Jun 16, 2024  
Course Catalog 2018-2019 
Course Catalog 2018-2019 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Comparative American Studies

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Departmental Faculty
Shelley Lee, Associate Professor of Comparative American Studies and History, and Program Director
KJ Cerankowski, Assistant Professor of Comparative American Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies
Wendy Kozol, Professor of Comparative American Studies
Gina Pérez, Professor of Comparative American Studies
Meredith Raimondo, Associate Professor of Comparative American Studies (on administrative leave)

Faculty by Courtesy
Rick Baldoz, Associate Professor and Chair of Sociology
Janet Fiskio, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Comparative American Studies
Jennifer Garcia, Assistant Professor of Politics 
Pablo Mitchell, Professor of History and Comparative American Studies 
Tamika Nunley, Assistant Professor of History (on leave)
Afia Ofori-Mensa, Director, Office of Undergraduate Research, Assistant Professor of Comparative American Studies and Africana Studies
Renee Romano, Professor of History and Comparative American Studies 
Harrod Suarez, Associate Professor of English and Comparative American Studies


Comparative American Studies examines the range and diversity of experiences, communities, and identities in the United States. Through inter and multi-disciplinary study, students explore social, political, economic and cultural processes relating to the production and contestation of power and inequality, and consider the United States locally, nationally, and globally. The department invites students to consider the relationship of different communities to both the nation-state and to each other, ranging from issues of settler colonialism and empire building to social justice movements. Courses investigate power and agency through analysis of intersecting structures of race, gender, class, sexuality, ability and citizenship. Central to these studies are examinations of the relationship of theory and practice in various historical and contemporary contexts.

Comparative American Studies is aligned with the fields of ethnic studies, LGBTQ studies, and American Studies, and its core faculty have expertise in the areas of visual culture studies, gender studies, LGBTQ studies, Asian American Studies, and Latina/o Studies. Affiliates and courtesy faculty from departments such as Africana Studies, English, Sociology, and Politics, further enhance the topical and methodological breadth that students can attain through the CAS major.

You can read more about our mission and learning goals here.


Course Levels And Sequencing

100 and 200 level courses (with the exception of CAST 200: Theories and Methods) provide an introduction to topics in American Studies. 

300 level courses are research and methods oriented seminars on a given subject in American Studies. 

400 level courses are advanced reading seminars.

500 level include the capstone research seminar and honors seminar.

Majors should fulfill their introductory course requirement and CAST 200 as early in their career as possible. The 500-level research seminars (capstone and honors) have prerequisites of the CAST introductory requirement and CAST 200. While other courses at the 300 and 400 level often do not have formal prerequisites, prior coursework in CAST or a related field is strongly recommended.


Students wishing to declare a Comparative American Studies major should meet with a potential advisor on the CAS faculty (may include courtesy faculty) or the department chair. In consultation with the advisor and using the forms available online here, students will propose a program of study for review by the chair.

The Comparative American Studies major consists of a minimum of 9 full courses, which include the following:

  1. Introductory course, satisfied through CAST 100 or a 200 level CAST course that does not include CAST 200: Theories and Methods.
  2. CAST 200: Theories and Methods, recommended to be taken in the second year (prerequisite: introductory course).
  3. One 300 level CAST seminar. This must be a CAST course and cannot be satisfied through a cross-referenced course in another department.
  4. CAST 500: Senior capstone research seminar. (prerequisite: introductory requirement and CAST: 200. Strongly recommend completing 300 level course)

Students must earn minimum grades of C- or P for all courses that apply toward the major.

Methodological Breadth

The 9 courses must also include completion of a methodological breadth requirement in the following areas:

  1. At least one course designated as Cultural Studies/Theory
  2. At least one course designated as History
  3. At least one course designated as Social Science

This requirement must be satisfied through three separate courses. For classes that straddle more than one methodological approach, students can only count these toward one of the categories. Courses that fulfill methodological breadth can be completed through non-CAST courses. Updated lists specifying which CAST and cross-referenced courses satisfy the methodological requirements can be obtained in the CAST office and found here.

Concentration Area

Students must also fulfill a concentration area requirement with a minimum of 4 courses.   
Within the concentration, students create an individual focus area on a topic, theme, or question. Students select classes that address their interests within a framework of course offerings designed to build conceptual and practical skills. 

