Program in American Studies


  • Director

    • Anne A. Cheng
  • Associate Director

    • Rachael Z. DeLue
  • Acting Associate Director

    • Aisha Beliso-De Jesus

  • Executive Committee

    • Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesus
    • Vera S. Candiani
    • Rachael Z. DeLue
    • Mitchell Duneier
    • Yaacob Dweck
    • Patricia Fernandez-Kelly
    • William A. Gleason
    • Eric S. Gregory
    • Judith Hamera
    • Brian E. Herrera
    • Monica Huerta
    • Alison E. Isenberg
    • Regina Kunzel
    • Christina Leon
    • Beth Lew-Williams
    • Rosina A. Lozano
    • Paul Nadal
    • Kinohi Nishikawa
    • Sarah Rivett
    • Carolyn Rouse
    • Martha A. Sandweiss
    • Paul Starr
    • Dara Z. Strolovitch
    • Emily A. Thompson
    • Marta Tienda
    • Ali Valenzuela
    • Judith L. Weisenfeld
    • R. Sean Wilentz
    • Peter Wirzbicki
    • Stacy E. Wolf
  • Professor

    • Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesus
    • Anne A. Cheng
    • Rachael Z. DeLue
    • William A. Gleason
    • Judith Hamera
    • Sarah Rivett
    • Stacy E. Wolf



  • Assistant Professor

    • Paul Nadal
    • Monica Huerta


  • Visiting Associate Professor

    • Allison Carruth



  • Sits with Committee

    • Tessa Desmond

  • For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the Program in American Studies website.

Program Information

The Program in American Studies is an interdisciplinary plan of study that trains students to make intellectual connections in the world through the experiences and place of America in current and historical times. We understand “America” as a concept that travels locally and globally and is grounded in particular histories and cultural projects. Combining a wide range of fields, areas, and disciplines, the program helps students explore different conceptual framings of America, as well as the role of the United States as a nation in global, local, and transnational relationships. The program is grounded in the social, cultural, institutional, and intellectual histories and experiences of the diverse people and cultures that make up the United States of America. We encourage study and debate about what America(s) are/is, the role of the U.S. in the world and the world in the U.S., as well as what it means to grapple with the horizons and limits of U.S. 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, collaboration, and creativity. 

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 diverse scholarly approaches, methods and theories. We strive to gain a deeper and broader perspective on issues that 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 close relationships with the Program in Environmental Studies, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and the Program in Law and Public Affairs.

Admission to the Program

Students from all departments are welcome to enroll. Students may enroll in the American Studies certificate program at any time, including their first year. There are no prerequisites, and courses taken prior to enrollment may count towards the certificate requirements. Students may take the gateway course AMS 101 at any time during their studies, including after enrollment in the certificate program. To enroll in the certificate program, students should complete the online enrollment form.  Certificate students should meet with the associate director or undergraduate administrator before the end of their first year of enrollment, to review their plans for fulfilling the certificate requirements.

Program of Study

Students may earn a certificate in American studies by successfully completing the following requirements, consisting of five courses:

  1. AMS 101, America Then and Now
  2. Three courses in American Studies, either originating in the program or cross-listed, and preferably representing disciplinary breadth in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. No more than one course taken in fulfillment of the student’s concentration may be counted toward the certificate.
  3. A capstone seminar in American Studies, preferably taken in the senior year.

Certificate of Proficiency

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


AMS 101 America Then and Now Fall EC

This course introduces a selection of signature ideas and debates that made the nation what it is today and what it is becoming. Objects of study range across multiple media, including texts, images, works of art, music, performance, and film, and draw from the diverse fields of literature, history, political science, art history, economics, law, cultural studies, and the history of science. The course attends to how knowledge about America has and continues to be produced, disseminated, and consumed, emphasizing the cognitive processes associated with the invention and delineation of America. Instructed by: A. Beliso-De Jesús, W. Gleason, S. Wolf

AMS 305 Topics in Race and Public Policy (See AAS 306)

