B.A. North American Studies

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Department of Culture

In the Department of Culture, students study American cultural history from colonial times (the 16th and 17th centuries) to the present. We offer introductory courses on theories of (American) culture, highlighting approaches focused on political economy, mediality, and the history of ideas. Advanced seminars pay particular attention to questions of cultural self-definition and contacts between different cultural groups within American societies; we regularly offer courses on ethnic cultures (African American, Native American, Asian American, and others) and on shifting paradigms of gender and sexuality.


In sum, the seminars offered by the Department of Culture cover five focus areas:

  • American history of ideas (from the 16th to the 21st centuries);
  • the cultural history and cultural economy of different media and forms of expression such as literary fiction, film, television, photography, theater, poetry, popular music, video games, and American painting;
  • social differentiation and the politics of cultural self-descriptions (especially concerning race, class, and gender); as well as
  • theories and methods of “American Studies” and “Cultural Studies.”
  • In addition, the Department of Culture cooperates with the Terra Foundation for American Art, whose generous funding enables one international Visiting Scholar from the field of art history each year to join our faculty. The Terra Visiting Professor offers courses, lectures, and seminars both in the B.A. and the M.A. degree programs. Click the box at the bottom of this page to view a list of recent Terra Visiting Scholars. 

Courses from previous semesters include:

  • Theorizing American Culture
  • Rhetorics of Continuity and Change: A Survey of American Cultural History
  • Urban Interventions: Art and the City
  • Video Games and American Culture
  • Race and Representation in the United States since 1890
  • Political (In)Correctness and Stand-Up Comedy as Cultural Practice
  • A Social History of Photography in the United States
  • Affective Affinities: The New Left and the New Right in the Long 1970s
  • Celebrity Feminism
  • New Deal Art: The Visual Culture of 1930s America
  • Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Female Empowerment and Male Identification in American Horror Films
  • The Bauhaus in America
  • Porn in the USA
For more information, please visit https://www.jfki.fu-berlin.de/en/faculty/culture
academic year 2019/20 Joshua Shannon (University of Maryland)
academic year 2018/19 Laura Katzman (James Madison University)
academic year 2017/18: Lauren Kroiz (UC Berkeley)
academic year 2016/17: Allison Stagg (TU Berlin)
summer 2016: Heather Diack (University of Miami)
summer 2015: Michele Bogart (Stony Brook)
winter 2014/15 Michael Schreyach (Trinity College)
summer 2014: Kenneth Haltman (University of Oklahoma)
winter 2013/14:  Andrew Hemingway (University College of London)
summer 2013: Patricia Hills Summer (Boston University)
winter 2012/13: Vivien Green Fryd (Vanderbilt University)
summer 2012: Angela Miller (Washington University in St. Louis)
winter 2011/12: Katherine Manthorne (CUNY)
summer 2011: Jochen Wierich (Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, Nashville)
winter 2010/11: Alan Wallach (College of William and Mary)
summer 2010: David Lubin (Wake Forrest University)
winter 2009/10: Joshua Shannon (University of Maryland)

Example Course by a Terra Professor:

The Americans: Photography in the United States since 1950

In this course, we will consider the many uses and meanings of U.S. photography over the last seventy years. A broad variety of photographic practices will be considered, including street photography, figure and portrait photography, and the recent boom in photography of the environment. In addition to this focus on work conventionally understood as artistic photography, the course will consider the increasingly prominent roles that photography has played in other recent artistic practices, including pop art, performance, conceptual art, site-specific sculpture, and painting. We will also critically analyze American photojournalism as well as the ascendancy and changing roles of amateur snapshots. Some meetings will introduce particular themes and movements, while others will focus intensively on small bodies of work.