UNDERGRADUATE COURSES

Introduction to American Studies
21.050.200.01
Drew Ciccolo
Monday and Thursday, 1-220PM

As an interdisciplinary field, American Studies employs countless lenses to explore competing definitions of “America.” Therefore, it does not have a standard set of practices that defines its approach. Instead, as an interdisciplinary field, American Studies allows us to start with a given problem or question and use the approaches, theories, and sources that best address it. 
 
In this course, we will begin by analyzing discussions about America writ large. Then, we will move (for the most part) chronologically from the pre-Columbian era through the present. Though we will be anchored by historical narratives, we will expand beyond history into other disciplines, including English, African American Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Anthropology, Economics, and more in order to critically and carefully read and write about primary and secondary sources. Through our studies, we will focus on the following themes: oppression and resistance, identity and difference, and inclusion and exclusion.

Our goals are not just to gain greater perspective on U.S. history and culture, but also to think about how American Studies, in comparison to other fields, allows for such perspectives. 
Our work in this course will mirror the diversity (and, at times, the dissonance) of the field and the country itself. That is to say, you will be not just encouraged, but required, to find your own individualized path into a deeper understanding of “America.” To do so, you will first need to be aware of how others have created their paths. Then, following your curiosities, you can begin to map your own.  

Introduction to American Studies 
21.050.200.02
Kyle Riismandel
Tuesday and Thursday, 10-1120AM

Rather than a survey of all of American history, in this course, we will examine various ways in 
which groups have attempted to define what is America and who is an American. we will begin 
with the premise that identity, including that of America and of Americans, is always contingent 
and contextual. Using interdisciplinary methods, we will analyze how groups contested and 
shaped these categories at key moments in the history of North America. To do so, we will use 
the interpretive tools of different disciplines central to the analysis of American culture to 
understand the stakes and implications of defining Americaness. 

Race and Ethnicity
21.050.202.01
Mike Pekarofsky
Tuesday and Thursday, 230-350PM

In the U.S. people often use the terms “race” and “ethnicity” interchangeably. Although most scholars would agree that these terms are “socially constructed,” we often do not really explore or explain what this means or why this is the case. This course will focus on the historical and contemporary meanings of these terms as they are used in everyday situations and especially in various academic fields, including history, the social sciences, literature, and popular culture. Using academic readings, films, literature, and other media, this course will help us come to some common understandings of these concepts and why they matter. As with any course, this one will also help us formulate important questions and identify key issues which may lead to further thought and discussion. In addition to focusing on its relationship to “ethnicity,” we will pay close attention to the many ways we create race in our culture today and how these ways differ from various times in our past. In particular, we will explore how geography, social class, lived experience, immigration status, gender, sexuality, and other factors often play important roles in how we think about this powerful concept and the ways it profoundly shapes people’s lives.

American Studies Core Topics: Mutual Aid and Storytelling
21.050.250.01
Leora Fuller
Thursday, 230-520PM

In our highly colonized, late capitalist world marked by massive environmental destruction we all have needs that aren’t being met; from lack of access to housing, food, and safety to the absence of deeply connective relationships. This reality can feel overwhelming, paralyzing, and depressing, but alternative ways of being, living, and collectively supporting each other exist in communities across the world. In this unusual learning space organized by the Humanities Action Lab, we will learn about radically different ways of moving through our lives from mutual aid practitioners, environmental justice organizers, and Indigenous lifeways. 

Together we will begin from the simple idea of the story. Not a traditional hero’s story or three act narrative, but the everyday stories we all tell about ourselves, our needs, and our dreams. We’ll conceive of our own stories as important, impactful experiences that collectively shape the larger world. We’ll learn from others across the hemisphere about the hyper local stories they tell and the ways they draw together shared stories to radically change their material conditions and challenge systemic oppression. 

All participants in this space will act as teachers and learners to develop and expand accountable, transformative, and community-centered pedagogies and practices that challenge what teaching and practicing justice-centered public history can and should be.  Along the way, we’ll create, share, and explore multi-media hyperlocal narratives that explore the historical roots of current problems and imagine alternative visions for the future that center around mutual aid and community care. These narratives may either be drawn from, or contribute to, existing Humanities Action Lab projects such as Climates of Inequality, States of Incarceration, and the Rikers Public Memory Project. Together we’ll ground ourselves in intentional, reciprocal mentoring relationships to facilitate a lasting learning community and change the ways we approach our lives.


