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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AMST429Q – Perspective on Popular Culture; Strategies for Social Activism: Food Films or Films with Food

Online –Summer Session II—July 14 – Aug 24

What is the role of food films? What categorizes a movie as a food film? What are the roles of gender, race, class, language, and region in films that involve food? Is it important who cooks, who eats, who serves and who gets served? Who shops and who pays? What is important when we consider food in films/food films, how and why? How does food relate to sociability? What can we learn about migration, immigration, and Diaspora from watching films with food/food films? What are the relationships between and among kinship patterns and gender relations? How important is sex in food films, the absence of sex? How often does it occur and how do food and sex relate in film? We will explore these and more questions in this fun, laid back summer course!

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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.

 

 

Fall 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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AMST202 – Cultures of Everyday Life in America

Examine the structures and patterns of everyday life in the U.S., utilizing methods such as ethnography, oral history, survey research, and textual, visual, and material cultural analysis.

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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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AMST207 – Contemporary American Cultures

CORE Behavioral and Social Science (SB) Course. CORE Diversity (D) Course

World views, values, and social systems of contemporary American cultures explored through readings on selected groups such as middle-class suburbanites, old order Amish, and urban tramps.

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AMST260 – American Culture in the Information Age

What does it mean to live in an “information age?” We live in a world where data bombards us at every turn; quite literally, the ability to process information has become a defining characteristic of humanity. Access to information (or the lack thereof) has become one of the foundational aspects of contemporary American culture, redefining our relationship to space (outer, inner, and local), sexuality, community, and the body. This course asks the student to consider not only what they know, but how they know it – how is knowledge created when knowledge is everywhere? How we know what we know reflects our intersectional identities How does access to this wealth of information, these new ways of knowing shaping our lives and our understandings of self?

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AMST328A – Perspectives on Identity and Culture; Latina/o Sexualities: Borders, Migration, and Citizenship

How does sexuality travel across borders? How do sexuality and migration intersect? This course will delve into the multiple possibilities hidden in the intersections of migration and sexuality and illuminate before silenced histories and voices that are found in those intersections.  Class discussions will explore current events and debates occurring in mainstream culture and everyday life that center on immigration and/or sexuality.  Additionally, this course aims to provide a useful framework of contemporary and interdisciplinary immigration and sexuality literature that will help students develop and interrogate critical questions.

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AMST328V – Perspectives on Identity and Culture; Growing Up Asian American: The Asian Immigrant Family and the Second Generation

An interdisciplinary course examines the experiences of children of Asian immigrants in the U.S., focusing on intergenerational dynamics in the Asian immigrant family, their intersections with race, gender, class, sexuality, and religion, and how these shape second-generation Asian American life. Topics include identity and personhood, the model minority myth and education, work and leisure, language and communication, filiality and disownment, mental health, and suicide.

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AMST340 – Introduction to History, Theories and Methods in American Studies

Introduction to the process of interdisciplinary research, including research literatures, questions, first-hand sources and library and analytic methods in American Studies. Each student will craft a prospectus for original research.

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AMST386 – Experiential Learning

Individual Instruction

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ASMT388 – Honors Thesis

Individual Instruction

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AMST398 – Independent Studies

Individual Instruction

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AMST418A – Cultural Themes in America; African-American Visual and Material Culture

Moving from the shores of Africa to the birth of African American culture to the study of African diasporic cultural influences, this class will explore the active role of visual and material culture in the shaping and defining of identity. Our goal is to develop visual literacy as we discover the historical uses of the arts in service of the struggles for freedom and equality. Visual art, material culture, politics, popular culture, music, literature, philosophy, theater, film, poetry, and anthropology will shape the inquiry through which we examine both the diasporic dimensions of African American aesthetics and its economic exploitation in the service of global capitalism. Understanding the multi-layered impact of African American history and cultural influences on a personal, societal, and global scale will be the mission of this class.

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AMST418H – Cultural Themes in America; Cultural Themes in America-Honors

Individual Instruction

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AMST418K – Cultural Themes in America; Film and the American Landscape

Explores how representations of space in American film impact our understandings of the ways community, identity, and place intersect.

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AMST418O – Cultural Themes in America; Laugh Until It Hurts: African American Humor and Its Social Contexts

This course considers formal, historical, and sociopolitical aspects of African American humor and ponders its uses within practices of self-making, community-building, cultural critique, protest, venting, and healing. The curriculum includes black vernacular practices, such as toasting, signifying, and the dozens; black folklore, including such legends as the Signifying Monkey and Br’er Rabbit; the comedic writing of such authors and playwrights as Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, George C. Wolfe, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Paul Beatty; and the performances of such comedians as Bert Williams, Moms Mabley, Richard Pryor, Whoopi Goldberg, Dave Chappelle, and Issa Rae.

Among the critical questions we will address are the following: What are the social and psychic bases of humor? What makes an event, narrative, or person “funny”? What critical interventions (political and artistic) can humor perform that pathos cannot? Is there anything so somber that one cannot conscionably “make fun” of it? Although humor is often steeped in irreverence, what are the ethical dimensions and implications of comedy? How have African Americans put humor to critical use in America? How do these black cultural producers deploy particular techniques of comedy and toward what aims?

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AMST450 – Seminar in American Studies

Prerequisite: AMST201 and two additional AMST courses. Sophomore standing. For AMST majors only. Introduction to the process of interdisciplinary research, including research literatures, questions, first-hand sources and library and analytic methods in American Studies. Each student will craft a prospectus for original research.

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AMST498B – Special Topics in American Studies; Fashion and Consumer Culture in the U.S.

Prerequisite: USLT202 or USLT201. Restriction: Junior standing or higher. Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs.