Concentrations in the Comparative American Studies represent distinct conceptual and scholarly directions within the field. They are:

  1. Identity and diversity
  • Examines categories of race, indigeneity, class, gender, sexuality, and/or ability
  • Examines diversity within a single category, through categories like race, class, gender, sexuality and ability.
  • Uses theoretical concepts that emphasize a comparative understanding of social and cultural formation, like “racialized sexualities” or “racial formation.”  
  1. Globalization, transnationalism and nation
  • Uses the concepts of globalization and transnationalism to examine social and cultural diversity in the United States
  • Situates U.S. in a global context through analysis of concepts such as empire or diaspora
  • Explores the relationship of transnational social and cultural formations to state power and nationalism in relationship to the United States
  1. Histories and practices of social change
  • Evaluates pedagogy, research, and cultural production as catalysts for social change
  • Examines race, class, gender, sexuality, indigeneity, ability and nation in relationship to efforts to affect social change
  • Considers histories and strategies of particular social movements

Courses that fulfill concentration area can be completed in non-CAST classes. Updated lists specifying which CAST and cross-referenced courses satisfy the concentrations can be obtained in the CAST office and found here.


Students wishing to minor in Comparative American Studies must have their proposals approved by the Program Director. The Comparative American Studies minor consists of:

  • 5 full courses, including CAST 100: Introduction to Comparative American Studies
  • At least one of the courses must be a program course with a CAST number.
  • No more than 2 full courses may be taken at the introductory level, including CAST 100.
  • No more than one full course may be transferred from another institution toward the minor.
  • One course may be a full CAST private reading

Off-Campus Programs for Credit

Students are encouraged to broaden their educational experience by taking advantage of off-campus programs, preferably sometime during their junior year. A maximum 3 courses taken at other institutions may be applied toward the major (1 course for the minor.)

Private Reading Policy

One full private reading course may be counted toward the major or minor. Private reading courses, conducted as one-on-one or small group tutorials, are offered for half or full course credit and are normally conducted at an advanced level. Students who wish to pursue a topic not covered in the regular curriculum may arrange a private reading with a member of the faculty. Generally visiting faculty do not sponsor private readings. Students are expected to be self-directed and responsible for meeting all pre-established deadlines, and should approach the faculty member well before the start of the semester for which they would like to do the private reading. They should also come to the faculty member with preliminary syllabus that includes readings, assignments, deadlines and other aspects of a self-designed course. The department chair gives final approval for all private readings.

In addition to these CAS guidelines, the College has the following requirements and restrictions on private readings: 

•    The subject matter of the private reading should not duplicate that of a regular course;
•    Private readings must have a clear academic or artistic focus;
•    Except under special departmental arrangements, a faculty member may not supervise private reading courses for more than five students in a given semester;
•    Private reading courses may not be used to fulfill the Curriculum Exploration, Writing, Quantitative and Formal Reasoning, or Cultural Diversity requirements;
•    A student is limited to one private reading per semester and the Academic Advising Resrouce Center must approve all exceptions.

Unlike other courses, a student cannot register for a private reading via Presto. To register for a private reading, obtain a card from the Registrar’s Office, complete the required information, obtain the faculty member and the Program director’s approval for the reading, and return the card to the Registrar’s Office.


Senior Comparative American Studies majors may conduct independent, original research or a creative project through the Honors Program. Consideration for admission to the Honors Program takes place during the second semester of the junior year, by invitation of the Comparative American Studies faculty or by self-nomination. Honors students must enroll in CAST 501/502: Honors Seminar (both semesters) and are exempt from the Research Seminar (CAST 500) requirement.

Students accepted for honors must normally have a 3.00 GPA in the college, and a 3.25 major average at the beginning of the second semester of the junior year. They must have completed the following by the start of their senior year: Introductory course requirement (100 or a 200-level CAST course) and CAST 200: Theories and Methods in American Studies. For more detailed information about the honors program, see the handbook here.

Cross-Referenced Courses And Petition Process

As Comparative American Studies is an inter- and multi-disciplinary field, we encourage students to take courses in other departments that can enhance and deepen their studies in the major/minor. Many courses in History, English, Sociology, and Politics, for example can be counted, and a comprehensive list can be found here. This resource indicates which concentration and methodological areas courses count for, and should be consulted carefully as students plan their course schedules. 

If a student is enrolled in or completed a course with substantial American Studies content that is not listed in the resource, they can petition to apply the class toward their major or minor. The process involves filling out the form found here as well as providing a syllabus to the department chair. Students should bear in mind that these requests are not always granted, so if they have any questions about particular courses, they should seek to resolve them before enrolling in the class or well before they complete it. Petitions should be filed no later than the end of the term after which they student has completed the class they wish to count. 

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