American studies

American studies

Overview
American studies or American civilization is an interdisciplinary field
Interdisciplinarity
Interdisciplinarity involves the combining of two or more academic fields into one single discipline. An interdisciplinary field crosses traditional boundaries between academic disciplines or schools of thought, as new needs and professions have emerged....

 dealing with the study of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. It traditionally incorporates the study of history
History of the United States
The history of the United States traditionally starts with the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776, although its territory was inhabited by Native Americans since prehistoric times and then by European colonists who followed the voyages of Christopher Columbus starting in 1492. The...

, literature
American literature
American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States. During its early history, America was a series of British...

, and critical theory
Critical theory
Critical theory is an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism...

, but also includes fields as diverse as law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, art, the media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

, film, religious studies
Religious studies
Religious studies is the academic field of multi-disciplinary, secular study of religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. It describes, compares, interprets, and explains religion, emphasizing systematic, historically based, and cross-cultural perspectives.While theology attempts to...

, urban studies, women's studies
Women's studies
Women's studies, also known as feminist studies, is an interdisciplinary academic field which explores politics, society and history from an intersectional, multicultural women's perspective...

, gender studies
Gender studies
Gender studies is a field of interdisciplinary study which analyses race, ethnicity, sexuality and location.Gender study has many different forms. One view exposed by the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir said: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one"...

, anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, queer studies
Queer studies
Queer studies is the critical theory based study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity usually focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and cultures. Universities have also labeled this area of analysis Sexual Diversity Studies, Sexualities...

, African American studies
African American studies
African American studies is a subset of Black studies or Africana studies. It is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the history, culture, and politics of African Americans...

, Chicano studies, Asian American studies
Asian American Studies
Asian American Studies is an academic discipline which studies the experience of people of Asian ancestry in America. Closely related to other Ethnic Studies disciplines such as African American Studies, Latino/a Studies, and Native American Studies, Asian American Studies critically examines the...

, American Indian studies, foreign policy and culture of the United States
Culture of the United States
The Culture of the United States is a Western culture originally influenced by European cultures. It has been developing since long before the United States became a country with its own unique social and cultural characteristics such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore...

, among other fields.

American civilization may also mean the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and its culture and people.

Vernon Louis Parrington
Vernon Louis Parrington
Vernon Louis Parrington was an American historian and football coach. His liberal interpretation of American history was highly influential in the 1920s to 1940s, when it fell out of favor.-Career:...

 is often cited as the founder of American studies for his three-volume Main Currents in American Thought, which combines the methodologies of literary criticism
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

 and historical research; it won the 1928 Pulitzer Prize
1928 Pulitzer Prize
-Journalism awards:*Public Service:**Indianapolis Times, for its work in exposing political corruption to Indiana, prosecuting the guilty and bringing about a more wholesome state of affairs in civil government.*Reporting:**No award given*Editorial Writing:...

.
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Encyclopedia
American studies or American civilization is an interdisciplinary field
Interdisciplinarity
Interdisciplinarity involves the combining of two or more academic fields into one single discipline. An interdisciplinary field crosses traditional boundaries between academic disciplines or schools of thought, as new needs and professions have emerged....

 dealing with the study of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. It traditionally incorporates the study of history
History of the United States
The history of the United States traditionally starts with the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776, although its territory was inhabited by Native Americans since prehistoric times and then by European colonists who followed the voyages of Christopher Columbus starting in 1492. The...

, literature
American literature
American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States. During its early history, America was a series of British...

, and critical theory
Critical theory
Critical theory is an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism...

, but also includes fields as diverse as law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, art, the media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

, film, religious studies
Religious studies
Religious studies is the academic field of multi-disciplinary, secular study of religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. It describes, compares, interprets, and explains religion, emphasizing systematic, historically based, and cross-cultural perspectives.While theology attempts to...

, urban studies, women's studies
Women's studies
Women's studies, also known as feminist studies, is an interdisciplinary academic field which explores politics, society and history from an intersectional, multicultural women's perspective...

, gender studies
Gender studies
Gender studies is a field of interdisciplinary study which analyses race, ethnicity, sexuality and location.Gender study has many different forms. One view exposed by the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir said: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one"...

, anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, queer studies
Queer studies
Queer studies is the critical theory based study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity usually focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and cultures. Universities have also labeled this area of analysis Sexual Diversity Studies, Sexualities...

, African American studies
African American studies
African American studies is a subset of Black studies or Africana studies. It is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the history, culture, and politics of African Americans...

, Chicano studies, Asian American studies
Asian American Studies
Asian American Studies is an academic discipline which studies the experience of people of Asian ancestry in America. Closely related to other Ethnic Studies disciplines such as African American Studies, Latino/a Studies, and Native American Studies, Asian American Studies critically examines the...

, American Indian studies, foreign policy and culture of the United States
Culture of the United States
The Culture of the United States is a Western culture originally influenced by European cultures. It has been developing since long before the United States became a country with its own unique social and cultural characteristics such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore...

, among other fields.

American civilization may also mean the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and its culture and people.

Founding notions


Vernon Louis Parrington
Vernon Louis Parrington
Vernon Louis Parrington was an American historian and football coach. His liberal interpretation of American history was highly influential in the 1920s to 1940s, when it fell out of favor.-Career:...

 is often cited as the founder of American studies for his three-volume Main Currents in American Thought, which combines the methodologies of literary criticism
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

 and historical research; it won the 1928 Pulitzer Prize
1928 Pulitzer Prize
-Journalism awards:*Public Service:**Indianapolis Times, for its work in exposing political corruption to Indiana, prosecuting the guilty and bringing about a more wholesome state of affairs in civil government.*Reporting:**No award given*Editorial Writing:...

. In the introduction to Main Currents in American Thought, Parrington described his field:
I have undertaken to give some account of the genesis and development in American letters of certain germinal ideas that have come to be reckoned traditionally American—how they came into being here, how they were opposed, and what influence they have exerted in determining the form and scope of our characteristic ideals and institutions. In pursuing such a task, I have chosen to follow the broad path of our political, economic, and social development, rather than the narrower belletristic
Belles-lettres
Belles-lettres or belles lettres is a term that is used to describe a category of writing. A writer of belles-lettres is a belletrist. However, the boundaries of that category vary in different usages....

.


The "broad path" that Parrington describes formed a scholastic course of study for Henry Nash Smith
Henry Nash Smith
Henry Nash Smith was an American culture and literature researcher. He was co-founder of the academic discipline "American studies"...

, who received a Ph.D. from Harvard's interdisciplinary program in "History and American Civilization" in 1940, setting an academic precedent for present-day American Studies programs.

The first signature methodology of American studies was the "myth and symbol" approach, developed in such foundational texts as Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land in 1950 and Leo Marx
Leo Marx
Leo Marx is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author known for his works in the field of American studies. Marx's work in American studies examines the relationship between technology and culture in 19th and 20th century America. He graduated from Harvard University...

's The Machine in the Garden
The Machine in the Garden
The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America is a work of literary criticism written by Leo Marx, published in 1964....

in 1964. Myth and symbol scholars claimed to find certain recurring themes throughout American texts that served to illuminate a unique American culture. Later scholars such as Annette Kolodny
Annette Kolodny
Annette Kolodny is a feminist literary critic and activist, and currently holds the position of College of Humanities Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Arizona in Tucson...

 and Alan Trachtenberg
Alan Trachtenberg
Alan Trachtenberg is Neil Gray, Jr. Professor Emeritus of English and American Studies at Yale University. He received his Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the husband of Betty Trachtenberg, former Dean of Students at Yale University, and father to Zev Trachtenberg,...

 re-imagined the myth and symbol approach in light of multicultural studies.

Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, these earlier approaches were criticized for continuing to promote the idea of American exceptionalism
American exceptionalism
American exceptionalism refers to the theory that the United States is qualitatively different from other countries. In this view, America's exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming "the first new nation," and developing a uniquely American ideology, based on liberty,...

—the notion that the US has had a special mission and virtue that makes it unique among nations. Several generations of American Studies scholars have critiqued this ethnocentric view, and have focused critically on issues of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and both transnational and international concerns.

Institutionally, in the last decade the American Studies Association has reflected the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the field, creating particularly strong connections to other interdisciplines such as ethnic studies, gender studies, cultural studies and post- or de-colonial studies. Another major theme of the field in recent years has been internationalization—the recognition that much vital scholarship about the US and its relations to the wider global community has been and is being produced outside the United States.

