Welcome to the Program in American Studies at Harvard. We are a small doctoral program nestled within, and drawing upon, the vast and varied resources of Harvard University. We are committed to diversity in every sense of the term, and seek prospective students who want to think broadly, work independently, and pursue innovative new approaches to the study of American history and culture.
What is American Studies? This is a question that our students ask, and answer anew, every day. We do not promote any particular definition of the field; indeed, the decentralized nature of our program inherently fosters new topics of study and catalyzes new interdisciplinary methods. We are structured as a program (not a department), which means that rather than maintain our own resident faculty, we support our students as they work with affiliated faculty mentors across the divisions and departments of the University. 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 gather as a full community in the American Studies Colloquium (two core courses, one taken in each of the first two years), in multiple academic program events, and in innumerable informal settings.
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, Latino/a studies, gender studies, visual and material culture, food studies, environmental history, literary history, music history, religious studies, and the history of capitalism. A short sample list of current dissertations gives a good indication of the range of innovative topics devised by our students from the combination of these and other fields:
• “Novel Arguments: 19th-century Revolutionary Lawyers, the Limitations of Legal Discourse, and the Turn to Fiction”
• “Riding Bareback: Imagining American Sexuality, Gender, and Race through Rodeo”
• “Feast, Fast, and Flesh: the Violence of Hunger in Colonial New England and New France”
• “Afro-Diasporic Solidarities: Dr. Ana Livia Cordero’s Movements in the Caribbean, Ghana, and the United States, 1931-1992″
• “The Disappearing Bridge: A Literary History of the United States and Czechoslovakia, 1947-1919″
• “Beyond Broken Glass: Looking at the South Bronx in Ruin”
Although we are the oldest American Studies program in the country, our true character is defined not by fixed tradition but by the continually evolving work of our students and faculty. 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.