Study the American Experience in all its Diversity

American Studies takes an interdisciplinary approach to examining the range and diversity of American experiences, identities, and communities.  Through its rich array of course offerings as well as opportunities for internships and preparation of an honors thesis, students study social, political, economic, and cultural processes within the United States as well as exploring the role of the nation in a global context. By placing the United States in a transnational and comparative framework, the major invites students to consider the relationship of different communities to the nation-state, which includes issues of colonialism and empire building as well as the effect of social protest movements. Courses investigate the American landscape and the built environment; they explore power, inequality, and agency through analysis of intersecting structures of race, gender, class, sexuality, and citizenship. Central to these studies are examinations of the relationship of theory and practice within historical and contemporary contexts.

American Studies is the oldest interdisciplinary major at Franklin & Marshall College.  Established in 1975, it is one of the most comprehensive majors at the college.  Students take core courses in American Studies as well as courses drawn from other nine academic departments. Students have developed individual concentrations in fields such as literary and cultural studies, social and historical developments, race and ethnicity, and gender. American Studies faculty members approach their work from many directions but share the desire to view America as a whole.

Because the American Studies curriculum helps students to develop their analytical skills and critical judgment, it is an invaluable foundation for a number of careers, including business, management, public policy, personnel, media, and education. Other former majors earn advanced degrees in graduate programs or professional schools in fields such as law, business, medicine, history, and museum studies. The interdisciplinary strength of American Studies prepares students to pursue personal interests and professional aspirations across their lifetimes.


American Studies at F&M

Students Speak:
Why I Am an
American Studies Major

  • Susan Spina '17

Susan Spina ‘17

Swarthmore, PA

American Studies first captured my heart when I took the class American Popular Music. I love being able to dissect our culture and understand and how and why we do the things we do.


  • Charisma Lambert '18

Charisma Lambert ‘18

Newark, NJ

In the spring of my sophomore year, I took a class, purely based on its title -- Race Movies, with Professor Joe Clark. I enjoyed the deep discussions we had and the openness with which we could share our genuine thoughts on the topics. After further conversations with Professor Clark, I realized that pursuing a major in American Studies would allow me to engage in conversations like those. Since declaring in the fall of my sophomore year, I have never had second thoughts about my decision.  

  • Matt Henninger '18

Matt Henninger ‘18

Bethlehem, PA

I decided to major in American Studies (joint AMS-Music major) because I was fascinated by the curriculum's emphasis of using U.S. history and culture to analyze the development of our young nation and its massive influence on the world. I encounter and apply phenomena from my AMS courses on a daily basis, which has revolutionized the way that I perceive my surroundings on and off-campus. By taking my first AMS class, I was provided with the opportunity of being a part of a multidisciplinary research team in the summer of 2016 with Professor Eric Usner conducting ethnographic research at Central Market, where I studied its role in Lancaster's agrarian tourism industry.

The Pulse of AMS

Story 10/8/2019

AMS Major News 2019

American Studies majors talk about their recent research projects, which included exploring America’s past through sewing, researching digital communities and the formation of action networks, and...

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Story 10/8/2019

Greetings from the Department Chair 2019

AMS Dept. Chair Carla Willard recounts some of the successes of 2018-19 and looks forward to the new academic year.

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Story 10/7/2019

AMS Alumni Milestones 2019

Catch up with some American Studies alumni from the past few years who relate their experiences in various fields including law, education, and local government.

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Story 10/7/2019

AMS Major World 2019

American Studies majors share recent study-abroad experiences, including exploring Spanish language and culture in Madrid, studying English literature in Bath, comparing the American and Danish...

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October 24
event 10/24/2019

This is the Rat Speaking: Remembering the 1969 Black Student...

Mayser Gymnasium

Dr. Benjamin Bowser ‘69 Adrian C. Lamos, Jr ‘72 Dr. Todd Mealy Prof. LeRoy Pernell ‘71 This...

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November 13
event 11/13/2019

Cuban Revolution, U.S. Radicalism

Stager 102 Stahr Auditorium

What influence did the 1959 Cuban Revolution have on U.S. social justice movements of the 1960s and...

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