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American Studies core courses


Razing the Roof and Tearing Down Monuments: Controversies in Public Memory (AMS199H1F)

Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Tuesdays, 1:00pm – 3:00pm; Enrollment Cap: 25 seats

In cities across America, statues of past heroes are being kicked off their pedestals. As the republic grapples with conflicting histories, this course introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of American Studies by considering the politics, history, aesthetics, ideologies and geographies of public memorialization. We’ll also critically engage with current research on creative acts of public memory – both digital and material – which offer provocative ways to encounter our collective pasts. Restricted to first-year students. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

Introduction to American Studies (AMS200H1F)

Instructor: Leah Montange
Mondays, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 60 seats

This course will ask the central questions: What is America and who are Americans? This course concentrates on a series of moments in which different groups of Americans—such as women, African Americans, indigenous people, immigrants, refugees, queer Americans, and workers — debated, struggled over, and changed the boundaries of who and what counts as American. We will interrogate and problematize these questions across four time periods: the decades around the American Revolution, the US Civil War, the late 19th century through World War 2, and the second half of the 20th century. Drawing from a variety of source materials ranging from political and literary to visual culture and material artifacts, this course examines the politics, history and culture of the U.S. A major emphasis will be learning to analyze primary sources. Required for majors and minors, but open to all who meet pre-requisites.

Approaches to American Studies: Mass Incarceration in the United States (AMS310H1F / HIS389H1F)

Instructor: Max Mishler
Wednesdays, 1:00pm – 3:00pm; Enrollment Cap: American Studies (23 seats) + History (23 seats) = Total (46 seats) 

The United States is home to five percent of the world’s population but twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners, including a disproportionate number of African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. This vast carceral archipelago generates significant profits for private corporations while exacerbating government deficits and wreaking havoc in those communities targeted by systematic policing and imprisonment. It has also provoked public and scholarly debates about the history, ethics, and function of incarceration in the United States. In this course, we will consider the rise of contemporary mass incarceration from an interdisciplinary perspective that draws upon history, sociology, and legal scholarship.

Approaches to American Studies: Media, Politics, and the 2022 Midterm elections in the USA (AMS312H1F / POL378H1F)

Instructor: Sam Tanenhaus
Thursdays, 11:00am – 1:00pm; Enrollment Cap: American Studies (35 seats) + Political Science (35 seats) = Total (70 seats)

This will be a wide-ranging “real-time” look–with emphasis on all media, from “legacy” to “social”– at the upcoming midterm elections. We’ll zero in on major players in both parties as well as strategies and tactics and larger issues and themes.

Approaches to American Studies: Indigenous Politics of Hawaiʻi (AMS313H1F / POL377H1F)

Instructor: Uahikea Maile
Thursdays, 2:00pm – 4:00pm; Enrollment Cap: American Studies (15 seats) + Political Science (55 seats) = Total (70 seats)

This course explores Indigenous politics and political thought in Hawai‘i. We first examine Hawaiian history to understand law, politics, economics, and society in the Hawaiian Kingdom. Then we look at the US military overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and settler colonial occupation of Hawai‘i, as well as the Indigenous political thought that developed to challenge US imperialism, capital, and settler colonialism. Finally, we investigate contemporary Indigenous political issues in Hawai‘i and Kanaka Maoli theory on sovereignty and decolonization.

Topics in American Studies: Work and Labor in American Life (AMS401H1F)

Instructor: Leah Montange
Wednesdays, 10:00am – 12:00pm; Enrollment Cap: 20 seats

From chattel slavery to the fight for the 8-hour workday to the so-called Great Resignation, this class will unpack the meaning and force of “work” in American life. How have labor movements shaped American life and the US landscape? How have social categories (i.e., race, class, gender, sexuality) been constructed according to labor? What is the relationship between work and freedom (or unfreedom) in America? We will read perspectives from American Studies scholars working in the disciplines of history, geography, cultural studies, political theory, and more.


Concepts in American Studies: Bible in America (AMS210H1S / RLG242H1S)

Instructor: Nyasha Junior
Mondays, 12:00pm – 2:00pm (Tutorials: 2:00pm – 3:00pm / 4:00pm – 5:00pm); Enrollment Cap: American Studies (10 seats) + Religion (40 seats) = Total (50 seats)

This course offers a critical examination of the role of biblical texts (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and New Testament) within the history, literature, and culture of the United States of America. It will employ a range of methodological perspectives to explore the use, influence, and impact of biblical interpretation especially regarding claims of American identity. All readings will be in English. No knowledge of Hebrew or Greek is required.

