About the Department
The Department of American Studies at Brown University was founded in 1945 as a collaborative as well as interdisciplinary enterprise. The first catalog statement explained that its purpose was "to provide the student with a more comprehensive and better unified knowledge of American Studies . . . than would be possible within the limits of a single department." This rigorous interdisciplinary approach still informs the program's goal of reaching a better understanding of the diverse cultures, groups, and experiences that make up American Studies. Having played a critical role in the development at Brown of women's and gender studies, ethnic and race studies, and urban studies in the past decades, American Studies has entered a new phase that continues work in these fields and expands its commitment to global and international contextualization, public engagement, and new media understandings.
The Department has about 50 junior and senior concentrators, 20 M.A. in Public Humanities students, 35 Ph.D. students, and 10 faculty members. The undergraduate students take 10 courses in the major while the graduate students study in three programs: a two-semester M.A. in American Studies for international students, a four-semester M.A. in Public Humanities; and a Ph.D. program, in which students receive either an M.A. in American Studies or an M.A. in Public Humanities on the way to the doctorate.
Some American Studies faculty members have full time appointments in the Department while others have joint appointments with English, History, Ethnic Studies, Africana Studies, and Urban Studies. Students and faculty work in the fields of popular culture, history of technology and material culture, food studies, digital scholarship, museum studies, ethnic studies, medical history, and cultural, social and intellectual history. The Department encourages students to take courses not only with our own faculty, but with faculty throughout the University. We also collaborate with numerous centers on campus especially the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. Department faculty have taught around the world, most recently in Finland and Australia, have been founding members of the Bologna Conference which brings together American Studies scholars from Yale, Berkeley, the Sorbonne Nouvelle and the University of Bologna in addition to Brown for biennial conferences, and presented their research in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, France, the Netherlands, and Mexico, among other countries. We encourage and support both graduate and undergraduate students in obtaining international experiences while at Brown. In addition to traditional research and publishing, faculty and students work in the community, in popular journals, and on-line to provide their research findings and skills to the public. Drawing deeply from the traditions of the liberal arts, American Studies at Brown is predicated on the ideal of a scholarly engagement with the public that enables its graduates to, as Brown's 1764 University Charter demands, "discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation."
We welcome inquiries about the Department and the classes we teach.