American studies outside of the U.S.


Following World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the U.S. government promoted the study of the United States in several European countries, helping to endow chairs in universities and institutes in American history, politics and literature in the interests of cultural diplomacy
Cultural diplomacy
Cultural diplomacy has existed as a practice for centuries. Explorers, travelers, teachers and artists can be all considered examples of informal ambassadors or early cultural diplomats...

. Many scholars and governments in Europe also recognized the need to study the U.S. The field has become especially prominent in Britain and Germany. The British Association for American Studies
British Association for American Studies
The British Association for American Studies is a learned society in the field of American studies. It was founded in 1955.The association produces the Journal of American Studies, American Studies in Britain, US Studies Online, BAAS Paperbacks, and Resources for American Studies.It has produced...

 was founded in 1955, and is a constituent member of the European Association for American Studies.

European centres for American studies include the Center for American Studies in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 and most notably the John F. Kennedy-Institute for North American Studies
John F. Kennedy-Institute for North American Studies
The John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies is a central institute at the Free University Berlin. The JFKI was founded in 1963 by Ernst Fraenkel, a political scientist and was named in the honor of John F. Kennedy after his assassination....

 in Berlin, Germany. Other centers for American Studies in Germany include the Bavarian America-Academy, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies
Heidelberg Center for American Studies
The University of Heidelberg's Heidelberg Center for American Studies is an interdisciplinary institute for higher education, a center for advanced research, and a forum for public debate on topics related to the United States of America...

 (HCA) and the Center for North American Studies (Zentrum für Nordamerikaforschung or ZENAF) at Goethe University Frankfurt. The American Studies Leipzig program at the University of Leipzig
University of Leipzig
The University of Leipzig , located in Leipzig in the Free State of Saxony, Germany, is one of the oldest universities in the world and the second-oldest university in Germany...

 offers both BA and MA degrees and is known for the graduate journal aspeers
Aspeers
aspeers is a peer-reviewed academic journal on European American studies#American studies outside of the U.S.. It is published by the American Studies Leipzig MA Program and is available annually in print as well as online. As of 2009 it is also available via EBSCOhost.- Title :The title reflects...

. Founded in 1992, the Center for American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark
University of Southern Denmark
The University of Southern Denmark, with campuses located in the southwestern part of Denmark - i.e. Funen, Southern Jutland and Sealand - is a research and educational institution with deep regional roots and an international outlook. Reaching even further south, the university offers a number of...

 now offers a graduate program in American Studies. In the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 the University of Groningen
University of Groningen
The University of Groningen , located in the city of Groningen, was founded in 1614. It is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands as well as one of its largest. Since its inception more than 100,000 students have graduated...

 and the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen offer a complete undergraduate and graduate program in American Studies. The University of Amsterdam and the University of Leiden only offer a graduate program in American Studies. Both the University of Sussex
University of Sussex
The University of Sussex is an English public research university situated next to the East Sussex village of Falmer, within the city of Brighton and Hove. The University received its Royal Charter in August 1961....

 and the University of Nottingham
University of Nottingham
The University of Nottingham is a public research university based in Nottingham, United Kingdom, with further campuses in Ningbo, China and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia...

 in England offer both a number of postgraduate and undergraduate programs. In Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, the Swedish Institute for North American Studies at Uppsala University
Uppsala University
Uppsala University is a research university in Uppsala, Sweden, and is the oldest university in Scandinavia, founded in 1477. It consistently ranks among the best universities in Northern Europe in international rankings and is generally considered one of the most prestigious institutions of...

 offers a minor in American studies. In Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

, the University of Presov
University of Prešov
The University of Prešov is a university in the Slovak city of Prešov. It was established by law in December 1996 by splitting the University of Pavol Jozef Šafárik in Košice into University of Pavol Jozef Šafárik in Košice and Prešov University in Prešov. It was officially established on 1...

 and Pavol Jozef Safarik University offer a complete undergraduate and graduate program in American Studies combined with British Studies.

