American Studies. an f.a.q.


I declared to be an American Studies Major this past Spring Term. Since then, everyone – and their mother, has asked me what it is and what it entails so I thought this would be a more efficient way to explain what I’m interested in.

What is American Studies?

American Studies is an interdisciplinary field that studies American culture and the identities that this culture creates- from examining systems of oppression, hierarchies and social labels to critiquing how we think of places, media and music. The scope of this is flexible. It can be general – like examining the concept of a Cities and urban spaces, or much more specialized as we analyze a specific city like Los Angeles or Boston and the forces that have made that city different than others.

American Studies incorporates History, Sociology, Anthropology, Art and Economics, and many other fields as it hopes to use many perspectives to understand a subject of scholarship.

So what is it exactly that you do as an American Studies major? 

I’ve taken the following classes so far as part of my American Studies major:

  • Placing Identities – AMST 115
  • Environmental Ethics – ENTS 215
  • Environmental Justice – POSC 212
  • Is Obama Black? Mixed Race U.S. History – HIST 219
  • Women, Crime and the Criminal Justice System – SOAN 202
  • Constitutional Law I – POSC 271

I will be taking a few more history classes as well.

Do you specialize in anything at all? 

Yes! Most people pick certain subjects or mediums that they wish to focus on – music, specific televisions shows, or places like the border between Mexico and the United States and high schools and how gender or racial identities are depicted in these places or in these types of media. .

Right now I’m focusing on environmental policy, environmental justice and sustainable development – which is also pretty broad. Right now, I do not know what subject I’ll write my “Comps” or ‘Comprehensive Exercise’ on – which is what Carleton calls a Senior Thesis.

I still don’t get it. Are American Studies people employable?

Oh yes. From marketing and business consulting to media, law and non-profit work, American Studies graduates are working all over the place, aware of the marginalized communities around us, aware of intersectional oppressions, aware of colonialist narratives.

American Studies Students, like most liberal art students, practice skills that are applicable to many fields, like writing, researching, examining multiple perspectives, logic/common sense, etc.




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