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 various 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 graduate 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.
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.
Indigeneity is woven into the fabric of the world. Since its founding in the late 1990s, American Indian & Indigenous Studies has led the way in the development of innovative multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary approaches to exploring its many threads. Our curriculum focuses on the histories, contemporary experiences, languages, expressive cultures, and political statuses of Indigenous people within and beyond the United States. We have long been intrigued by the striking coherences that exist in the centuries-long, global march of colonization, imperialism, oppression, violence, and land dispossession that have affected peoples all over the globe. We seek to deepen and enrich place-based understandings and commitments through larger conversations about the undeniable similarities (as well as differences) in the ways colonized peoples around the world have been responding to past and ongoing assaults on their lands and sovereignty. To this end, the Dean’s Working Group on Global Indigeneity & American Indian Studies, established in the fall of 2022, is in the process of locating AIIS within a freestanding Curriculum in Global Indigeneity & American Indian Studies. You can visit the Working Group’s website by clicking here to learn more!
The American Indian & Indigenous Studies major and minor cultivate exceptional interdisciplinary research and writing skills and an acute understanding of issues involving Indigeneity, colonialism, cross-cultural interaction, diversity, globalization, art, politics, and social justice. Our students establish a foundation rooted in the liberal arts that is the hallmark of any major or minor in the Humanities and valued by employers. Majors and minors in AIIS have secured internships with the federal government, the National Congress of American Indians, and Indigenous-centered non-profit organizations, pursued graduate training in law, education, public health, nursing, psychology, and history, and have secured jobs in a wide range of fields, from multicultural student affairs in higher education to global health.
Graduate study in American Indian & Indigenous Studies trains students to become contributing members of intellectual and tribal communities. An AIIS graduate student can expect to encounter a rigorous and interdisciplinary course of study of the sovereignty, philosophies, practices, histories, and contemporary presences of tribal nations and Indigenous peoples. Students pursue AIIS-centered Ph.D.’s in American Studies, Anthropology, English and Comparative Literature, Geography, History, Religious Studies, and Romance Studies, among other fields.
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 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.
What can I do with an American Studies Degree?
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