American Studies 101, “America and the World,” introduces first-year Purdue students to the field of American Studies. The course asks students to imagine how they are or are not “American,” and what being “American” means to the rest of the world. The course takes a transnational approach to the study of life in America, focusing on the experience of people who, like most Americans, come from someplace else.
“America and the World” also seeks to give ‘voice’ to the many people who come in and out of the United States as migrants, immigrants, workers, family members. To capture these voices, the course studies personal writings, poetry, letters, songs, essays, autobiographies and histories, many written by ordinary Americans.
Students will be challenged in the course to think about their own social location in the United States---that is, where they see themselves fitting into American society. This means examining different forms of citizenship---cultural, legal, sexual---that do or do not make Americans a ‘united’ people. Finally, the course examines the idea of American exceptionalism---the idea often promoted by its leaders that America is a unique country with a special mission to help or “save” the world or democracy.
The goal of the course is to give students the chance to see themselves in a panoramic view of American and world history, and to give them a deeper understanding of how people’s lived experiences in the United States---of their race, gender, sexuality, class---produce themes and ideas about the meaning of America and its place in the world.