AMS 306 Issues in American Public Health (also
GHP 411
) Fall SA

The study of public health is an interdisciplinary inquiry involving issues of politics, policy, history, science, law, philosophy, ethics, geography, sociology, environmental studies, and economics, among others. Students will examine the government's role in assuring and promoting health, through the exploration of issues on America's "public health agenda," such as epidemic response, tobacco use, the impact of weight on health, mandatory vaccination, disease prevention, and violence. In doing so, they will consider the impact of race, income, gender, place and environment, education, capitalism and democracy on health outcomes. Instructed by: L. Gerwin

AMS 308 The Politics of American Jewish Power and Powerlessness (See JDS 312)

AMS 309 Music Traditions in North America (See MUS 260)

AMS 310 Multiethnic American Short Stories: Tales We Tell Ourselves (also
ENG 434
ASA 310
) Fall LA

Short stories have been used by writers to make concise, insightful comments about American national identity and individuality. Taken up by African-Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and many others, the genre has been used to convey experiences with immigration and assimilation, discrimination and oppression, generational divides, and interactions across difference. Examination of such stories deepens our understanding of America's multiethnic landscape. In this seminar, we will explore stories written by a diverse group of writers to consider the ties that both link and divide multiethnic America. Instructed by: T. Desmond

AMS 316 Translating America (See ENG 219)

AMS 320 U.S. Women Writers (See GSS 319)

AMS 336 Gender Crossings in American Musical Theater (See GSS 337)

AMS 341 "Cult" Controversies in America (See REL 271)

AMS 348 Introduction to Digital Humanities (See HUM 346)

AMS 350 Civil Society and Public Policy (See WWS 385)

AMS 352 Battle Lab: The Battle of Princeton (See HUM 350)

AMS 354 Creative Ecologies: American Environmental Narrative and Art, 1980-2020 (also
ART 355
ENV 373
) Fall SA

This seminar explores how writers and artists--alongside scientists and activists--have shaped American environmental thought from 1980 to today. The seminar asks: How do different media convey the causes and potential solutions to environmental challenges, ranging from biodiversity loss and food insecurity to pollution and climate change? What new art forms are needed to envision sustainable and just futures? Course materials include popular science writing, graphic narrative, speculative fiction, animation art, documentary film, and data visualization along with research from anthropology, ecology, history, literary studies, and philosophy. Instructed by: A. Carruth

AMS 363 Gender, Sexuality, and Contemporary U.S. Theatre and Performance (See GSS 363)

AMS 364 Topics in American Literature (See ENG 356)

AMS 365 Isn't It Romantic? The Broadway Musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim (also
ENG 365
GSS 365
MTD 365
) Spring LA

Song. Dance. Man. Woman. These are the basic components of the Broadway musical theatre. How have musical theatre artists, composers, lyricists, librettists, directors, choreographers, and designers worked with these building blocks to create this quintessentially American form of art and entertainment? This course will explore conventional and resistant performances of gender and sexuality in the Broadway musical since the 1940s. Why are musicals structured by love and romance? Instructed by: S. Wolf

AMS 366 Queer Boyhoods (See GSS 316)

AMS 367 American Noir: Crime Fiction and Film (also
ENG 267
) Fall LA

A study of a distinctive new genre that is eminently American, distinctively modernist, and brazenly vulgar. Louche as the subject is, writers were able more directly to engage issues of social inequality (racial, sexual, economic) along with changing notions of gender construction. Such fiction continues today, but its appeal for cinema has been tremendous, and we will focus on the ways adaptation modified popular formulas. Instructed by: L. Mitchell

AMS 369 Women and American Religion (See REL 360)

AMS 370 Asian American History (See HIS 270)

AMS 371 US Intellectual History: Development of American Thought (See HIS 375)

AMS 372 Postblack - Contemporary African American Art (See AAS 372)

AMS 373 Pleasure, Power and Profit: Race and Sexualities in a Global Era (See GSS 345)

AMS 378 Race and Religion in America (See REL 377)

AMS 380 Unrest and Renewal in Urban America (See HIS 388)

AMS 382 Public Policy in the U.S. Racial State (See AAS 380)

AMS 383 Graphic Memoir (See GSS 373)

AMS 384 Literature, Food, and the American Racial Diet (See ENG 395)

AMS 385 Theater and Society Now (See THR 385)

AMS 387 Education Policy in the United States (See WWS 387)

