American Studies

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

American Studies is an individualized interdisciplinary major that offers undergraduates a unique opportunity to take advantage of the depth and breadth of Americanist scholarship and research on the campus in order to explore and understand the United States and its place in the globalizing world. American studies courses integrate a variety of subjects, methods, and materials from many academic disciplines, including the traditional blend of history and literature, as well as the social sciences, material culture, built environment, law, technology, urbanism, ecology, economy, and arts.

Declaring the Major

In order to declare the major, students with less than 60 units must complete AMERSTD 10 and one other lower division requirement. Students beyond 60 units must be enrolled in AMERSTD 10 and speak with a faculty adviser before being allowed to declare. For details on how to declare, please see the student academic adviser at 237 Evans Hall, 510-642-9320, or email amerstd@berkeley.edu.

Honors Program

Students who wish to be eligible to graduate with honors must enroll in the honors thesis seminar, AMERSTD H195. For admission to the course, students must have senior standing, an overall GPA of 3.51, and a GPA of 3.65 in the major. For further information, please contact the student academic adviser in 237 Evans Hall, 510-642-9320, or amerstd@berkeley.edu.

Minor Program

There is no minor program in American Studies.

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Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.
  2. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs, with the exception of minors offered outside of the College of Letters & Science.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.

For information regarding residence requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Summary of Degree Requirements

Lower Division Prerequisites: Four courses total
Upper Division Requirements: 30-36 units
Historical Requirement
Senior Thesis Requirement: Four units

Please see below for the specific details regarding these requirements.

Lower Division Prerequisites

The lower division prerequisites are meant to introduce the student to a variety of scholarly approaches to the study of American culture and society. In order to determine whether particular courses fulfills the prerequisites, please contact the American Studies student academic adviser in 237 Evans Hall or an American Studies faculty adviser.

AMERSTD 10Introduction to American Studies4
or AMERSTD 10AC Introduction to American Studies
Select three lower division courses that focus on the United States 1, 2
1

No more than three of these courses may be from the same department.

2

 Appropriate courses taken at other universities or community colleges may be substituted with faculty adviser approval.

Upper Division Requirements

30-36 units, distributed among the following:
Core Methods Courses: 6-8 units
Students are required to take one course each from the two methods series, "Examining US Cultures in Time" and "Examining US Cultures in Place." See the program's website for available courses every semester. It is expected that these courses will be completed during the junior year. Due to the unique interdisciplinary nature of the courses, these requirements should be satisfied at UC Berkeley.
Area of Concentration: minimum of six courses, 18-20 units 1
Upper division coursework drawn from the College of Letters & Science and the professional schools and colleges, in the student's individually articulated area of concentration. Areas of concentration may be highly individualized, depending on the student's intellectual focus, prior preparation, and the availability of courses. Students planning to declare the major should complete a four year plan, major application form and meet with a faculty adviser in their sophomore year or early in their junior year to plan their upper division program. Subsequently, this program can be revised with the approval of the faculty adviser.
1

The area of concentration must include courses from at least two different departments, but no more than three courses from any one discipline. The area may include courses from up to six different departments.

Historical Requirement

One of the courses taken to complete the American Studies major (either upper or lower division) must focus on US history, culture, and/or politics before 1900. Students should check with an American Studies student academic adviser to ensure that the course they take meets this requirement.

Senior Thesis Requirement

Because American Studies at UC Berkeley is an interdisciplinary program based on the major's own offerings and supplemented by individualized programs of study drawing on the resources of the whole campus, students in this major complete their work in the major with an interdisciplinary senior thesis. The thesis is intended to give students the opportunity to develop an extended analysis of a significant problem related to their area of concentration and to craft the essay into a finished piece of scholarly work. It is designed to give students a sense of competence and confidence in researching, framing, and completing an explicitly interdisciplinary project.

Select one of the following thesis course options:
Senior Seminar [4]
Senior Thesis [4]
Honors Thesis [4]
A thesis course offered by another department 1
1

A thesis course from another department must be approved in advance by an American Studies faculty adviser. 

