Khushi Nansi was one of the Co-Editor-In-Chiefs of the Undergraduate Journal of American Studies and minored in American Studies while double majoring in History of Art and Industrial Relations & Human Resources. She will be graduating in June 2021 alongside her fellow American Studies students! She spoke about her experience as an American Studies student and shared some exciting news about her upcoming endevours!

Please share your fondest memory from being an American Studies student.

It would have to be the beginning of my turn into American Studies, sitting down in Introduction to American Studies and experiencing Professor Rahr’s teaching for the first time. Profeessor Rahr’s level of instruction was something I had never experienced before––she is so incredibly knowledgeable, dedicated, engaging, and perfectly aware of the narrative thread she carries throughout her course. As in all CSUS courses, we read historical and contemporary sources from a wide array of disciplines, it was wonderfully interdisciplinary. I had declared my Minor in American Studies based upon a mentor’s suggestion, and once I sat in Professor Rahr’s class I never looked back. It truly felt like I was learning something I would carry with me for a very long time. Every time I am fortunate enough to have a class with her, I’m blown away by how incredibly intelligent she is and how lucky we were to have her.

What are some of the courses that you really enjoyed taking and why?

Anything with Professor Rahr! I’m a broken record but I can’t praise her enough.
Obviously, AMS200 (USA200): Introduction to American Studies, as well as AMS300 (USA300): Theories and Methods in American Studies, which I took in second year as well. The name really isn’t an indication of how helpful the course is–– it gave me the groundwork to understand and read theory in all my future upper-year seminar courses, across all my programs.
One of my favourite seminars was “Topics in American Studies: Fight the Power: A History of American Protest Movements,” spanning from historical to contemporary. I loved studying the artistic history of protest in the U.S., just one of the lenses we applied in our work. It is to the credit of the CSUS that the 400 level AMS (USA) seminar courses change every year, and that they are reflective of current events––they are never not relevant and never not interesting.

What are some ways that you were involved with the program?

I was a part of the Undergraduate Society for American Studies in both 2nd and 3rd years as the Co Vice President and Executive at Large. Now in fourth year, I am the Co-Editor in Chief for the Undergraduate Journal of American Studies. It’s been incredible to curate a microcosm of the Centre and everything that we talk about in class, everything going on this unpredictable, unforeseen year, and the University of Toronto experience.

Do you have any words of wisdom for current or future American Studies students?

Try things outside your comfort zone, but at the same time, lean into things for which you have an affinity. Truthfully, I was afraid to try American Studies, because I’d never studied American history in school, and didn’t know much about American politics aside from what the average person knew. I’d always studied the Canadian side of things! So going into this minor was a bit terrifying, but it was immediately and ultimately so rewarding, I’m very glad I did it despite the fear. Definitely step into things that scare you a little bit (high risk high reward!) but follow things you do well and know you enjoy, so you can build a really well-rounded plate and give yourself lots of options for the future.

What are next steps for you after graduating from U of T?

I will be moving to Boston at the end of August to study at MIT! I’m pursuing a Master of Science in Architecture Studies in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, a two-year long program. Feeling very excited and terrified and nervous and all the emotions, but mostly very lucky. This path was similarly scary to choose at first, but I can’t thank my mentors enough––Professors Rahr, Mostafa, and Fee––for their guidance and advice throughout these years. My research focuses on the medieval/early modern period in the Islamicate world at large but more specially, the Indian subcontinent and Egypt, looking at the history of art and architectural histories of the urban underworld and court. So, jewelry, other forms of dress, monuments, architecture, etc. This is a gap in the field, so I’m excited to dive into archives and do field work.

What are some insights from the American Studies Program that you think you will be able to apply in your future activities?

American Studies really taught me how to pull together different disciplines into a study of a region; in short, it taught me interdisciplinarity. You gain the ability to apply seemingly disparate fields in the Western notion of the university, from literature to history to politics to art. Learning to read and critique theory, observing with multiple lenses, these are things I apply in my everyday life, just as much as I do so when I am conducting research. Theoretical lenses such as critical race theory, the study of area studies itself, the notion of a ‘republic’ or democracy and how to critique it, are just a few of the frameworks I now understand intimately because of the CSUS.

In addition to the minor, I graduate with a double major in History of Art and Industrial Relations & Human Resources. IRHR and American Studies together have helped me pursue little attended areas of art history: reading the underworld and vice as an economy itself, whose labour produced its own material culture. In observing other forms of depictive art, such as courtesans dancing, we can know the multiple layers of labour involved, a depiction of the courtesan’s labour as much as it is seen as depiction of royal leisure, and further, that an artisan’s labour created the object we regard. This ability, to unpack the layers unseen, across multiple disciplines, is something I learned from American Studies.

Congratulations to Khushi! We look forward to the amazing work that she will be doing in the future!