American Studies home page

Summer 2016

AMST 202 » American Experience: Culture and the Arts

Instructor: Jessica Tan

Course Description: If contemplation of any aspect of America must include a consideration of culture, so too must any study of American culture include a discussion of the arts.  Surveying a variety of cultures practiced by people (s) (with) in America, this course investigates just what may be talking about when we use such words as “America,” “culture,” or “art,” and how our ideas about these words have developed.

Largely focusing on the ways in which power, beauty and belonging have been constructed, contemplated and asserted through the arts, we will conclude the semester by asking the question of whether we might analyze and shape our own lives — as people living (with) in America — as we might a piece of art?

AMST 211 » Contemporary American Domestic Issue

Instructor: Leanne Sims

Course Description: This course explores contemporary American domestic topics by examining the intersectional senses of the “domestic”–the “American” and the “familial.” Our course will mostly be rooted in the contemporary–from the 1970s to the present–however, the American decade 1950-1960, will inform our readings and academic inquiry.

In the spirit of American Studies, we will implement a wide-ranging archiver–drama, short stories, cinematic texts, history, performance and reportage.  Stylistically this course echoes a seminar forum, which means you are expected to actively discuss our texts, as well as intellectually engage with your peers. Attendance and participation are mandatory.  As a Writing Intensive course, you will need to actively read and write throughout the semester.

In or tour through the senses of American domesticity and its contradictory impulses of conformity and resistance, you will discover that domesticity in all of its rich ramifications is all around us–in the present, as well as significantly celebrated in our past.

AMST 310 » Japanese Americans

Instructor: Dennis M. Ogawa

Course Description: Japanese American life in Hawaii and American society at large. Historical and cultural heritage. Biographical portraits, changing family ties, ethnic lifestyle, male and female relations, local identity and the nature of island living.

Course Requirements:

  1. Oral Communication Assignments: 46%
  2. Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii Paper: 8%
  3. Quizzes: 6%
  4. Two Tests: 20%
  5. Final Examination: 20%

Required Text(s):

  • Ogawa, Dennis.  Jan Ken Po
  • Ogawa, Dennis.  Kodomo No Tame Ni
  • Various handouts (online)

AMST 318 (Cross-listed as ES 318) » Asian America

Instructor:  Valerie Lo

Course Description: This course is a survey of Asian American immigration history, social history, labor, politics, and culture from the 1840s through the present.  This course will focus on five major themes: immigration and migration to the United States and Hawai‘i, ethnic Asian communities, transnational Asians within and outside of the United States and Hawai‘i, work and labor, and culture and art.  Part of the course will focus specifically on ethnic Asians and Asian Americans on the continental United States including, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, South Asian/Indian, Hmong and Ameriasians and Mixed Race Asian Americans.  The remainder of the course will focus on Asian ethnic groups in Hawai‘i including Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Okinawans, Filipinos, and ethnically and racially mixed Asians.

AMST 349 O) » Contemporary American Design

Instructor:  Will Temple

Course Description: Design is an essential feature of everyday life.  Major changes in the ways we work, communicate, and produce and consume goods and services have elevated the significance of design, both as a physical artifact and as a professional occupation. In this course we will investigate the varied ways design contributes to contemporary American culture.  We will approach these contributions from three directions: from the individuals who practice design, from the technologies that make and distribute designed products and experiences, and from the finished products and experiences themselves.  In each direction, we will situate contemporary design practices, technologies and products, within the broader social and economic forces that propel them.

Required Text (s):

  • Julier, Guy. The Culture of Design 

AMST 350 » Culture and the Arts in America: Survey

Instructor: Sarah Smorol

Course Description: This course examines the place and roles of the arts in American life and society in both historical and contemporary contexts.  What have the arts meant to Americans?  Who have practiced the arts, and how?  How do the arts function as an economic activity?  What has been the relationship between the arts and the government?  What roles do the arts serve in the community?  We will consider these questions with a particular focus on performing arts (e.g. music, theatre, dance).  In addition to reading and discussion of scholarly materials from various disciplines, students will conduct research on performing arts taking place in the community.