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages. 

University of California Requirements

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

Berkeley Campus Requirement

American Cultures

All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.

College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Student Learning Goals

Mission

The goal of the American Studies interdisciplinary major is to enable students to learn a set of research, critical thinking, and written and oral communication skills that will enable them to become self-conscious and thoughtful investigators of American society. To meet this basic goal, our courses are designed to give students a basic understanding of American history, culture, political economy, social structures, and environment (both natural and constructed), as well as to enable them to use a range of concepts and methods to define and analyze significant problems, issues, and questions relating to American life. Through a close reading of diverse texts and physical and cultural materials, American Studies students learn how to critically analyze how individuals, groups, and a wide variety of political, economic, and cultural institutions have interacted to shape and give meaning to the American experience.

Learning Goals for the Major

  1. Research Skills:
    • Students learn how to locate and evaluate primary source materials and secondary texts. These include published contemporary and historical documents, artifacts of material culture, landscape and architectural structures, visual and auditory media, oral history, and folklore.
  2. Critical Thinking Skills:
    • Students learn how to analyze and evaluate cultural texts including literature, performance, film, art, etc., and demonstrate a basic understanding of cultural theory and aesthetics (i.e., to understand and think critically about American society from a humanities perspective).
    • Students learn to critically analyze and evaluate social science arguments, demonstrating an understanding of the premises of qualitative and quantitative evidence (i.e., understand and think critically about American society from a social science perspective).
    • Students learn to analyze and understand the American past so as to gain perspective on and critical understanding of current issues and problems in American life (i.e., to understand and think critically about American society from an historical perspective, which by definition integrates humanities and social science approaches).
    • Students learn to critically analyze and interpret the meaning of American material culture and its built and natural environments (i.e., understand and think critically about American society from the perspectives of the knowledges embodied in the disciplines of geography, architecture, landscape architecture, environmental studies, and art).
  3. Written and Oral Communication Skills
    • Students learn how to communicate effectively in written form, demonstrating the ability to formulate a well organized argument supported by evidence.
    • Students learn how to communicate effectively orally, while demonstrating the ability to listen and respond to what others are saying.
  4. Specialized Knowledge
    • Time: Students gain in-depth, substantive knowledge about American life and culture in a particular year.
    • Place: Students gain in-depth, substantive knowledge about American life and culture in a particular city, region, or other place.
    • Students gain in-depth substantive knowledge about particular themes, issues, problems, and questions in American life and experience.
  5. Integrative Knowledge and Skills
    • Students demonstrate their mastery of all of the above skills by writing a Senior Thesis that is a focused interdisciplinary research project in their specialized area of concentration. 

Courses

American Studies

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Faculty

Michael Cohen, Associate Teaching Professor. African American Studies/American Studies.

Kathleen S. Moran, Associate Director, Lecturer.

Christine Palmer, Lecturer.

Jessica Kenyatta Walker, Lecturer. African American material culture, Black feminist theory, cultural landscape theory.

Affiliated Faculty

Charles L. Briggs, Professor. Anthropology. Linguistic and medical anthropology, social theory, modernity, citizenship and the state, race, and violence.

Mark Brilliant, Director, American Studies. History/American Studies. 20th century US history, with a focus on political economy, civil rights, education, law, and the west.
Research Profile

Raul Coronado, Associate Professor. Ethnic Studies.

Margaret L. Crawford, Professor. Architecture. Everyday urbanism, evolution, uses and meanings of urban space and therapid physical and social changes on villages in China’s Pearl River Delta.

+ Kathleen Donegan, Associate Professor. English. Colonial America, early America, Native America, early Caribbean.
Research Profile

Peter Glazer, Associate Professor. Theater.

