Graduate research and teaching in the Department of American Studies are centered around two principal intellectual themes at the forefront of the field: the cultures of everyday life; and cultural constructions of difference and identity. These themes recur in our established methodologically-based areas of ethnography and life writing, material culture, popular culture and media studies, body and sexuality, cultural landscapes, race and intersectionality, foodways, and information technologies.
The Department seeks to promote understanding of the complex nature of American life and culture through examining how individual experience intersects with local, national, and global contexts. In investigating issues such as identity, difference, representation, power, and cultural and historical change, the Department encourages the study of national, regional, and local communities, and supports research focused within both contemporary and historical contexts.
The Department offers students the opportunity to apply American Studies theory and method to their own areas of research, while encouraging them to draw on the approaches of related disciplines in order to inform and enrich their work. In addition to 11 American Studies Department Faculty, the Program also provides students with access to a network of approximately seventy Affiliate Faculty from departments such as African-American Studies, Anthropology, Architecture, English, History, Sociology, and Women’s Studies. Regular Departmental, Core Affiliate and Affiliate faculty members are all eligible to direct dissertations and theses and to serve as advisors to graduate students in American Studies.
Our connections with a wide variety of faculty from departments across campus offer American Studies students a chance to take part in projects such as the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity (CRGE), the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora, or the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), attend joint-sponsored lecture series and polyseminars, and engage in a dialogue with the broader community of Americanists on campus. The American Studies Department also offers students the opportunity to receive certificates in programs such as Historic Preservation, the joint University of Maryland/Smithsonian Institution Program in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture, and Women’s Studies. Students can also make use of the extensive resources housed in the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and other Washington-Baltimore area museums, libraries, and government agencies.
The Department is committed to supporting excellence and originality in scholarly research. It also seeks to foster community and professional relationships, and encourage regional and national scholarly exchange through student and faculty participation in conferences, projects, and workshops, and through the publication of scholarly work.
Graduate students enter the program with a variety of skills, research interests, backgrounds, and professional experience. Whether focused on careers in the academy, advocacy and public policy, government, media, or cultural resource management, students find in the Department a community of scholars engaged with teaching and research, and resources designed to complement their specific interests and goals and to develop their academic skills.