Harvard’s American Studies program is devoted to the multidisciplinary study of the United States and the Americas, with special attention to change over time, the interplay of political and economic structures with cultural creativity, the formation and transformation of subcultures and identities, the dynamics, of race, class, gender, sexuality, and empire, and the global contexts for the American experience. We foster the scholarly careers of doctoral students who wish to think broadly, work independently, engage diverse audiences, and pursue innovative approaches to questions both new and old. We actively support scholars from historically marginalized communities and scholarship that is accountable to those communities.
The resources available to students in American Studies are as broad as Harvard University itself. Our program is guided by a core committee of fifteen to twenty faculty members and about forty additional affiliated faculty members drawn from across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and several professional schools. Our students are free to take courses and pursue dissertation projects with virtually any combination of mentors on campus, creating new constellations of expertise and new approaches to scholarship as they do so. The students come together in the American Studies Colloquium (two core courses, one taken in each of the first two years), in a required seminar on professional development in the third year, and in twice annual gatherings for the presentation of prospectuses and dissertation chapters. A common study space provides a welcoming home base for mutual support and collegiality.
Given our large and diverse affiliated faculty, we are able to support an uncommonly broad array of projects. We have distinctive strengths in such areas as the study of early America, African American studies, Latinx studies, indigenous studies, gender studies, performance studies, carceral studies, visual and material culture, food studies, environmental history, literary history, music history, religious studies, and the history of capitalism. A short sample of recent dissertations gives a good indication of the range of studies undertaken by our students:
“Riding Bareback: Rodeo Communities and the Construction of American Gender, Sexuality, and Race in the Twentieth Century”
“Feast, Fast, and Flesh: Hunger and Conflict in New England and New France, 1637-1763”
“A Global Vision: Dr. Ana Livia Cordero and the Puerto Rican Liberation Struggle, 1931-1992”
“Cold War Bohemia: Literary Exchange between the United States and Czechoslovakia, 1947-1989”
“Urban Legends: The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin”
As one of the oldest American Studies programs in the country (founded as History of American Civilization in 1937), we are continually evolving in response to changes in the academy, new challenges in the broader culture, and the creativity of our students. We encourage you to explore this website and learn more about the groundbreaking work that has been launched from this program in the past, and that will continue to shape American Studies in the future.