II) Theorizing Americans: Identities, Communities, Belonging,
III) Theorizing Nation and Nation(s) Within and Across
IV) Theorizing Borderlands and "Nuestra America"
V) Theorizing the U.S. in a Global Context
VI) Wrap-up: Theory After 802
What is the "America" one studies in a postmodern age? Is it a discourse?
An alibi for cultural studies set in the western hemisphere? A bounded
collective identity? A set of multiple, shifting, and contingent identities?
A fiction? An idea? A history? A place? If place has anything to do
with it, are we talking about a nation, or a bunch of nations within
a nation, or a bunch of nations on a couple of continents and some islands?
And who are "Americans"? What do they have in common? What is their
"American-ness"? To theorize America is to theorize identity, belonging,
history, culture, and place; and the borderlands of identity, belonging,
history, culture, and place, and the border crossings--both authorized
and subversive,--of identity, belonging, history, culture, and place.
this seminar, participants will delve into several current theoretical
debates on "theorizing America," organized here as: theorizing Americans,
theorizing American cultures, theorizing indigenous America, theorizing
American borderlands, theorizing Americas, theorizing American histories,
theorizing American identities, and theorizing America in a global perspective.
We will take a very applied approach to studying several theoretical
tools and moves as they are currently deployed in American Studies.
For each unit, we will read some explicitly theoretical work, which
will then be paired with a case study in which a scholar uses those
theoretical assumptions to develop an analysis of a topic in relation
to current questions and debates in American Studies.
1) Facilitate one class meeting. (15% of grade)
2) Short (one-page, typed, double-spaced) written assignment each week,
consisting of two parts: a) a discussion question based on the reading
for that week; b) a
paragraph speculating on a possible application of one of the theoretical
moves in the reading. These will be collected in every week in class,
but you may miss three without consequence to your grade. (20% of grade)
Short position paper (5 pages maximum) to be delivered on April 8, 15,
22, 29, and May 6, reflecting on the theoretical moves from readings
and discussions so far that you expect to continue to engage. Reflecting
on your graduate work so far, and on the particular texts and theories
we have studied in this seminar, how do you imagine that you will "Theorize
America" in your work at KU (of course this will probably change as
you go along, but what is your position at the moment of your presentation)?
What approaches are most compelling and why? How might you use these
theoretical maneuvers in your graduate work? What questions remain unanswered?
(20% of grade)
Long (15-20 page) paper in which you identify a field of your research
(or possible area of research) that will benefit from theoretical approaches
studied in our seminar. Paper must begin to unpack this field in relation
to a topic or planned topic in your area of research and must include
an annotated bibliography in which you identify sources–both those you
have read and those you plan to read--for theorizing a topic in American
Studies. At least one text from our syllabus must be rigorously engaged
in your discussion of theory. Paper proposal due March 25, paper due
May 13 (35% of grade).
will count for the remaining 10% of the grade.
on reserve in Anschutz Library)
Butler, Judith, Undoing Gender (Taylor and Francis, 2004) IBSN
Gray, Herman, Cultural Moves (UC Press 2005) IBSN 0-520-24144-4
Grewal, Inderpal, Transnational America (Duke 2005) IBSN 0-8223-3544-1
McHoul, Alec, and Wendy Grace, A Foucault Primer (NYU Press,
1997) IBSN 0-8147-5480-5
Newman, Louise, White Women's Rights (Oxford, 1999), IBSN 0-19-512466-9
Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the U.S.
2nd ed. (Routledge, 1994) IBSN 0-415-90864-7
O'Sullivan, Tim, Key Concepts in Communications and Cultural Studies
(Routledge, 1994) IBSN 0-415-06173-3
Smith, Suzanne, Dancing in the Street (Harvard, 1999) IBSN 0-674-00546-5
Weigman, Robyn, American Anatomies, (Duke University Press, 1995)
Optional Texts (You will read one or the other of these. Submit
your preference early!)
Banet-Weiser, Sarah, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World: Beauty
Pageants and National Identity (UC Press, 1999) IBSN 0520-21791-8
Perez, Emma, The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History
(Indiana, 1999) IBSN 0-253-21283-9
Additional articles and chapters will be assigned and made available on
E-Reserve ("Secret" Password: AMS802) Watch the on-line Blackboard syllabus
for up-to-date posting of readings, assignments, and facilitators.
The staff of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), 135 Strong,
785-864-2620 (v/tty), coordinates accommodations and services for KU
courses. If you have a disability for which you may request accommodation
in KU classes and have not contacted them, please do as soon as possible.
Please also see me privately in regard to this course.
Introduction to Seminar Goals and Participants.
What is theory? What kinds of theory will be useful to the participants
of this seminar? What kinds of theory will we study this semester? What
is a "theoretical move"?
Sign-ups for discussion facilitators.
