Program in American Studies



  • Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús

Associate Director

  • Patricia Fernández-Kelly

Executive Committee

  • Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús, American Studies
  • Anne Cheng, English
  • Rachael Z. DeLue, Art and Archaeology
  • Mitchell Duneier, Sociology
  • Yaacob Dweck, History
  • Patricia Fernández-Kelly, Sociology
  • Paul Frymer, Politics
  • William A. Gleason, English
  • Eric S. Gregory, Religion, ex officio
  • Judith Hamera, Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Brian E. Herrera, Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Monica Huerta, English
  • Alison E. Isenberg, History
  • Regina Kunzel, History
  • Beth Lew-Williams, History
  • Christina León, English
  • Rosina A. Lozano, History
  • Anne McClintock, Gender & Sexuality Studies Pgm
  • Paul Nadal, English
  • Kinohi Nishikawa, English
  • Sarah Rivett, English
  • Carolyn M. Rouse, Anthropology
  • Paul E. Starr, Sociology
  • Dara Z. Strolovitch, Gender & Sexuality Studies Pgm
  • Ali A. Valenzuela, Politics
  • Judith Weisenfeld, Religion
  • Sean Wilentz, History
  • Peter Wirzbicki, History
  • Stacy E. Wolf, Lewis Center for the Arts

Sits with Committee

  • Tessa L. Desmond


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

Assistant Professor

  • Monica Huerta
  • Paul Nadal


  • Kevin P. Block
  • Tessa L. Desmond
  • Leslie E. Gerwin
  • Grant R. Wythoff

Visiting Associate Professor

  • Sylvia Chan-Malik
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Program Information

The Program in American Studies is an interdisciplinary plan of study that prepares 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 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 Princeton 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. An advanced 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 CDEC

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. Valenzuela, W. Gleason, P. Fernández-Kelly

AMS 215 Introduction to Dance Across Cultures (See DAN 215)

AMS 218 Latinx Autobiography (See LAO 218)

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 313 Feminist Futures: Contemporary S. F. by Women (See GSS 303)

AMS 316 Translating America (See ENG 219)

AMS 317 Sondheim's Musicals and the Making of America (also
MTD 321
THR 322
ENG 249
) Fall LA

In this course, we'll examine the musicals of Stephen Sondheim from COMPANY (1970) to ROAD SHOW (2009) as a lens onto America. How have Sondheim's musicals conversed with American history and American society since the mid-20th century? How do Sondheim's musicals represent America and Americans, and how have various productions shaped and re-shaped those representations? We'll explore how Sondheim and his collaborators used the mainstream, popular, and commercial form of musical theatre to challenge, critique, deconstruct, and possibly reinforce some of America's most enduring myths. Instructed by: S. Wolf

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

AMS 323 Afro-Diasporic Dialogues: Black Activism in Latin America and the United States (See AAS 322)

AMS 328 Special Topics in Dance History, Criticism, and Aesthetics (See DAN 321)

AMS 335 Performance in Extraordinary Times: Documenting and Analyzing the Present (See DAN 314)

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

AMS 340 American Literature: 1930-Present (See ENG 368)

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

AMS 343 Privacy, Publicity, and the Text Message (also
ENG 238
HUM 342
) Fall SA

This seminar will explore how we negotiate the distance between ourselves and others through text messages. Texts sustain an ambient intimacy that is increasingly redefining borders that range from the interpersonal--via anonymous mental health support--to the international--via reporting platforms for immigrant communities. What technical and social expectations of privacy do we operate with when sending a point-to-point message? How do novelists incorporate text messages into works of fiction? What does it mean that Frank Ocean can sing, "you text nothing like you look"? Instructed by: G. Wythoff

AMS 345 Special Topics in Creative Writing (See CWR 345)

AMS 349 The Reverence and Violence of Modern Dance (See DAN 348)

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

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

AMS 353 21st Century Latinx Drama (See THR 353)

AMS 358 Are You For Sale? Performance Making, Philanthropy and Ethics (See DAN 357)

AMS 359 Topics in American Literature (See ENG 356)

AMS 360 History of the American West (See HIS 374)

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

AMS 366 Queer Boyhoods (See GSS 316)

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 Law and Public Policy in African American History (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 SPI 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 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 400 Forms of Literature (See ENG 401)

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 Advanced Seminar in American Studies (also
THR 447
DAN 406
) Not offered this year CDSA

Performance studies offers creative interdisciplinary methods to American Studies. This capstone seminar uses foundational and recent performance studies scholarship in American, Asian American, and Latinx Studies as models for archival, oral history, and ethnographic research and analysis. We will also investigate performance as a mode of academic production. Students will apply performance studies methods to their own areas of interest. No performance experience necessary. Instructed by: J. Hamera

AMS 411 Major Author(s) (See ENG 411)

AMS 412 Princeton and Slavery (See HIS 402)

AMS 413 Writing about Cities (See HIS 451)

AMS 414 Life-Writing: Diaries, Memoirs, Autobiographies and History (See HIS 414)

AMS 419 American Agrarians: Ideas of Land, Labor, and Food (also
ENV 419
) Spring SA

For agrarians, farms and fields are prized over boardrooms and shopping malls. Agrarianism values hard work, self-sufficiency, simplicity and connection with nature. For some today, it is a compelling antidote to globalization and consumerism. This course examines American agrarianism past and present and its central role in our national imaginary, tracing the complex and contradictory contours of a social and political philosophy that seeks freedom and yet gave way to enslaving, excluding, and ignoring many based on race, immigration status, and gender. A focus will be on new agrarianism and movements for food, land, and social justice. Instructed by: T. Desmond

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 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 471 Abraham Lincoln and America, 1809-1865 (See HIS 470)

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 482 Arab America: Culture, Activism, and Resistance (See HIS 482)

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

AMS 484 Borderlands, Border Lives (See HIS 484)