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Fall 2021


ASCP 81000: Introduction to American Studies, Tuesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 3 credits. Professor Lucia Trimbur. 

Intellectuals and Intelligence: Spies, Secrets, and Surveillance in the University 

 While the American university is often imagined as an independent and apolitical establishment, devoid of connections to and demands from other social institutions, academia has, in fact, been a primary site of ideological struggle through collaboration with outside agencies, most notably intelligence. In the discipline of anthropology, the history of ethnographic research, colonial administration, and surveillance is well rehearsed. The same relationships in the humanities and other humanistically-grounded social sciences are less known. Intellectuals and Intelligence attempts to better understand how and when academic disciplines have been contiguous or aligned with intelligence communities.   

 First, we look at the origins of American studies in the 1940s and 1950s, examining the ideological work this newly-formed area of study performed during the Cold War. Second, we use methods and theories from American studies to analyze the connections among intelligence bureaus and English, psychology, sociology, area studies, and political science. Topics include explicit engagement such as the Frankfurt School and the OSS, recruitment in the Ivy League, anti-communist propaganda and loyalty oaths, counterinsurgency during liberation movements, torture during the “War on Terror,” and the Human Terrain Program as well as sites of complicity such as cultural exchange, clandestine support for journals and conferences, and federal grant funding.  

Works likely to be addressed include Frances Stonor Saunders's The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, Robin Winks's Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War 1939-1961, “The CIA Reads Foucault” by Gabriel Rockhill, The Cold War and the University: Towards an Intellectual History of the Postwar Years edited by Noam Chomsky, and Rebecca Lowen’s Creating the Cold War university: The Transformation of Stanford.    


ASCP 81500: Black Visuality, Black Performance, Tuesdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm. 3 credits, Michael Gillespie.  Cross-listed with IDS 81650 

The class will be an interdisciplinary consideration of blackness and the art of black cultural production with attention to framing art as an enactment of black visual and expressive culture. We will focus on the aesthetic, political, historiographic, and cultural instantiations of the idea of race as discourse. The narrative of the class is structured around various epistemological and aesthetic themes/tendencies that inform black visuality and performativity in the arts (e.g. film, television, literature, music, new media, photography, dance, painting, installation art).  Students will be required to complete and present their own projects on black visuality/performance. Course readings may include: Tina Campt’s Listening to Images, Uri McMillan’s Embodied Avatars: Genealogies of Black Feminist Art and Performance, Emily Lordi’s The Meaning of Soul: Black Music and Resilience Since the 1960s, Huey Copeland’s Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America, Amber J. Musser’s Sensual Excess: Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance, and Michael Boyce Gillespie’s Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film


ASCP 81500: American Social Institutions, Wednesdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm. 3 credits, Karen Miller and Saadia Toor.  Cross-listed with IDS 81670 and MALS 73200

This class will examine American Studies through the lens of social, cultural, political and other kinds of institutions. We will begin by exploring what we mean when we say “institution.” We will think together about why this may be a productive lens for assessing and interrogating the world around us. What does it offer? And what might it elide? How do studies of institutions help expose the myriad ways that power functions in culture, society, and politics? How do institutions, themselves, shape these power relations? And how do different approaches to understanding institutions give us different sorts of answers? American Studies scholars have been asking these questions for decades. We will turn to their texts as sites for exploration. 

The texts that we will explore together will put questions about inequality and how it operates at their core. Thus, we will ask how institutions can help amplify or mitigate the often-crushing hierarchies that have been (and continue to be) based on racial, gender, sexual, national, and other forms of difference. 

The class will be organized thematically, arranged around a series of inquiries drawn from recent scholarship. Each week, we will take a specific institution as our starting point. These institutions may include (but will not be limited to) the family, the state, courts, race, colonialism, hospitals, prisons, schools, the military, libraries, social networks, media, the corporation, capitalism, etc. We will examine how scholars within a range of American Studies subfields have developed different approaches for exploring institutions. They have used both creative and conventional scholarly tools to explore questions about life, infrastructure, health, race, ethnicity, indigeneity, gender, sexuality, transnationality, borders, architecture, foreign relations, language, politics, economics, literature, art, music, work, social movements, and more. Finally, we will discuss how these institutions may help offer us strategies for imagining new, and possibly better futures. 


Students taking courses offered through other units that are appropriate to ASCP 81500/Key Questions in American Studies or ASCP 82000/Research Practices in American Studies, may have them counted toward completion of the certificate program by sending the course details (name, title, instructor(s), and course description) to