Program in American Studies



  • Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús
  • Patricia Fernández-Kelly (acting)

Associate Director

  • Patricia Fernández-Kelly

Executive Committee

  • Allison Carruth, 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
  • Brian E. Herrera, Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Alison E. Isenberg, History
  • Shamus R. Khan, Sociology
  • 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
  • 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
  • Allison Carruth
  • Rachael Z. DeLue
  • William A. Gleason
  • Judith Hamera
  • Shamus R. Khan
  • Sarah Rivett
  • Stacy E. Wolf

Assistant Professor

  • Monica Huerta
  • Paul Nadal


  • Tessa L. Desmond
  • Rishi Ramesh Guné
  • Angel Velasco Shaw
  • Ali A. Valenzuela

Visiting Associate Professor

  • Tiffany J. King
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 High Meadows Environmental Institute, 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 students to the subjects of American Studies through discussion of some of the signature ideas, events, and debates in America's past and present in order to understand America as it exists today. It examines both historical and mythic manifestations of America from local, national, and global perspectives and considers the historical and cognitive processes associated with the delineation of America. The course examines a wide range of material and media from the point of view of multiple fields of study, and it engages the voices of diverse individuals and cultures in telling the story of America then and now. Instructed by: A. Cheng, R. DeLue, Y. Dweck

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

AMS 216 Wounded Beauty (See ENG 216)

AMS 300 Urban Studies Research Seminar (See URB 300)

AMS 307 Metatheater, Then and Now (See THR 308)

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 Black Dance: History, Theory, Practice (See DAN 305)

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

AMS 316 Translating America (See ENG 219)

AMS 318 Topics in Latinx Literature and Culture: Latinx Literary Worlds (See ENG 318)

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

AMS 322 Native American Literature (also
ENG 242
) Fall CDLA

An analysis of the written and oral literary traditions developed by Native Americans. American Indian and First Nation authors will be read in the context of the global phenomenon of indigeneity and settler colonialism, and in dialogue with each other. Through readings, discussions, and guest speakers, we will consider linguistic, historical, and cultural approaches. This course offers an occasion to reflect on, critique, and contest settler colonialism, or the dispossession of land and waters and the attempt to eliminate Indigenous people. Instructed by: S. Rivett, I. Lockhart

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

AMS 329 Moving Writing: Memoir and the Work of Dance (See DAN 329)

AMS 330 The Orange Bubble (See SOC 370)

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 345 Special Topics in Creative Writing (See CWR 345)

AMS 348 Topics in 18th-Century Literature (See ENG 338)

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

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

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

AMS 357 Conspiracy in America (See ENG 261)

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 388 Cinema in Times of Pandemic: Research Film Studio (See COM 373)

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 Reading Islands: Caribbean Waters, the Archipelago, and its Narratives (See ENG 358)

AMS 397 Religion and American Film (See REL 257)

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 400 Forms of Literature (See ENG 401)

AMS 403 Advanced Seminar in American Studies Fall CDLA

This course brings methods and ideas from two fields--American studies and the environmental humanities--to examine the role of the arts in US food movements related to agriculture, culinary experimentation and environmental justice. Course materials will include film, visual and performance art, journalism, political ephemera and culinary artifacts. Course participants will develop both an independent research-based essay and a multimedia collaborative project that build on the seminar's guiding questions and assigned materials. Instructed by: A. Carruth

AMS 404 Advanced Seminar in American Studies (also
ENG 434
) Not offered this year CDLA

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: The Disney Industrial Complex Fall SA

This interdisciplinary seminar will examine the history and evolution of the Walt Disney Company not only as a multinational media and entertainment conglomerate but also as a powerful cultural force--from the early films and theme parks to the highly successful streaming service. We'll consider the ever-expanding Disney multiverse (which now includes Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, among others) as well as the company's global reach, while paying special attention to its impacts on, and representations of, American history, society, and culture, particularly as they touch on matters of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, and place. Instructed by: W. Gleason

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 415 Race, Labor, and Empire (See HIS 415)

AMS 416 Decentering/Recentering the Western Canon in the Contemporary American Theater (See THR 416)

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 432 Archiving the American West (See HIS 431)

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

AMS 441 Reconstructing the Union: Law, Democracy, and Race after the American Civil War (See HIS 441)

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 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)

AMS 498 Princeton Atelier (See ATL 499)