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American Studies is the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history. American culture is a unique cultural syncretism based on the American landscape's influence on Native American cultures and the many subsequent immigrant groups arriving after the 16th century. In some cases the American landscape provided a direct experience while the interaction of many was indirect through emerging images in the arts. Initially the arts borrowed heavily from the immigrant's roots in Europe and elsewhere, but the American landscape from the Atlantic to the Pacific shores during the frontier experience created new artistic responses unique to America. Some of the early founding fathers, like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson campaigned arduously to defend these unique American cultural elements. American culture and art was further strengthened with the revival of American folk culture in the late 19th century and again after World War II. In turn scholars and educators developed curriculum, research projects, and living art programs to elicit support from agencies like the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). After WWII, folk culture was revitalized and formally studied and the American Studies Association was established in 1951. Folk music was 'rediscovered' in the 1950s and 1960s. Folk music became part of the Pop culture movement of the 1960s with 'Folk Rock'. Other aspects of American folk culture gained attention. The infusion of local folklore, arts and music into curriculums was exemplified with the popular Foxfire series, that was initiated by high school English teachers creating a school magazine based on student interviews of community artisans and farmers about traditional folk knowledge in rural Georgia. This project received NEH funding and became so popular that student's articles were published in a series of books entitled Foxfire 1, etc. These articles included traditional folklore topics from making dulcimers to dressing out a hog. Throughout the country folk culture gained attention in the back to the land movement, communes, art and music festivals.
In the United States regional studies and museums become abundant when the nation celebrated the Bicentennial in 1976. Scholars began to find evidence that Americans did not homogenize into so called 'melting pot' and in fact distinctive cultural regions and dialects flourished and strengthened. In turn American Studies Departments and Programs flourished and built up their curricula.
In 1990 Palomar College created a program in American Studies within the American Indian Studies Department, that was articulated with CSU and UC programs in California. The American Indian Studies Department was viewed as a base for American Studies and other departments were not willing to develop the curriculum. The goal was to have courses that did not duplicate American history, literature or art history courses but would focus on how the arts and social history reflect and influence American culture to create unique identities for Americans.
In 2000 the International American Studies Association was established with program and departments being formed especially in the UK, Australia and Europe. Today, American Studies programs have expanded their interdisciplinary coverage to go beyond the arts, history and social studies to include science, technology, education, communication and museum studies.
|AMS 100: Introduction To American Culture and Identity|
AMS 200: Race, Class, and Ethnic Groups in America
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Copyright � S.J. Crouthamel 2014