Russia's main center for American studies is the Institute for US and Canadian Studies
Institute for US and Canadian Studies
Institute for US and Canadian Studies - is a Russian think tank which is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, specializing on the comprehensive studies of the United States and Canada....

 of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Academy of Sciences
The Russian Academy of Sciences consists of the national academy of Russia and a network of scientific research institutes from across the Russian Federation as well as auxiliary scientific and social units like libraries, publishers and hospitals....

, founded in 1967.

In the Middle East, the oldest American Studies program is the American Studies Center at the University of Bahrain
University of Bahrain
The University of Bahrain , a public university in the Kingdom of Bahrain, is the largest university in Bahrain. In post-nominals the University of Bahrain is typically abbreviated as UoB....

 in Sakhir. Founded in 1998, the UOB ASC celebrated its 10th year anniversary in 2008. Established as a university minor, the ASC currently offers over 20 different courses for students, heralds weekly movies in its ASC Theater, regularly hosts diverse speakers, and sponsors gatherings and excursions for ASC students. There is a new American Studies program at the University of Tehran
University of Tehran
The University of Tehran , also known as Tehran University and UT, is Iran's oldest university. Located in Tehran, the university is among the most prestigious in the country, and is consistently selected as the first choice of many applicants in the annual nationwide entrance exam for top Iranian...

, Iran. The new program, offered at the Faculty of World Studies, is a multidisciplinary MA program focusing on American culture, politics, history and ethnicity.

In Oceania, the University of Canterbury
University of Canterbury
The University of Canterbury , New Zealand's second-oldest university, operates its main campus in the suburb of Ilam in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand...

 in Christchurch
Christchurch
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the country's second-largest urban area after Auckland. It lies one third of the way down the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula which itself, since 2006, lies within the formal limits of...

 New Zealand operates a full undergraduate and graduate American Studies program, and in Australia, a postgraduate program in US Studies is run by the United States Studies Centre
United States Studies Centre
The United States Studies Centre is located at the University of Sydney, and aims to increase understanding of the United States in Australia. The centre provides courses for undergraduate and postgraduate students, and hosts public and business forums....

 at the University of Sydney.

Associations and scholarly journals


The American Studies Association was founded in 1950. It publishes American Quarterly, which has been the primary outlet of American Studies scholarship since 1949. The second-largest American Studies journal, American Studies, is sponsored by the Mid-America American Studies Association and University of Kansas
University of Kansas
The University of Kansas is a public research university and the largest university in the state of Kansas. KU campuses are located in Lawrence, Wichita, Overland Park, and Kansas City, Kansas with the main campus being located in Lawrence on Mount Oread, the highest point in Lawrence. The...

. Today there are 36 American Studies journals in 19 countries.http://www.theasa.net/journals/

See also


  • Academic discipline
  • American culture
  • American history
  • American literature
    American literature
    American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States. During its early history, America was a series of British...

  • American Studies in Britain
    American Studies in Britain
    American Studies as an academic discipline is taught at some British universities and incorporated in several school subjects, such as history, politics and literature. While the United States of America is the focus of most study, American Studies can also include the study of all the Americas,...

  • American Studies in Germany
    American Studies in Germany
    Teaching and Research in German American studies is mostly done on the level of universities. Many English Studies departments have one or more professorships designated as "Amerikanistik" or "Amerikastudien." Some universities offer full American studies programs or even have individual American...

  • Cultural Studies
    Cultural studies
    Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

  • High School of American Studies at Lehman College
    High School of American Studies at Lehman College
    Ranked 19th best in country by .The school is administered by the New York City Department of Education. It receives supplementary funding from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History....

  • Public humanities
    Public humanities
    Public humanities is a term used to describe the work of federal, state, nonprofit and community-based cultural organizations that engage the public in conversations, facilitate and present lectures, exhibitions, performances and other programs for the general public on topics such as history,...


Further reading

  • Locating American Studies: The Evolution of a Discipline, edited by Lucy Maddox, Johns Hopkins University Press 1998, ISBN 0-8018-6056-3
  • The Futures of American Studies, edited by Donald E. Pease and Robyn Wiegman, Duke University Press 2002, ISBN 0-8223-2965-4
  • American Studies in a Moment of Danger, George Lipsitz, University of Minnesota Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8166-3949-3

External links