Theorizing American Cultures
Jan. 30 Sampling assumptions about culture
What is culture? What isn’t culture? How does culture work? Why
is it important? Where is its locus of meaning? What are the assumptions
about culture in each of the readings for this week? What are the implications
for using one set of assumptions as opposed to another? Take notes on
these assumptions in preparation for an in-class theoretical “lens-testing”
Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment
as Mass Deception” (1944), collected in Simon During, ed., The
Cultural Studies Reader (London and New York: Routledge, 1993),
Hall, “The Problem of Ideology: Marxism Without Guarantees,”
from Betty Matthews, ed., Marx: A Hundred Years On (Lawrence
and Wishart, 1983), 57-85;
Williams, “The Future of Cultural Studies,” and “The
Uses of Cultural Theory,” from The Politics of Modernism
(London and New York: Verso, 1989), 151-176;
Radway, “Reading is not Eating: Mass-Produced Literature and the
Theoretical, Methodological, and Political Consequences of a Metaphor,”
from T. Lovell, ed., Feminist Cultural Studies (1995) vol.
1, 437-459, but first published in Book Research Quarterly,
1986 Fall; 2(3): 7-29;
Giroux and Roger Simon, “Popular Culture as a Pedagogy of Pleasure
and Meaning: Decolonizing the Body,” Henry Giroux, Border
Crossings, Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education (New
York: Routledge, 1992), 180-206.
6 How do scholars apply their assumptions about culture?
What are the strengths and limitations of various theories about culture?
How do the theories/assumptions about culture affect the methodology?
E. Smith, Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics
of Detroit (Harvard, 1999).
one of the following articles:
Douglas, “Why the Shirelles Mattered,” Susan Douglas, Where
the Girls Are (Random House, 1994), 83-98;
Wald, “Soul’s Revival: White Soul, Nostalgia, and the Culturally
Constructed Past,” from Monique Guillory and Richard C. Green,
ed. Soul: Black Power, Politics, and Pleasure (NY: NYU Press,
13 Theorizing culture, continued.
Gray, Cultural Moves: African Americans and the Politics of Representation
(University of California Press, 2005)
Theorizing Americans: Identities, Communities, Belonging, Rights
Which theories are useful for understanding relationships between identity
categories and multiple communities and American-ness? How do American
Studies scholars approach such issues as allocations of rights based
on social categories such as race, gender, class, etc.? What happens
to needs in a paradigm of belonging based on rights? We will quickly
move into theoretical approaches that analyze intersections of more
than one kind of social category (race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.),
but this week, we will concentrate on theories about race. What constitutes
race, according to this week's authors, and what is the relationship
between race, identity (individual and group), subjectivity, belonging,
citizenship, and rights?
Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States:
From the 1960s to the 1990s (2nd edition, 1994).
one article from the following: E-Reserve: Susan Koshy, "Morphing Race
into Ethnicity: Asian Americans and Critical Transformations of Whiteness,"
Boundary 2 28:1, 2001, 183-194; Cheryl Harris, "Whiteness as
Property," from Kimberle Crenshaw, et al, Critical Race Theory Reader
(New Press, 1995); Brian Donovan, "The Sexual Basis of Racial Formation:
Anti-vice activism and the creation of the twentieth-century 'color
line'," Ethnic and Racial Studies vol. 26, no. 4, July 2003,
707-727; Naomi Pabst, "Blackness/Mixedness: Contestations over Crossing
Signs," Cultural Critique 54 (2003), 178-212.
Feb. 27 Intersectional Analysis
Robyn Weigman, American Anatomies, (Duke University Press,
Plus one article from the following (E-Reserve):
Gary Okihiro "Recentering Women," from Margins and Mainstreams:
Asians in American History and Culture;
Ingrid Monson, "The Problem with White Hipness: Race, Gender, and Cultural
in Jazz Historical Discourse," Journal of the American Musicological
Society XLVIII, Fall 1995, no. 3, 396-422;
Christopher Newfield and Avery Gordon, "Multiculturalism's Unfinished
Business," Mapping Multiculturalism (Minneapolis and London:
University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 76-115; 178-212;
Chela Sandoval, "U.S. Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of
Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World," Genders
10, Spring 1991, 1-24;
Shirley Thompson, "Ah Toucoutou, ye conin vous": History and Memory
in Creole New Orleans," American Quarterly June 2001, vol.
53, no. 2, 232-266.
Mar. 6 Application of intersectional analysis
On what assumptions does Newman's work rely? How does she theorize race?
Gender? What other key concepts does she theorize and how does she see
them as co-constructed and intersecting? How does she organize her theoretical
moves in relation to her historical evidence?
Louise Newman, White Women's Rights (Oxford, 1999).
Judith Butler, Undoing Gender (Taylor and Francis, 2004).
SPRING BREAK: NO SEMINAR MAR. 20
Mar. 27 NO SEMINAR MEETING - but there is an assignment due!
Read a KU American Studies MA thesis or Ph.D. dissertation that has
a theoretical framework that is interesting to you. Identify and make
a Xerox of the "theoretical statement" and place it in my mailbox by
March 30th, 5 pm. Be prepared to discuss it in class on April 3rd.