Early American Literature
21.050.488.01
Malcolm Kiniry
Monday and Wednesday, 10-1120AM

The late 18th and early 19th centuries—the first years of the American Republic—are not usually seen as a period of great American Literature, at least not if we confine ourselves to poetry, drama, and fiction.  But if we widen our perspective to the various forms of political discourse, the period becomes dynamic.  That literature includes the controversies surrounding the creation of the U.S. Constitution and, in its aftermath, the political turmoil of the Washington, Adams, and Jefferson administrations.  It is an especially turbulent time if viewed through the lenses of the country’s journalism, as we’ll be doing in the pages of the course’s thickest and most energetic text, American Aurora.  The period also sees the development of distinctive American literary forms: we’ll be looking at the first slave narrative, the first American play, the first novels by American women, and first satirical portrait of New York.

Latina/o/x in Film
21.050.488.61
Frank Garcia
Tuesday, 6-9PM
This course begins by studying the historical erasure of Latina/o/xs in the Hollywood film industry. In doing so, we will examine industry expectations and demands of Latina/o/xs when they appeared in leading and minor roles in Hollywood cinema, such as whitewashing their appearances, speech patterns, or surnames and performing generic stereotypes, like the spitfire, bandido, or “lazy Mexican.” On the other hand, we will also attend to the ways that Latina/o/xs resisted this imposed assimilation and erasure from within Hollywood, as well as examine transnational and independent cinemas that depart from—and, at times, adhere to—normative Hollywood representations of Latina/o/xs. In covering the history of Latina/o/xs in film from the early 20th century to the present, students may study Latina/o/x actors and actresses such as Dolores del Rio, Anthony Quinn, Rita Moreno, Edward James Olmos, Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Michael Peña, and Eva Longoria. Films may, among others, include Flying Down to Rio (1933), Gilda (1946), The Ring (1952), West Side Story (1961), Alambrista! (1977), Boulevard Nights (1979), The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982), Bound by Honor (1993), Desperado (1995), Selena (1997), Y Tu Mamá También (2001), Real Women Have Curves (2002), Spanglish (2004), Quinceañera (2006), Mosquita y Mari (2012), Frontera (2014), Sicario (2015) and Logan (2017).

Race in American Politics
21.050.488.Q1 – Writing Intensive
Diane Wong
Thursday, 230-520PM

In this seminar, we start with the basic premise that race matters. How do we understand the conceptualization of race across time? How has the production of racial difference shaped our own experiences and relationships to the American state? What are the connections between racial power and protest — what are the possibilities for change? Together we will survey the literature in political science, sociology, anthropology, history, urban studies, ethnic studies, and other fields to explore how race and racialization processes are articulated in the production of everyday life and entangled with other social structures including gender, class, sexuality, nation, empire, and colonialism. We will spend the first half of the semester interrogating the roots of race and racism in the United States, discussing the intersecting histories of the Transatlantic slave trade, colonialism, migration, and borders. The second half of the semester will focus on resistance and political agency — emphasis will be place on contemporary moments for racial justice from the movement for Black lives uprisings to recent calls to #StopAAPIHate. Topics include but are not limited to ethnic and panethnic identities, diasporic intimacies, immigration, spatial segregation, incarceration, displacement, solidarity and abolitionist futures. Texts include Lisa Marie Cacho‘s’ Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected, Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, and more. As we read these texts together, you will be exposed to intersectional, comparative, and emergent approaches to the study of race, power, culture, and politics that can inform contemporary movements for racial justice.

 

GRADUATE COURSES 

26.050.501.01 - Introduction to American Studies -  Monday/530-810PM

Mary Rizzo

How has the field of American Studies been defined since its inception in the mid-20th century? This reading seminar will introduce students to the methods, theories, and approaches of this interdisciplinary field. We will examine a combination of classic and cutting-edge texts ranging over a variety of critical topics, such as cultural studies, race, gender, and sexuality. Through this course, students will become familiar with major issues in American Studies, preparing them for graduate work in the field. 

