Katy Clune is Virginia’s state folklorist and director of the Virginia Folklife Program.
American Studies Overview
America as place, America as people, America as culture, America as an idea—in all these respects, America is vast, capacious, complex, and changing. To begin to understand America we need to consider its history, its politics and institutions, and the many and varied cultural products in which Americans express their identities, values, and concerns. Our commitment to interdisciplinary approaches empowers students in the American Studies area to develop critical perspectives on American complexity by engaging with a variety of historical, literary, artistic, political, social, cultural, legal, racial, ethnic, and ethnographic perspectives.
The American Studies undergraduate program is an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural education based on recognizing that America is local, regional, national, and global. Students who earn a B.A. major in American Studies area graduates with a comprehension of the dynamics of American culture that prepares them to make a responsible and critical difference in a wide range of professions. Through coursework, fieldwork, and critical and creative projects, American Studies students discover that the answer to the question, What is America? is not only centered at home but abroad, not only focused on culture but on individuals; a story not spoken by one, but by many voices.
Graduate Studies In American Studies
The Ph.D. program in American Studies prepares and encourages students to explore the complex, variable, and contested nature of what it means to be American. We recognize that this requires examining many kinds of evidence derived from multiple sources and genres (archival materials, oral history, literature, popular culture, music, art, food, bodily movement and adornment, landscape, architecture, and belief), accessed via multiple methodologies (historical, literary, ethnographic, and digital humanities) and analyzed via theoretical perspectives that attend to aesthetics and politics; race, gender, and sexuality; region and transnational connection.
The study of Folklore focuses on creativity in everyday life, looking to the worlds of creative action—everything from quilt-making to hip-hop free-styling—that communities fill with meaning. The undergraduate major invites students to critically explore these worlds, coming to understand how identity finds voice in performances and things. The graduate program—which offers an MA in Folklore—challenges students to consider how folklore practice can become a vehicle for addressing the most pressing social issues of our times.
The Folklore Program offers an MA that readies students for either employment in the public sector or further academic study. We also offer a minor in Folklore for students earning a BA or Ph.D. in other departments and a BA major in American Studies with a Concentration in Folklore.
The MA program enables students both to gain a broad appreciation of the discipline of Folklore (including the complex history of the study of “traditional” or “vernacular” culture in a self-consciously “modern” and “global” world) and to develop expertise in a particular area of interest. Graduates of our program take jobs in the public sector, bring their folklorist’s eye to work in other professional fields as diverse as museum curatorship and medicine, and go on to further graduate work in Anthropology, Communication Studies, Film Studies, and Information and Library Science as well as in Folklore.
Courses taught by the core Folklore faculty offer students a perspective on the breadth of genres and issues addressed by our discipline. The three additional courses allow students to explore interdisciplinary connections and historical contexts for their thesis topics. These additional courses may be taught by Folklore faculty or may come from a variety of associated graduate programs, including Anthropology, Communications Studies, English and Comparative Literature, History, and Music. Students may also arrange to take courses at Duke University, including courses in the Department of Cultural Anthropology, ethnomusicology courses in the Department of Music, and courses offered by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Students pursuing a Ph.D. in another department at UNC may qualify for a minor in Folklore by completing six courses chosen in consultation with the Coordinator of the Folklore Program.
American Indian & Indigenous Studies Overview
Begun as a “program” in 1998, American Indian and Indigenous Studies established a minor in 2003 and inaugurated a major concentration with the Department of American Studies in 2008. We feature a dynamic multidisciplinary community of faculty, students, and staff. Our research, teaching, and service focus on the histories, contemporary experiences, expressive cultures, languages, and political status of indigenous peoples in and beyond North America. Many of us are devoted to collaborative research, and we value engaged scholarship that is relevant to Native American and Indigenous communities. AIIS collaborates with the UNC American Indian Center on a variety of activities and programs–including the Elder-In-Residence Program, annual Michael D. Green Lecture, and Carolina Seminar in American Indian and Indigenous Studies–and is supportive of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology at UNC. If you have any questions regarding the AIIS major/minor, please contact our coordinator, Dr. Daniel Cobb, via email.
Learn about the future of Indigenous Studies at UNC-Chapel and the Working Group on Global Indigeneity and American Indian Studies at https://indigeneity.unc.edu/.
We caught up with AMST/FOLK senior Fields Utz, who recently completed a senior honors thesis titled “Beyond the Rainbow Cake: Queer Food as Care: An Ethnographic Exploration of The Intersections Between Queerness, Food, And Identity.”