B.A. North American Studies

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Students are required to complete two orientation modules in two of the the respective disciplines of their profile (humanities or social sciences). Each module promotes an independent approach to central terms, theories, and methods of the individual discipline. Usually this is structured as a discussion of a concrete research question related to North American history, culture, literature, politics, society, or economy.

Humanities Profile

  • orientation module history (10 CP)
  • orientation module culture (10 CP)
  • orientation module literature (10 CP)

Social Sciences Profile

  • orientation module politics (10 CP)
  • orientation module sociology (10 CP)
  • orientation module economy (10 CP)

Orientation and advanced modules usually consist of two seminars. There are two types of credit for these classes: active participation, which is ungraded (equivalent to 3 CP points), and Leistungsschein, which is graded based both on active participation and a written exam / term paper / oral exam (equivalent to 7 CP points). For these modules, students can choose from a wide variety of topics and courses.

Example Orientation Modules

Click the modules below to learn more about what an orientation module course could look like in different departments.

Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk all claim that Artifical Intelligence (AI) may soon grow into the greatest existential threat to face humanity. Some people believe that technology, and AI in particular, may be ready to overtake humans in intellectual ability. Current debates focus on whether AI can be programmed to “produce humanity” by way of great works of music and visual arts, or conversely, to what an extent the final vista of human programming will be borne out by total surveillance, invisible border controls, and automated fake news. The U.S. is often portrayed as a “technological society,” and technology has often featured as a central feature of American history. That history of technology is in many ways a story of control, with visions of gaining more or losing it all, complete with hair-raising scenarios associated with technological change and invention. What can we learn from this history in order to address the future? This course is a fun and exploratory introduction to thinking and working like a historian, and will peruse some of the questions and ideas above by way of lecture, reading, discussion and hands-on virtual labs and a particular emphasis on the North American region.

This course will engage students with the topic of polarization in the context of the politics of the United States. In examining polarization in US politics, this course seeks to understand changes in the behavior and characteristics of individuals, institutions and organizations in American politics. We will focus particularly on factors that shape the attitudes of actors in the political system. These actors include voters, the media, political activists and donors, candidates, members of Congress, and the President. The causes – and consequences – of polarization will also be examined in depth. We will read competing academic literature on the topic and students will be encouraged to reflect critically on both the subject and these contested understandings of its manifestation in American politics. Through our readings we will look at the kinds of questions political scientists ask about polarization in the American political system and how they investigate those questions.

This seminar will not only provide an introduction to the sociology of work but will also address a number of fundamental questions about work: What is work? Why do we have to work? Why are we expected to work such long hours? Why do so many people hate their jobs? Why are many – arguably important – jobs so badly paid? In short, we will also spend a lot of time talking about good jobs, bad jobs, and bullshit jobs.