AMS 389 Black Aesthetics: Art, Literature, and Politics in the African Diaspora (See ENG 379)

AMS 393 Jewish Identity and Performance in the US (See ENG 410)

AMS 396 Forms of Literature (See ENG 401)

AMS 397 Religion and American Film (See REL 257)

AMS 398 FAT: The F-Word and the Public Body (also
DAN 312
GSS 346
) Fall SA

The fat body operates at the conjuncture of political economy, beauty standards, and health. This seminar asks, How does this "f-word" discipline and regulate bodies in /as public? What is the "ideal" American public body and who gets to occupy that position? How are complex personhood, expressivity, health, and citizenship contested cultural and political economic projects? We will examine the changing history, aesthetics, politics, and meanings of fatness using dance, performance, memoirs, and media texts as case studies. Intersectional dimensions of the fat body are central to the course. No previous performance experience necessary. Instructed by: J. Hamera

AMS 399 In the Groove: Technology and Music in American History, From Edison to the iPod (also
HIS 399
) Fall HA

When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, no one, including Edison, knew what to do with the device. Over the next century Americans would engage in an ongoing dialogue with this talking machine, defining and redefining its purpose. This course will track that trajectory, from business tool to scientific instrument to music recorder to musical instrument. By listening to the history of the phonograph, and by examining the desires and experiences of phonograph users, students will perceive more generally the complex relationships that exist between a technology and the people who produce, consume, and transform it. Instructed by: E. Thompson

AMS 403 Advanced Seminar in American Studies Not offered this year SA

This is an experimental and collaborative seminar that will explore selected sites and episodes in the history of property relations in America. We are as interested in hoarding as in wealth production, blood as well as land, cultural identities as well as corporations. The focus is relentlessly interdisciplinary, bringing together legal cases, ethnographies, novels, poems, films, buildings, maps, and other cultural products. The seminar will offer several opportunities for students to "do" American Studies through the lens of property law and property conflicts. Instructed by: A. Cheng, H. Hartog

AMS 404 Advanced Seminar in American Studies (also
ASA 404
LAO 404
THR 404
) Not offered this year HA

This course offers an intensive introduction to the particular tools, methods and interpretations employed in developing original historical research and writing about race and ethnicity in twentieth century popular performance (film, television, theater). Through collaborative, in-depth excavations of several genre-straddling cultural works, course participants will rehearse relevant methods and theories (of cultural history, of race and ethnicity, of popular culture/performance) and will undertake an independent research project elaborating the course's guiding premise and principles of practice. Instructed by: B. Herrera

AMS 406 AMS Capstone Seminar (also
ENG 319
) Fall SA

What "information" does your face transmit? This course explores aesthetic, philosophical, and ethical theories about human faces as markers of identity and carriers of cultural information, in terms of race, gender and class. We will turn throughout the course to the collections of the Princeton Art Museum to consider how visual art depicts the processes through which we "read" faces. We will also think about the limits of "faciality" - i.e. at what point is a face not a face - especially alongside questions of technology and performance. Instructed by: M. Huerta

AMS 412 Princeton and Slavery (See HIS 402)

AMS 413 Writing about Cities (See HIS 451)

AMS 416 Topics in Literature and Ethics (See ENG 416)

AMS 428 Sex, Violence, Death and Other Entertainments for Kids: Challenging Drama for Youth (See ENG 428)

AMS 431 BANNED: The Paradox of Free Speech in Cinema (See COM 431)

AMS 436 Crime, Gender, and American Culture (See GSS 336)

AMS 443 Global Novel (See ENG 444)

AMS 448 Corporealities of Politics (See GSS 348)

AMS 454 An Introduction to Latino Literature and Culture (See ENG 354)

AMS 457 Empire of the Ark: The Animal Question in Film, Photography and Popular Culture (See ENV 357)

AMS 459 The History of Incarceration in the U.S. (See HIS 459)

AMS 474 Violence in America (See HIS 474)

AMS 479 Society, Politics, and Ideas in 1980s America (See HIS 479)

AMS 481 History of the American Workplace (See HIS 481)

AMS 483 Race in the American Empire (See HIS 483)

AMS 498 Princeton Atelier (See ATL 498)