At the center of our research are two large themes, the cultures of everyday life and cultural constructions of identity and difference, which simultaneously focus and connect the individual research programs of both faculty and students. On the periphery are several “lenses” through which we explore the central themes. Each of these lenses is comparable to an area of concentration with a particular set of questions and methodology.
As American Studies is an interdisciplinary field, faculty and students combine two or more of these concentrations in research and teaching. For more information about how our faculty engage in research areas, please visit their individual pages. Our list of current graduate students also provides a selected overview of graduate research.
In addition to the interdisciplinary connections that faculty make in their own research, faculty and graduate students also benefit from collaborating with one another. Much of this exchange takes place within and between the Department’s working groups, individuals’ own research programs, and our pedagogical workshops and innovations. For example, one particularly vital locus of interdisciplinary exchange has centered on cyberculture studies and the application of new information technologies to both research and teaching. Three collectives support this work: the Cyberculture Working Group (CWG), the Virtual Greenbelt Collaborative (VG), and The Mini-Center for Teaching Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture (Mini-Center). Student research on online communities and student/faculty introduction of information technologies (e.g. web-based teaching for material culture classes) in AMST classes stimulated our initial interest in cyberculture studies. From this interest several projects developed: Virtual Greenbelt, a virtual museum that we use for both research and teaching; the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies, founded by recent AMST Ph.D. David Silver and still the central scholarly site available online for research in cyberculture; a series of cyber-ethnographies undertaken by faculty and graduate students; and two national cyberculture conferences, which have drawn leading scholars in the field. On the basis of our collaborative work harnessing information technologies to pedagogy, a group of faculty and graduate students won the campus award for Innovation in Teaching in 1998. Our research and teaching on cyberculture have provided the Department with an international profile as a vital location for pursuing cyberculture scholarship.
A second locus for interdisciplinary interaction in the Department focuses on a group of faculty and students whose research explores the connections among cultural landscape studies, ethnography, foodways, historic preservation, heritage tourism, and race. This work centers on the Material Culture/Visual Culture Research Program Area at the Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity, the Life Writing Project, and a series of graduate seminars, including AMST 603, Current Approaches to American Studies. Students and faculty have discussed common readings, presented and critiqued each others’ research, and sponsored invited speakers whose research supports these topics. The MC/VC, Life Writing, and Cyberculture working groups co-sponsored a national conference in March, 2002 entitled “Sites of Memory: Race, Ethnicity, Place, and Life Stories.”