American studies

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American studies or American civilization is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the study of the Americas, with a historical emphasis upon the United States.[1] It traditionally incorporates the study of history, literature, and critical theory, but also includes fields as diverse as law, art, the media, film, religious studies, urban studies, women's studies, gender studies, anthropology, sociology, foreign policy and culture of the United States, among others. Fields studying specific American communities, such as African American studies, Chicano studies, Latin American studies, Asian American studies, and American Indian studies are considered to be both included in and independent of the broader American studies discipline.

Founding notions[edit]

Vernon Louis Parrington is often cited as the founder of American studies for his three-volume Main Currents in American Thought, which combines the methodologies of literary criticism and historical research; it won the 1928 Pulitzer Prize. In the introduction to Main Currents in American Thought, Parrington described his field:[page needed]

I have undertaken to give some account of the genesis and development in American letters of certain germinal ideas that have come to be reckoned traditionally American—how they came into being here, how they were opposed, and what influence they have exerted in determining the form and scope of our characteristic ideals and institutions. In pursuing such a task, I have chosen to follow the broad path of our political, economic, and social development, rather than the narrower belletristic.

The "broad path" that Parrington describes formed a scholastic course of study for Henry Nash Smith, who received a Ph.D. from Harvard's interdisciplinary program in "History and American Civilization" in 1940, setting an academic precedent for present-day American Studies programs.[citation needed]

The first signature methodology of American studies was the "myth and symbol" approach, developed in such foundational texts as Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land in 1950 and Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden in 1964.[citation needed] Myth and symbol scholars claimed to find certain recurring themes throughout American texts that served to illuminate a unique American culture. Later scholars such as Annette Kolodny and Alan Trachtenberg re-imagined the myth and symbol approach in light of multicultural studies.

Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, these earlier approaches were criticized for continuing to promote the idea of American exceptionalism—the notion that the US has had a special mission and virtue that makes it unique among nations. Several generations of American Studies scholars have critiqued this ethnocentric view, and have focused critically on issues of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and both transnational and international concerns.

Institutionally, in the last decade the American Studies Association has reflected the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the field, creating particularly strong connections to other interdisciplines such as ethnic studies, gender studies, cultural studies and post- or de-colonial studies. Another major theme of the field in recent years has been internationalization[citation needed]—the recognition that much vital scholarship about the US and its relations to the wider global community has been and is being produced outside the United States.

Outside the United States[edit]

Following World War II and during the Cold War, the U.S. government promoted the study of the United States in several European countries, helping to endow chairs in universities and institutes in American history, politics and literature in the interests of cultural diplomacy. Many scholars and governments in Europe also recognized the need to study the U.S. The field has become especially prominent in Britain and Germany. The British Association for American Studies was founded in 1955, and is a constituent member of the European Association for American Studies.

European centres for American studies include the Center for American Studies in Brussels, Belgium and most notably the John F. Kennedy-Institute for North American Studies in Berlin, Germany. Other centers for American Studies in Germany include the Bavarian America-Academy, the University of Munich, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) and the Center for North American Studies (Zentrum für Nordamerikaforschung or ZENAF) at Goethe University Frankfurt. Graduate studies in the field of North American Studies can also be undertaken at the University of Cologne, which works together in joint partnership with the North American Studies program at the University of Bonn.[2] The American Studies Leipzig program at the University of Leipzig offers both BA and MA degrees and is known for the graduate journal aspeers. Founded in 1992, the Center for American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark now offers a graduate program in American Studies. In the Netherlands the University of Groningen and the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen offer a complete undergraduate and graduate program in American Studies. The University of Amsterdam and the University of Leiden only offer a graduate program in American Studies. Both the University of Sussex and the University of Nottingham in England offer both a number of postgraduate and undergraduate programs. In Sweden, the Swedish Institute for North American Studies at Uppsala University offers a minor in American studies. In Slovakia, the University of Presov and Pavol Jozef Safarik University offer a complete undergraduate and graduate program in American Studies combined with British Studies. The Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library also offers a range of events and fellowships, as well as promoting the American collections held at the British Library.

Russia's main center for American studies is the Institute for US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, founded in 1967.[citation needed]

In the Middle East, the oldest American Studies program is the American Studies Center at the University of Bahrain in Sakhir. Founded in 1998, the UOB ASC celebrated its 10th year anniversary in 2008.[3] Established as a university minor, the ASC currently offers over 20 different courses for students, heralds weekly movies in its ASC Theater, regularly hosts diverse speakers, and sponsors gatherings and excursions for ASC students. There is a new American Studies program at the University of Tehran, Iran. The new program, offered at the Faculty of World Studies, is a multidisciplinary MA program focusing on American culture, politics, history and ethnicity.

In Oceania, the University of Canterbury in Christchurch New Zealand operated a full undergraduate and graduate American Studies program until 2012, and in Australia, a postgraduate program in US Studies is run by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

In Canada, the University of Alberta has the Alberta Institute for American Studies.[4] The University of Western Ontario has a Centre for American Studies[5] that has both an undergraduate and master's program in American Studies, with specializations at the graduate level in American Cultural Studies, and Canadian-American Relations.[6] York University offers an undergraduate program in United States Studies.[7]

International American Studies Association (IASA)[edit]

Founded at Bellagio, Italy in 2000, the International American Studies Association has held four World Congresses at Leyden (2003), Ottawa (2005), Lisbon (2007), Beijing (2009)and Rio de Janeiro (2011). The Sixth World Congress of IASA is going to be held at Szczecin, Poland, 3-6 August 2013. The IASA is the only world-wide, independent, non-governmental association for Americanists. Furthering the international exchange of ideas and information among scholars from all nations and various disciplines who study and teach America regionally, hemispherically, nationally, and transnationally, IASA is registered in The Netherlands as a non-profit, international, educational organization with members in more than forty countries around the world.

Associations and scholarly journals[edit]

The American Studies Association was founded in 1950. It publishes American Quarterly, which has been the primary outlet of American Studies scholarship since 1949. The second-largest American Studies journal, American Studies, is sponsored by the Mid-America American Studies Association and University of Kansas. Today there are 53 American Studies journals in 25 countries.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bieger, Laura, Ramon Saldivar, and Johannes Voelz, eds. The Imaginary and Its Worlds: American Studies After the Transnational Turn (Dartmouth College Press/University Press of New England; 2013) 312 pp
  • Maddox, Lucy, ed. Locating American Studies: The Evolution of a Discipline (Johns Hopkins University Press 1998), ISBN 0-8018-6056-3
  • Pease, Donald E. and Robyn Wiegman, eds. The Futures of American Studies (Duke University Press 2002), ISBN 0-8223-2965-4
  • Lipsitz, George. American Studies in a Moment of Danger (University of Minnesota Press, 2001), ISBN 0-8166-3949-3
  • "American Studies at a Crossroads" http://ragazine.cc/2011/12/discourse-american-studies/

External links[edit]

Library guides[edit]