Task Force on American Studies

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from President Christopher L. Eisgruber

The Program in American Studies at Princeton can trace its existence back to 1942, when President Harold Dodds announced the establishment of a new, self-consciously interdisciplinary "field of study in the American heritage" (it was initially called "the special program in American Civilization") (Princeton Alumni Weekly 5 (January 30, 1942)). Today, as the Program approaches its 75th anniversary, its scholars and students pursue urgent questions about American society and culture, about America's relation to the world, and about the nature and limits of American values and aspirations. The program has become one of the University's principal sites for exploration of questions about race and ethnicity, and it serves as a home for important courses in Asian-American Studies, American Indian Studies, and American Jewish Studies. It is also an important partner to the Program in Latino Studies, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, and theDepartment of African-American Studies.

As America has become both more diverse and also more self-conscious about its diversity, and as its relationship to other cultures and nations has become increasingly complex and contested, the quest to understand American society and culture has become at once more challenging and more critical to the nation's future. Because Princeton has outstanding faculty members across multiple departments and divisions who are leaders in the field, the University has a chance to grow American Studies in ways that will shed new light on important issues and shape intellectual debates throughout the field. Members of the faculty have brought forward proposals that suggest exciting possibilities for the program's future.

I am accordingly asking this task force to consider those proposals and, more generally, to comment on how best the University can respond to opportunities and challenges in the field of American Studies:

  1. Given that the field is growing rapidly in multiple directions, how should Princeton conceive of American Studies and the mandate of its program in that field?
  2. As we build toward the future, what are the current intellectual and programmatic strengths and weaknesses of Princeton's Program in American Studies? How does the work of Princeton's Program compare to how other institutions formulate the focus of their research and teaching in the field?
  3. How should Princeton understand the relationship between the fields of American Studies and of race and ethnicity studies?
  4. What relationship should American Studies have to current or potential certificate programs in fields such as Asian-American Studies, American Indian Studies, Latino Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies?
  5. How should the Program in American Studies be structured in order to carry out its mission and meet the demand for its teaching?
  6. How should the University evaluate the success of any new investments that it might make in American Studies?



  • Anne Cheng, Professor of English and African American Studies; Director, Program in American Studies
  • Dirk Hartog, Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty; Professor of History

Faculty members

  • Margot Canaday, Associate Professor of History
  • Rachael DeLue, Associate Professor of Art and Archaeology
  • Paul Frymer, Professor of Politics; Director, Program in Law and Public Affairs
  • Brian Herrera, Assistant Professor of Theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts; Robert Remsen  Laidlaw '04 University Preceptor in the Humanities
  • Aly Kassam-Remtulla, Assistant Provost, Office of the Provost, (ex-officio)
  • Kinohi Nishikawa, Assistant Professor of English and the Center for African American Studies
  • Carolyn Rouse, Professor of Anthropology; Director, Program in African Studies
  • Judith Weisenfeld, Agate Brown and George L. Collord Professor of Religion

Staff members

  •  David Stirk, Dean, Butler College, Residential Colleges