26.050.502.01 - Research Seminar: Gender and Sexuality - Wednesday/530-810PM  

Whit Strub      

This course will begin with several weeks of readings to provide a foundation in the US history of sexuality, with extensive attention to the methodological questions of how historians construct their published work. From there, we will shift into independent research projects, with the goal of composing a scholarly article-like piece of original scholarship. Class meetings will be used to workshop, peer review, and share strategies. Topics students write on can include anything under the broad umbrella of sexuality and culture, so might include slavery and gender; urbanization and sexual regulation; the so-called "white slavery" panic of the 1910s; abortion and contraception; pornography and obscenity; the sexual politics of television, the Black freedom struggle, feminist activism, etc.; HIV/AIDS representation; LGBTQ cultural production; queer theory; or anything else of interest. Students are encouraged to think of their projects as parts of M.A. theses or dissertations, potential journal articles, or simply freestanding works of research. 

26.050.521.01 - Topics in American Studies: Feminist Theory - Tuesday/530-810PM

Theresa Hunt  

The objective of this graduate seminar is to engage critically with the foundational concepts of feminist theory and some of its most historically contentious conversations. We will examine feminism as an evolving set of intellectual and activist movements, grounding its theories in social and historical contexts. This will aid in our efforts to understand the paradigm shifts in feminist theory that have taken place in modernity, and to consider the ways in which discourses of “Western” and “non-Western” philosophies have come to influence feminist debate.  

26.050.521.02 - Topics in American Studies: Latinx Literature - Tuesday/1-4PM       

Laura Lomas    

26.050.521.03 - Topics in American Studies: Race and US Politics - Thursday/530-810PM

Diane Wong   

In this seminar, we start with the basic premise that race matters. How do we understand the conceptualization of race across time? How has the production of racial difference shaped our own experiences and relationships to the American state? What are the connections between racial power and protest — what are the possibilities for change? Together we will survey the literature in political science, sociology, anthropology, history, urban studies, ethnic studies, and other fields to explore how race and racialization processes are articulated in the production of everyday life and entangled with other social structures including gender, class, sexuality, nation, empire, and colonialism. We will spend the first half of the semester interrogating the roots of race and racism in the United States, discussing the intersecting histories of the Transatlantic slave trade, colonialism, migration, and borders. The second half of the semester will focus on resistance and political agency — emphasis will be place on contemporary moments for racial justice from the movement for Black lives uprisings to recent calls to #StopAAPIHate. Topics include but are not limited to ethnic and panethnic identities, diasporic intimacies, immigration, spatial segregation, incarceration, displacement, solidarity and abolitionist futures. Texts include Lisa Marie Cacho‘s’ Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected, Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, and more. As we read these texts together, you will be exposed to intersectional, comparative, and emergent approaches to the study of race, power, culture, and politics that can inform contemporary movements for racial justice. 

26.050.521.04 - Topics in American Studies: Our Planet Crisis - Thursday/230-520PM      

Jack Tchen   

 

Scientists - thousands of them, the best in the world, correlating big data - are projecting we earthlings have a T-minus five to ten-year window to radically zero carbon emissions into the air and waters before our ozone layer become like swiss cheese.

  • What’s the science behind the UN IPCC extrapolations?
  • What does it mean for our water, air, and soil – our food?
  • How can Indigenous Local Knowledge guide us in our region?

Rather than lead our daily lives as usual, we have to rewire and hack our lives to start making a difference. And we need to start with understand The Land, and the history of HERE.

This research seminar opens up social justice questions beginning with our lives then to the whole campus, to our families, and to our communities. Our research seminar will become a lab reimagining our power to understand and act in and outside the Zoom-o-sphere. 
All of us, Indigenous, descendants of the enslaved, neighbors, newcomers, and strangers in all shapes, sizes, will need to combine our strengths and insights to grapple with the most important threat to our future.

26.050.521.04 - Topics in American Studies: The Inhumanities: Culture, Space, & Inhuman Identity - Monday/230-520PM

Rachel Mundy

Debates about what it means to be a “person” have been both rich and vexed in recent decades. In this course, we will explore the ways that certain sounds, city spaces, images, and narratives have been classified as “inhuman.” From jazz in the concert hall to Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood, from the strains of the humpback whale to Planet of the Apes, this course draws on artworks and recent writings in the fields of critical identity studies, philosophy, animal studies, science & technology studies, gender studies, sound studies, and music studies to examine the past century of inhumanity.  

