Spring 2015

Research Methods in American Culture

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-468

Formerly listed as: AMST-68  |  ENGL-95  |  HIST-83


Kiara M. Vigil (Section 01)


This course aims to provide a “how to” of American Studies from an integrative, multiracial, and socio-cultural perspective. It also takes on the (impossible) task of surveying the development of American Studies as an interdisciplinary field, while paying attention to the theoretical concerns and bodies of work that have influenced American Studies scholars over the last half century, including but not limited to Marxism, post-structuralism, feminism, cultural studies, race, class, gender, and sexuality studies, whiteness studies, regional studies, indigenous studies, ethnic studies, as well as material, visual and popular cultural studies. Taking American culture as a site for testing classic and contemporary theories about how cultures work, this advanced research and writing seminar introduces students to resources and techniques for interdisciplinary research. Students will be exposed to and experiment with a wide range of current theoretical and methodological approaches. In the process, they will gain a working competence in debates and approaches from American Studies.

The goal of the course is not only for students to develop knowledge of main currents in the field, but to become practitioners through a series of assignments that will permit them to exercise their newfound skills. Thus, students will study a range of materials—visual, literary, print, digital, audio—via a traditionally interdisciplinary American Studies praxis. In the process they will develop rhetorical analyses, gather ethnographic data, and do close readings of assorted texts, spaces, and buildings, as the class explores problems or topics such as national narratives, ethnoracial formations, the American prison system, and the circulation of commodities. Taking four “model” monographs as the main texts for the course, students will investigate central themes in studies of American culture and history and will be able to identify how these current works rely on and respond to the history of and debates within American Studies. Class sessions will entail instruction in library training, archival research, legal research, and other skills, as well as discussions of research methods and course materials. Students will choose a research topic as the basis for a final presentation as part of a mini-conference event, annotated bibliography, and a research prospectus.

Limited to 20 students.  Open to juniors and seniors as a research seminar; underclassmen admitted under special circumstances. Spring semester.  Professor Vigil.

If Overenrolled: Preference will be given to junior and senior American Studies and English majors, followed by students in Black Studies, History, and the Five Colleges certificate programs in Asian Pacific American Studies and Native American Studies.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2023