Using multiple theoretical and historical lenses, this course examines past and present issues surrounding Latinas/os and popular culture in the United States and beyond.  A diverse ethnoracial constituency with a long history in the United States, Latinas/os also represent the fastest growing demographic in contemporary U.S. American society.  This course is timely, then, in attempting to historicize and explore the political and ideological ramifications of cultural products both by and about U.S. Latinas/os.  Using theories drawn from cultural studies, visual culture studies, critical race theory, borderlands theory, and feminism, this class will examine multiple texts from a variety of timeframes.  As we do so, we will explore such issues as representational exclusion and inclusion from the “imagined community” of U.S. identity, transnational identifications, ethnoracial stereotyping and resistance to such, and intersections of Latina/o identities with aspects of class, race, sexuality, and gender.  This will entail investigations of diverse cultural arenas and media, among them Hollywood cinema, television, popular music, and theatrical performance.

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AMST498G – Special Topics in American Studies; Latinas/os on the Silver Screen

Since the early days of moving images, the cinema has held a uniquely prominent and influential position in U.S. culture.  In pursuit of commercial reward, Hollywood studios and independent filmmakers create in their cinema not only (sometimes not even!) entertainment, but also ideas about politics and culture, which disseminate from the “silver screen” to mass audiences in the Americas and across the globe.  Embedded in a culture in which race was and is always an issue, the U.S. film industry remains a crucial arena in which representations of ethnoracial identity and its relationship to national identity are produced, interpreted, debated, and reconceived.  Beginning with the era of silent film and concluding with contemporary films, this course explores the ambiguous and shifting history of U.S. Latinas/os both behind and in front of the camera.  Combining media theory and film history, we will consider the film industry’s relationship to Latinidad, examining issues such as the shift from silent film to sound, the impact made on Latino/a images by the Second World War and the “good neighbor” era, and Latinas/os in the Cold War Red Scare.  In these periods, representational power remained chiefly in the hands of white Hollywood producers, and Latinos/as (most often Mexican Americans) were subject to a series of demeaning representational strategies.  As we move into the second half of the course, we will turn attention to self-representation by Latina/o filmmakers and empathetic images created by whites in and after the 1970s. How have Latinas/os been depicted in Hollywood history?  How have inter-American foreign relations shaped the US Latino/a image?  How have Latina/o filmmakers confronted issues such as racism and sexism in the United States?  Students will explore these issues throughout the semester, and in doing so gain insight into both Latina/o racial formations and the practice of film criticism.

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AMST498J – Special Topics in American Studies; Asian American Politics

Also offered as AAST498T. Credit granted for AAST498T or AMST498J. Students will gain a greater understanding of 1)the role of Asian Americans in US politics, 2) the political attitudes and behaviors of Asian Americans and 3) help students to conduct research on Asian American politics. Though the class will concentrate on Asian Americans, issues related to Asian American politics will be examined within the larger context of Americas multicultural political landscape.

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AMST498L – Special Topics in American Studies; Native Americans and U.S. Cinema

Beginning with the silent era and continuing to the present, the class will examine representations both by and about Native Americans, exploring how film has defined and redefined Native American identity in U.S. history and culture.  The course includes films directed by Native Americans and with Native American actors.

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AMST601 – Introductory Theories and History in American Studies

AMST 601 is the initial course of a two-course sequence introducing graduate students to some of the literature — from the field, the discipline, and beyond — that has shaped and reshaped Americans’ Studies over time.  In this course, we focus on the theories and paradigms, or conceptual frameworks, evident in scholarly work through the mid-1990s.  By concentrating on the historiography of Americans’ Studies and on the theoretical directions and assumptions of scholars, this course should help you to understand the making of theories in American Studies and, of course, the making of American Studies before the turn of the century.  Reading and thinking about this “early” scholarship should also prepare you for the contemporary theories and literature that are the focus of AMST 603 (Current Approaches to American Studies).

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AMST628A – Seminar in American Studies; Fashion and Consumer Culture in the United States

This seminar will introduce major theoretical works in the study of consumer behavior, from Veblen’s “Theory of the Leisure Class” to emerging fashion theory. Along the way, we will examine a variety of phenomena through these theoretical lenses. Possible topics include religion and consumption, children as consumers, media representations of the fashion industry, consumer activism, dress codes, class and consumption and how individuals use clothing to express identities and group membership. Resources will include artifacts from the University of Maryland Historic Costume and Textile Collection. All students will develop a research project resulting in a final paper; graduate students will also lead one class session on a topic of their choice.

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AMST629D – Directed Readings in American Studies

Visual and material culture has been defined from numerous perspectives most notably anthropology, archeology, art history, cultural theory, and history. Since the 1970s in particular, scholars in these and other disciplines have used material culture sources of evidence to explore the everyday lives of ordinary citizens who did not leave written records of their experiences. This proseminar combines several large interdisciplinary fields to introduce students to material culture studies and to consider how objects have been used to reinforce, propagate, and resist cultural hierarchies based on race, class, gender, sexuality, and national identity. We will consider these actions with a strong, but not exclusive, emphasis on consumption. Using a wide range of methodologies, fieldwork techniques, and theoretical approaches we will largely examine the material culture genres and subfields of cultural landscapes, food, decorative arts, public history, and photography.

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AMST798 – Non-Thesis Research

Individual Instruction Course

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AMST799 – Master’s Thesis Research

Individual Instruction Course

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AMST856 – Museum Research Seminar

A research seminar focusing on the practice and presentation of cultura and historical scholarship in museums and historical sites. Students will complete an original research project on the challenges and opportunities of public exhibition and interpretation of cultural and historical research.

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AMST898 – Pre-Candidacy Research

Individual Instruction Course

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AMST899 – Doctoral Dissertation Research

Individual Instruction Course