Theories and Methods in American Studies (AMS300H1S)

Instructor: Leah Montange
Wednesdays, 1:00pm – 3:00pm (Tutorials: 3:00pm – 4:00pm / 4:00pm – 5:00pm); Enrollment Cap: 40 seats

This course explores a range of the many ‘theories and methods’ that have animated the interdisciplinary field of American Studies. Students will read and discuss texts that exemplify or explain a wide variety of theoretical orientations and their associated research methods, exploring how scholars use different approaches to illuminate different kinds of questions about American experience(s). By analyzing the methods, history and theories of American Studies, we’ll trace the invention of the field. Students will have four methods exercises where they will try their hand at close reading, ethnographic interviews, visual methods, and historical analysis. This course is required for majors, but is open to all who have met the prerequisites.

Approaches to American Studies: Borderscapes (AMS311H1S)

Instructor: Leah Montange
Tuesdays, 2:00pm – 4:00pm; Enrollment Cap: 25 seats

This course is about the US’s borders and their crossing. We live in an age of human migration, with more humans than ever before crossing borders to work and study, or as asylum seekers and refugees, both legally and clandestinely. In turn, states are attempting to confront, manage, and control these movements. The outcome has been bordering practices that have reshaped human mobility, and securitized the boundaries between national territories across the globe. In this course we will read and discuss a set of texts from the social sciences and the humanities that address America’s border regions, including the US-Mexico border, US-Canada border, Caribbean Seas, and even borders within the US interior. We will explore state power, especially as it manifests through bordering techniques such as deportation, detention, policing and surveillance. We will read and discuss texts that analyze how humans on the move have resisted, circumvented, and reshaped bordering practices. Throughout, we will consider the complex construction and contestation of America’s borderscapes: border landscapes that are shaped over time through the actions of both states and border crossers.

Topics in American Studies: Stormy Weather: American Natural Disasters (AMS400H1S)

Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Thursdays, 1:00pm – 3:00pm; Enrollment Cap: 20 seats

From the unprecedented Great Mississippi Flood to the ruinous Dust Bowl drought to the recent California wildfires, American culture, landscape, law and history have been profoundly shaped by extreme weather.  This course will explore the consequences of how America imagines and represents such cataclysms.  We’ll examine what happens when weather disasters are viewed as temporary aberrations or, alternatively, seen as a disturbing new normal in the long emergency of climate change.  To get at these issues, we’ll draw on the deep cultural archive of American disaster narratives.  We’ll listen to Charley Patton sing the Mississippi Delta flood blues, look at Banksy’s graffiti art in post-Katrina New Orleans, and watch The Rock rescue California in the blockbuster film ‘San Andreas’ – all as we consider just how unnatural ‘natural’ disaster really is.

Topics in American Studies: Fight the Power: American Protest (AMS402H1S)

Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Tuesdays, 11:00am – 1:00pm; Enrollment Cap: 20 seats

Since settlers took up arms against the British and made a republic out of a colony, America has celebrated its origins as a righteous protest movement.  But the right to rebellious critique has always been contested in America.  Starting with the Declaration of Independence and continuing through #DefundthePolice, this course will examine how public dissent is imagined and restricted in America – why some protests are remembered as heroic while others are derided as mob violence.  Along the way, we’ll read Martin Luther King Jr’s civil rights landmark ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ meet AIDS activists as they occupy St Patrick’s Cathedral, and consider the digitization of protest in Black Lives Matter. Throughout the class we’ll explore precisely how dissent is articulated, and examine various protest techniques including moral suasion, agitprop and sentimentalism.

Courses eligible for Major and Minor

NOTE: The list below is not exhaustive. In general, courses with 50% or more American content may be allowed. Please seek early approval of program credit for such courses by contacting the CSUS Director at