Theorizing Nation and Nation(s) within and across U.S. Borders
Benedict Anderson, "Patriotism and Racism," and "Memory and Forgetting,"
from Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread
of Nationalism revised edition, (London and New York: Verso, 1991;
first published 1983), 141-154, 187-206;
Timothy Brennan, "The National Longing for Form," from Homi Bhabha,
Nation and Narration (New York: Routledge, 1990), 44-70;
Donald A. Grinde, Jr., "Iroquois Border Crossings: Place, Politics,
and the Jay Treaty, from Claudia Sadowski-Smith, Globalization on
the Line: Culture, Capital, and Citizenship at U.S. Borders (Palgrave,
M. Annette Jaimes Guerrero, "Academic Apartheid: American Indian Studies
and 'Multiculturalism'," from Gordon and Newfield, Mapping Multiculturalism
(University of Minnesota Press, 49-63);
Philip J. Deloria, "American Indians, American Studies, and the ASA,"
American Quarterly December 2003, vol. 55, no. 4, 669-680;
Robert Warrior, "A Room of One's Own at the ASA: An Indigenous Provocation,"
American Quarterly December 2003, vol. 55, no. 4, 681-687;
Jean M. O'Brien, "Why Here? Scholarly Locations for American Indian
Studies," American Quarterly December 2003, vol. 55, no. 4,
Mary Helen Washington, "Commentary," American Quarterly December
2003, vol. 55, no. 4, 697-702.
Assignment due: Everyone presents theoretical statements
from KU AMS theses/dissertations.
Theorizing Borderlands and “Nuestra America”
Sonia Saldivar-Hull, "Introduction to Second Edition," Gloria Anzaldua,
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt
Lute, 1999), 1-15;
Gloria Anzaldua, "Preface to the First Edition," Borderlands/La
Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1999), 19-20;
Gloria Anzaldua, "La conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness,"
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt
Lute, 1999), 99-113;
Sadowski-Smith, Claudia, "Reading Across Diaspora: Chinese and Mexican
Undocumented Immigration across U.S. Land Borders," from Sadowski-Smith,
Globalization on the Line: Culture, Capital, and Citizenship at
U.S. Borders (Palgrave, 2002), 69-97;
Jeffrey Belnap and Raul Fernandez, "Introduction: The Architectonics
of Jose Marti's "Our Americanism," from Jose Marti's "Our America"
From National to Hemispheric Cultural Studies, ed. Jeffrey Belnap
and Raul Fernandez, eds. (Durham and London: Duke University Press,
Jose David Saldivar, "Nuestra America's Borders: Remapping American
Cultural Studies," from Belnap and Fernandez, 145-175;
Thomas, "Frederick Jackson Turner, Jose Marti, and Finding a Home on
the Range," from Belnap and Fernandez, 275-292
George Lipsitz, "Their America and Ours: Intercultural Communication
in the Context of 'Our America'," from Belnap and Fernandez, 293-316.
POSITION PRESENTATIONS GROUP 1
DUE: FINAL PAPER PROPOSALS (WITH POSITION COMPONENT)
Theorizing the U.S. in a Global Context
Reading (Electronic Reserve):
Amy Kaplan, "'Left Alone with America': The Absence of Empire in the
Study of American Culture," from Amy Kaplan and Donald Pease, ed., Cultures
of United States Imperialism (Durham, 1993), 3-21;
Chandra Mohanty, "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial
Discourses," Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism
(Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1991), 51-80;
Amritjit Singh and Peter Schmidt, "On the Borders Between U.S. Studies
and Postcolonial Theory," from Singh and Schmidt, ed., Postcolonial
Theory and the United States: Race, Ethnicity, and Literature (Jackson:
University Press of Mississippi, 2000), 3-69;
Donald Pease, "New Perspectives on US Culture and Imperialism," from
Amy Kaplan and Donald Pease, ed., Cultures of United States Imperialism
(Durham, 1993), 22-40
POSITION PRESENTATIONS GROUP 2
Inderpal Grewal, Transnational America (Duke 2005)
POSITION PRESENTATIONS GROUP 3
Wrap-up: Theory After 802
May 1 Focus on a theorist: Michel Foucault.
This is not to say that Foucault is the only theorist I could select
for this week's seminar, nor that all AMS graduate students must be
Foucauldians. We will use this week's focus on Foucault as an example
of how to move on from this survey of theories to a deeper engagement
with the theorists you wish to engage in your graduate work.
Alec McHoul and Wendy Grace, A Foucault Primer (all)
Michel Foucault, "Contradictions," "The Comparative Facts," and "Change
and Transformation," from Archeology of Knowledge (Random House,
Michel Foucault, "Two Lectures," from Power/Knowledge: Selected
Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977 ed. Colin Gordon (NY: Pantheon,
May 8 Wrap-up.
Everybody teaches the class.
Half the class will read
Sarah Banet-Weiser The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
and the other half will read
Emma Perez, Decolonial Imaginary.
Be prepared to explain what theoretical moves from Foucault the authors
borrow and how they use them.
FINAL PAPER DUE MAY 15 by 5:00 PM IN MY MAIL BOX, AMS 213