26.050.530.01 - Topics in Race and Ethnicity: Readings in African American History - Wednesday/530-810PM

Melissa Cooper

This course explores foundational and groundbreaking historical monographs in African American history. Paying close attention to methodological approaches and strategies, this course examines both African American history and the making of historical monographs about the Black past.

26.050.540.01 - Topics in Urban Culture: Theories and Concepts in Urban Geography - Tuesday/230-520PM

Eva Giloi

At its heart, urban geography is about place-making. As a discipline, urban geography draws on a broad range of scholarly fields in the social sciences and humanities to examine how spatial processes, embodiments, mobility and affect shape the built environment. While urban geographers approach these questions from a variety of angles, in this course we will focus on the symbolic, affective and discursive creation of cities as places of meaning, of socio-spatial inclusion and exclusion, of everyday life and spatial experience. This course presents its theories and concepts on three levels. First, it engages students with some of the classic theoretical texts about how cities are experienced, focusing on issues of embodiment, mobility, and the habitus of space, including texts by Michel de Certeau (Walking in the City), Pierre Bourdieu (Outline of a Theory of Practice), Jane Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities), David Harvey (The Right to the City), Henri Lefebvre (Rhythmanalysis), and Gernot Böhme (Atmospheres). Second, it examines concepts currently used by urban geographers to think about how cities and their inhabitants’ situational identities are delineated, including limits and margins, the phenomenology of space, sound environments, mapping, mobility, embodiment, and more. Third, it surveys specific case studies in which scholars have applied these concepts to real-world examples in global cities.

26.050.550.01 - Topics in Cultural History and Artistic Production: Transnational Cultural History - Tuesday/6-9PM

Ruth Feldstein

This graduate seminar will consider scholarship on cultural history, with a particular focus on work that crosses traditional national borders. How have scholars made sense of the transnational flow of cultural commodities, and related questions about production, consumption, reception, and desires? How can a transnational approach to cultural history shape our understanding of literature, the Cold War, black freedom struggles, and migration? Note: This seminar can accommodate graduate students looking for a readings class and those who want to write a primary-source based research paper.

26.050.619.02 - Internship in American Studies: Humanities Action Lab & Newark Water Coalition - By arrangement

Liv Sevcenko

Develop your skills in mutual aid organizing, community-based storytelling, and digital media production through this internship course hosted by the Humanities Action Lab at Rutgers-Newark and Newark Water Coalition. Interns will work with members of Newark Water Coalition–a local advocacy organization–and Humanities Action Lab staff as the two organizations jointly launch Newark Community Voices, a new community-based media project focused on environmental justice issues in the city’s “frontline” communities (those hit hardest by environmental injustice and COVID-19).

Through workshop-style training sessions and on-the-ground practice with a professional videographer and veteran organizers, interns will gain tangible experience:

  • distributing vital resources to local residents through Newark Water Coalition’s mutual aid network
  • conducting public outreach and developing organizing relationships in frontline communities
  • collaborating with local residents to identify potential stories about the environmental challenges, material needs, and public policy priorities of Newark’s frontline communities
  • creating short video documentaries about the above issues for audiences in frontline communities and in collaboration with community members.

 

NJIT Courses

History 656 / 26:510:656 - Topics in the History of Health: Inequity in American Health Care - Thursdays 6-8:50 pm

Stephen Pemberton

Racial health disparities in the United States are a deeply unsettling issue for American medicine and healthcare today; after all, their persistence suggests that there is something about American medicine and health institutions that contribute significantly to racial health disparities while doing less than they might do to remedy the problem.

What might historical scholarship contribute here? Can history understanding clarify the problem and contribute to its solution?

This course examines the enduring problem of racial health disparities in American healthcare while introducing students to the social histories of medicine, health, and disease in the United States from the nineteenth century to the present. The focus on racial inequity in American medicine and healthcare will provide students with opportunities:

  1. to engage how medical and health issues reflect and illuminate matters of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality in American society,
  2. to discover how social movements have influenced efforts to deliver medicine or otherwise promote health (e.g., Jacksonian populism, progressivism, civil rights, feminism, gay liberation, AIDS and other disease-based activisms, consumer advocacy, and contemporary anti-racist actions), and
  3. to explore how industrialism, big business, consumerism, law, and health policy have structured experiences of health, disease, and American medicine.