Students will attend several performing arts events and conduct in-depth analysis of the artistic text, production and performance, audience reception, and critical reviews.  They will interview a performing artist about their work.  Students will also conduct a group project in which each group proposes a production of a performing arts event to prospective sponsors.

AMST 365 » American Empire (Cross-listed as HIST 379)

Instructor:  Karyn Wells

Course Description: Examine the interplay between an “American culture of empire” and the rise of the U.S. as a superpower.  Topics: imperialism and political culture, social movements and international affairs, race, gender and class relations.

AMST 418 » Hawai‘i’s Multiculturalism

Instructor:  Heather Diamond

Course Description: A multidisciplinary examination of the dynamics of the Hawaiian Islands’ racial and cultural diversity from the perspectives of historical trends, social processes, and contemporary political, social, and economic issues as they impact interracial relations.

AMST 425 » American Environmental History (Cross-listed as HIST 480)

Instructor:  Kieko Matteson

Course Description: Survey history of the complex relations between American societies and diverse U.S. ecosystems, from European contact and colonization to the present.

AMST 451 » Popular Culture

Instructor:  Yohei Sekiguchi

Course Description: This course examines various aspects of popular culture in late twentieth century America.  What makes “popular culture” popular?  Who have the power to control it–performers, producers, or its consumers?  How did the concept of popular culture transform in this time period?  How does popular culture function as an economic activity?  Drawing on diverse types of critical approach to the study of popular culture, we will consider such questions.  In the spirit of American Studies, this course will focus on various types of materials – history, music, novel, movie, etc.

AMST 453 » Culture, Society, and Literature

Instructor: Leanne Sims

Course Description:  This course is both a Writing Intensive and Ethics hallmark class.  It explores the intellectual and moral response of Americans to institutions and culture of twentieth century marketplace economy.  Especially, this course will critically examine how (absence of) ethics have helped the development of capitalism in twentieth century America and how American literature has represented such intersection between ethics and market values.  In the spirit of American Studies, this course will focus on various types of materials – novel, short story, autobiography, cultural history, documentary, etc.

AMST 461 » American’s World Role

Instructor: Jeff Tripp

Course Description:  This course is an interdisciplinary exploration and examination of America’s role in modern world affairs against the background of history, perceptions, and values.  Contemporary American issues and attitudes are considered within their historical contexts.  War, American Empire, economics, sport, globalization, and the evolution of American values are covered in the course.  These are approached from a variety of critical and contested perspectives and are assessed with reference to the diversity of American beliefs and values.

AMST 490B » Topics in American Studies

Instructor: Yohei Sekiguchi

Course Description:  Themes, problems, and issues not addressed in other American studies undergraduate courses, focused within these areas: (B) social structure and interaction; (D) arts and environment.

AMST 696C » Documentation of Urban Vernacular Architecture

Instructor: William Chapman

Course Description: The Asian Preservaton Field School in Bangkok, Thailand concentrates on the exciting urban vernacular architecture of the capital city of Bangkok.  Participants will begin by touring historic sites, including the National Museum, Grand Palace, and Ayutthaya.  On-site work in Bangkok is supplemented by lectures on vernacular architecture, preservation policy, architectural history, building conservation and related issues.  The program culminates in an exhibit of photographs, plans, and student drawings.

The program complements existing efforts to map and identify historic buildings in the city.  Our survey will concentrate on the numerous remaining wood houses and the many excellent examples of speculatively built 19th-century shophouses.  Results of the survey will be retained as a permanent record and a source for further research.

For more information and to request an application, please contact the Graduate Certificate Program in Historic Preservation Eriza Bareng or Rumi Yoshida at or call (808) 956-8570.