The Global Cultures of Michael Jackson (AMST 320 – American Cultural History)

Michael Jackson was a global American icon. His music, a mix of rock, pop, soul and world music, weaved West African, South American, African American and Anglo-American inspirations. His choreography fused the artistry of Fred Astaire, James Brown, Marcel Marceau, Jackie Wilson and Jerome Robbins. His filmography combined the influences of film noir, horror, science fiction and Broadway musicals. His “World Tours” visited forty countries. This course re-envisions Michael Jackson’s global influences to reframe his international impact. In addition to documentaries, academic texts, and biographies, students will critique Jackson's artistic production, music, videos and concerts.


In The Life: Black Queer History (AMST 320 – American Cultural History)

This course investigates the history of African American LGBTs, from slavery to present time. Topics explored include: same-gender loving during slavery, intimate friendships, the Harlem Renaissance, queer Blues/Jazz artists, the Lavender Scare, Gay Liberation, Disco, Studio 54, Drag Balls and Drag Queens, AIDS, homosexuality in Hip-Hop, RuPaul's Drag race, Noah's Arc, and Frank Ocean. Students explore and read a wide variety of sources: black queer theory, cultural theory, literature, newspapers, archives, documentaries, movies, songs, and TV series.


Global Hip Hop (AMST 330 – Contemporary American Culture)

This course examines hip-hop as a cultural phenomenon circulating globally in complex ways. Through readings, films, music, discussions, research, and new media students investigate the many elements of this global culture: from B-boys/B-girls, MCs, graffiti art, to the fashion, language, and literature that hip-hop artists create. The course explores issues such as representations of race, class, gender and sexuality, cultural production, performance, and reception. Beginning with its multicultural roots in the United States, a number of case studies of hip-hop around the world are considered, as well as closely related musical and cultural phenomena.


Global Icons (AMST 330 – Contemporary American Culture)

Global Icons This course explores the reasons why a few American "pop stars" have become objects of identification and admiration for diverse populations and cultures around the world. While the significance of "Global Icons" derives from their own artistry, it can also be explained from the discourses that they have come to represent. Some questions discussed are: What does it mean to call someone an icon, on a global scale? How do icons produce global meaning? How do global systems of meaning produce icons? Why is it important to consider the function of global icons with respect to American ideas about race, class, gender, age, and sexuality? Students explore the impact of different forms of representations, the role of radio, television, video, Internet and digital music, the manufacturing and marketing of pop music, and the coherence of a globalized culture. Artists discussed include: Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Kurt Cobain, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé¿, Lady Gaga, among others.



AIDS in America (AMST 330 – Contemporary American Culture)

An interdisciplinary exploration of the political, cultural, and social dimensions that characterize the experience of the HIV/AIDS crisis. How did activists address political (in)action? How did cultural representations of AIDS evolve? How, and to what extent, have social constructions about AIDS changed over the last three decades? We will consider these questions, in part, by focusing our attention on several geographic locations from the United States, to Haiti, to Brazil, to Southern Africa to concretize what it means to talk about AIDS as a global pandemic. Course materials include sociological, historical, and cultural analyses; media articles; visual texts; and fiction.


The Music of Washington, DC (AMST 296)

Washington, D.C. has been home to many prominent musical genres, such as bluegrass, jazz, house-dance, and "go-go".  “Explore DC's Music Scene” introduces students to the diverse musical scene of Washington DC, and reflects the broader history of race in DC in the 20th and 21st centuries. Topics explored will include: Jazz, Duke Ellington, Radio business, 1968 race riots, the birth of black-owned music businesses, gentrification, 1980s nightclub culture, Go-Go, Punk, Electronica, Hip Hop and the world of music criticism. We will explore the lives and artistry of many key figures such as Chuck Brown, Experience Unlimited, Rare Essence, Fugazi, Duke Ellington, and Trouble Funk. The course will feature student presentations, class discussions, documentaries, field trips, and concerts.


Poverty and Culture (AMST 240 / General Education)

Students explore and debate rival theories about the causes and consequences of poverty. Why poverty occurs, why certain people are poor, how poverty influences family and community life, and how the poor respond to their situation and sometimes try to change it


American Lives/American Dreams (AMST 200)

Introduction to the interdisciplinary study of American culture, past and present. Emphasizes reading critically, thinking historically, practicing interdisciplinarity, and acknowledging diversity. Students analyze and synthesize multiple kinds of primary sources (such as fiction, film, music, art) and disciplinary perspectives (sociology, economics, media criticism) to better appreciate the complexity of American life and culture


Washington, DC: Life inside a Monument (AMST 140)

Explores the unique nature of Washington, D.C. as a transnational city, the nation's capital, and a regional center for art, community activism, and politics in the region. Usually offered every term.


Interpreting American Culture (AMST 400)

AMST 400 is the capstone course for American Studies majors. With the close support of the instructor, students will have the opportunity to design an original research project, become an expert in their focused area of interest, formulate a provocative argument, and write an article-length essay. The course will also allow students to investigate and come to a better understanding of the interrelationship of history, art, literature, culture, and thought, which is at the core of American Studies. Students will read seminal texts on the major themes explored in the field of American Studies.