What does it mean to be “an American?” How does our understanding of American culture, and our relation to it, differ depending upon historical context, social position, and the interpretive and ideological perspectives we bring to bear upon it? American Studies pursues these questions using a variety of interdisciplinary approaches, using texts, performance, and material culture as points of departure for our wide-ranging exploration of American culture. While it focuses on the United States, American Studies situates the U.S. in a wider transnational context. In particular, American Studies explores the various ways that institutions, values and practices shape, maintain, and challenge relations of power. American Studies courses are designed to elucidate what has been rendered socially invisible.
Such discussions interrogate realities and discourses that have been deemed natural in order to expose their socially contingent character. Through their critical engagement with race, gender, sexuality, social class, disability, and other sites of identity, and with their own relation to them, students interrogate the meaning of belonging, privilege, and exclusion. Among current American Studies courses are those that focus on cultural geography and cultural politics, borderlands, diasporas, film and media, gender, history, literature, music, performance, queer theory, and race theory.