USLT 498N

From Chiquita to Cholas, Latin Lovers to Lowriders: Fashioning Latinidad in the U.S.

USLT 498N is an online-only summer course with a focus on how fashion has historically functioned in Latina/o communities as a means of identity formation, community building, and resistance to racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and dominant narratives in the United States. As an online-only course, we’ll be using online spaces such as a course blog, video lectures, video chats, and Tumblr as our classroom. Also offered as AMST429O.