American Studies
  • AMS200H1 Introduction to American Studies
  • AMS300H1 Theories and Methods in American Studies
  • AMS310H1 Approaches to American Studies
  • AMS311H1 Approaches to American Studies
  • AMS312H1 Approaches to American Studies
  • AMS313H1 Approaches to American Studies
  • AMS400H1 Topics in American Studies
  • AMS401H1 Topics in American Studies
  • AMS402H1 Topics in American Studies
  • AMS403H1 Topics in American Studies
  • AMS494H1 Independent Studies
  • AMS495Y1 Independent Studies
Cinema Studies
  • CIN211H1 Science Fiction Film
  • CIN230H1 The Business of Film
  • CIN270Y1 American Popular Film Since 1970
  • CIN310Y1 Avant-Garde and Experimental Film
  • CIN334H1 The Origins of the Animation Industry, 1900-1950: A Technosocial History
  • CIN335H1 American Animation after 1950
  • CIN374Y1 American Filmmaking in the Studio Era
  • CIN431H1 Advanced Study in Cinema as Social and Cultural Practice
  • CIN490Y1 Independent Studies in Cinema
  • CIN491H1 Independent Studies in Cinema
  • CIN492H1 Independent Studies in Cinema
  • ECO306H1 American Economic History
  • ENG250H1 Introduction to American Literature
  • ENG235H1 The Graphic Novel
  • ENG270H1 Introduction to Colonial and Postcolonial Writing
  • ENG355Y1 Transnational Indigenous Literatures
  • ENG360H1 Early American Literature
  • ENG363Y1 American Literature to 1900
  • ENG364Y1 American Literature 1900 to the present
  • ENG365H1 Contemporary American Fiction
  • ENG368H1 Asian North American Literature
  • ENG484H1 Advanced Studies Seminar: Black Epics in the Americas
  • ENG379H1 Special Topics: North American Jewish Fiction
  • GGR240H1 Geographies of Colonialism in North America
  • GGR254H1 Geography USA
  • GGR336H1 Urban Historical Geography of North America
  • GGR339H1 Urban Geography, Planning and Political Processes
  • GGR359H1 Comparative Urban Policy
  • GGR458H1 Selected Topics in Urban Geography
  • HIS106Y1 The African Diaspora in the Americas, 1492-1804
  • HIS202H1 Gender, Race and Science
  • HIS221H1 African American History to 1865
  • HIS222H1 African American History from 1865 to the Present
  • HIS271Y1 American History Since 1607
  • HIS300H1 Energy and Environment in North American History
  • HIS310H1 Histories of North American Consumer Culture
  • HIS343H1 History of Modern Espionage
  • HIS345H1 History and Film
  • HIS366H1 Aboriginal Peoples of the Great Lakes from 1815 to the Present
  • HIS369H1 Aboriginal Peoples of the Great Lakes from 1500 to 1830
  • HIS374H1 American Consumerism – The Beginnings
  • HIS376H1 The United States: Now and Then
  • HIS377H1 20th-Century American Foreign Relations
  • HIS378H1 America in the 1960s
  • HIS379H1 Vietnam at War
  • HIS389H1 Topics in History
  • HIS389Y1 Topics in History
  • HIS396H1 The Progressive Era and Rise of Big Business in America
  • HIS400H1 The American War in Vietnam
  • HIS401Y1 History of the Cold War
  • HIS404H1 Topics in U.S. History
  • HIS411H1 Great Trials in History
  • HIS463H1 Cloth in American History to 1865
  • HIS464H1 Religion and Violence in Comparative Perspective
  • HIS465Y1 Gender and International Relations
  • HIS473H1 The United States and Asia since 1945
  • HIS479H1 US Foreign Policy Since World War II
  • HIS484H1 The Car in North American History
  • HIS487H1 Animal and Human Rights in Anglo-American Culture
  • HIS497H1 Animal Politics and Science
Indigenous Studies 
  • INS302H1 Indigenous Representation in the Mass Media and Society
  • INS341H1 North American Indigenous Theatre
  • MUS306H1 Popular Music in North America
Political Science
  • POL326H1 The Politics of U.S. Foreign Policy
  • POL327H1 U.S. Foreign Policy in a Complex World
  • POL347H1 U.S. Government and Politics: Constitutional Structure and Development
  • POL377H1 Truth, Reconciliation, and Settler Colonialism
  • POL379H1 Topics in Comparative Politics III
  • POL386H1 U.S. Government and Politics
  • POL443H1 Land and Indigenous Politics
  • RLG315H1 Rites of Passage
  • SOC306H1 Economic Sociology
  • SOC386H1 New Topics in Sociology: Sociology of Hip Hop
  • SOC429H5 Disability, Politics and Society
Caribbean Studies
  • CAR324H1 The Contemporary Caribbean in a Global Context
  • JLN427H1 Advanced Topics: The Hispanic Caribbean – Revolution and Culture in Cuba
Canadian Studies
  • CDN368H1 Canada’s Borders
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Events and Program Coordinator, Centre for the Study of the United States