Marcial Gonzalez, Associate Professor. English. Chicano and Chicana literature, twentieth-century American ethnic literatures, theory of the novel, marxism, critical theory, farm worker social movements.
Research Profile

Dorothy J. Hale, Professor. English. English literature, American literature, the novel, narrative theory, critical theory, Henry James, William Faulkner, the modern novel of consciousness.
Research Profile

David Henkin, Professor. History. US History, urban history, cultural history, History of Time.
Research Profile

Shari Huhndorf, Professor. Native American Studies. Interdisciplinary Native American studies, cultural studies, gender studies, American studies, literary and visual culture.
Research Profile

Richard Hutson, Professor Emeritus. English.
Research Profile

Jake Kosek, Associate Professor. Geography.

Lauren Kroiz, Assistant Professor. Art History. History and theory of photography and new media, race and ethnic studies, the relationships between regionalism, nationalism and globalism.

Michel Laguerre, Professor. African American Studies. Globalization, information technology, urban studies.
Research Profile

Margaretta M. Lovell, Professor. Art History. Architecture, design, American art.
Research Profile

Waldo E. Martin, Professor. History. African American History, Modern American Culture.
Research Profile

Louise A. Mozingo, Professor. Environmental Design.

Samuel Otter, Professor. English. African American literature, 19th century American literature, 17th and 18th century American literature, Herman Melville, race in American culture, literature and history, discourse and ideology, close reading.
Research Profile

Genaro M. Padilla, Professor. English. American literature, Chicano/Latino literary and cultural studies, American autobiography.
Research Profile

Mark A. Peterson, Professor. History. US/North America, Atlantic World, early modern history, religion, political economy.
Research Profile

Beth Piatote, Associate Professor. Native American Studies.
Research Profile

Leigh Raiford, Associate Professor. African American Studies. Social movements, visual culture, memory, photography, African American history and culture.
Research Profile

Tamara C. Roberts, Assistant Professor. Music.

Juana Maria Rodriguez, Professor. Ethnic Studies.

Christine Rosen, Associate Professor. Business. History of business and the environment, business history, green chemistry, sustainable business strategies.
Research Profile

Caitlin Rosenthal, Assistant Professor. History.

Alex M. Saragoza, Associate Professor. Ethnic Studies. Ideology, modern Mexico, Latin American history, structural origins of Mexican migration, cultural formations in Mexico, Mexican cinema, radio, television.
Research Profile

Scott Andrew Saul, Professor. English. African American studies, 20th century American literature and culture, performance studies, jazz studies, histories of the avante-garde.
Research Profile

+ Susan Schweik, Professor. English. Feminist theory, cultural studies, American poetry, disability studies, 20th-century poetry, literature and politics, war literature.
Research Profile

Andrew Shanken, Professor. Architecture. Memory, visionary architecture, the unbuilt, paper architecture, heritage conservation, architectural representation, urban representation, diagrams, history of professions, historiography, world's fairs, expositions, California architecture, themed environments.
Research Profile

Shannon Steen, Associate Professor. Theater Studies.

Bryan Wagner, Associate Professor. English. Critical theory, African American literature, historiography.
Research Profile

Hertha D. Sweet Wong, Associate Professor. Chair, Art Practice, English. American literature, native American literature, autobiography, ethnic American literature.
Research Profile

Visiting Faculty

Greil Marcus

Emeritus Faculty

Donald McQuade, Professor Emeritus. English, Advertising, 20th century American literature and culture, theory and practice of non-fiction, literature and popular culture, the American Renaissance, the essay as literature.
Research Profile

Contact Information

American Studies Program

237 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-642-9320

Visit Program Website

Program Director

Mark Brilliant

Phone: 510-642-2118

mbrill@berkeley.edu

Associate Program Director and Faculty Adviser

Kathleen Moran, PhD

241 Evans Hall

Phone: 642-6697

kmoran@berkeley.edu

Faculty Adviser

Christine Palmer, PhD

clpalmer@berkeley.edu

Faculty Adviser

Michael Cohen, PhD (Department of African American Studies)

mmcohen@berkeley.edu

Student Academic Adviser

Laura Spautz, MPH

237 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-642-9320

amerstd@berkeley.edu

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