Program in American Studies

Academic Unit

Program Information

The Program in American Studies is an interdepartmental plan of study.  Combining a wide range of disciplines, the Program aims to give students an understanding of American society--its culture, its institutions, its intellectual traditions, and the relationships among its diverse people.  We encourage study and debate about America’s place in the world and the world in America, as well as what it means to grapple with the horizons and limits of its democratic aspirations.  The Princeton Program in American Studies, founded in 1942, is one of the oldest interdisciplinary programs at Princeton and continues to be an innovator in curricular development in the 21st century.  By bringing together students and faculty from the arts, the humanities, and social sciences to explore questions that cross disciplinary boundaries, the Program reflects a generative field of intellectual curiosity and creativity, a nexus of energy and engagement.  American Studies scholars share a dynamic commitment to democratic inquiry rather than a universally agreed upon canon of required methods or venerated works. The field encompasses an eclectic array of practices and pedagogies that cohere around openness to studying diverse research objects, asking a broad range of research questions, and engaging with a wide range of scholarly approaches, methods and theories.  We strive to gain a deeper and broader perspective on issues which profoundly affect contemporary life and scholarship, including questions of migration, colonization, race, borders, and diaspora; art, culture, and language; law and public policy; environment and health; gender and sexuality, and more.    

The cooperating departments from which the program draws faculty and other resources include African American Studies, Anthropology, Architecture, Art and Archaeology, Economics, English, History, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Religion, Sociology, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. We also enjoy intimate relationships with other interdisciplinary programs such as the Program in Gender and Sexuality and the Program in Law and Public Affairs.


Admission to the Program

Students from all departments are welcome to apply for admission.  The program accepts up to 45 students each year. Criteria for admission are a strong academic record and particular interest in the multidisciplinary work of the program. Before applying for admission, students must take American Studies 101, preferably during the sophomore year, and achieve a satisfactory standing in the course.

Program of Study

In addition to 101 students must complete two 300- or 400-level American studies courses. The work of AMS courses involves cooperative study of a major topic in American history or culture and its relation to other aspects of American life. Usually, the course operates as a seminar, with emphasis on independent research and writing. Lectures and discussions led by outside specialists, as well as films or field trips, frequently supplement the work.

Students must also complete three American studies electives, which are courses in the American field offered by departments throughout the University and approved by the program director (pass/D/fail not acceptable).

Students are expected to complete a normal departmental course of study with such emphasis on the American field as that department permits. The senior thesis must be on a topic related to American culture or history.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all requirements of the program will receive a certificate of proficiency in American studies upon graduation.