American studies began with historians and literary scholars in the US addressing dual concerns. They saw the need, on the one hand, to distinguish between (US) American and European history and culture, and on the other hand, to consider (US) American cultural concerns in an interdisciplinary fashion.
Scholars and teachers such as Mary Turpie, Tremaine McDowell, Mulford Q. Sibley, and Bernard Bowron helped build a foundation for American studies at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities that has continued to launch contemporary academic projects. Early scholars in American studies often explored what is now criticized as exceptionalism: the notion that United States has a unique place in world history, culture, and politics. Many American studies scholars then and now have cast the field in multicultural and/or in intersectional terms (race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, immigration status, location), searching for interdisciplinary methods and approaches for studying diverse peoples and their interactions in the United States, the larger Americas, hemispherically, regionally, and/or globally.
American Studies at the University of Minnesota
We have taken a lead at the national level, diversifying our traditional curriculum in disciplinary terms—embracing feminist studies, media studies, popular culture, anthropology, sociology, history, literature, and queer studies—and by the pluralist cultures to which the word "American" refers, including African/African American, Chicano/a and Latino/a, Native/Native American, and Asian/Asian American perspectives.
We are a leader in advancing these areas of inquiry. At the same time, we are one of the oldest and most highly regarded American studies programs in the nation, consistently ranked among the top four in the country, along with Harvard, Yale, and Brown. We draw our current graduate students from Ivy League, Big Twelve, and Pacific Ten universities, as well as from other prestigious institutions.
We are committed to recruiting graduate students of color and students from other underrepresented communities. We are currently aligned in a confederation of research and teaching with the Departments of Chicano/a Studies, American Indian Studies, African American & African studies, and the Asian American studies program. Faculty in interdisciplinary ethnic studies departments and programs teach in our graduate program, as do faculty from every major discipline in the liberal arts. For over fifty years, we have been one of the most recognized departments in the College of Liberal Arts, indeed in the broader campus community of the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. We look forward to building on this history and playing a leading role in American studies in the twenty-first century.