University of Sydney Handbooks - 2019 Archive

Download full 2019 archive Page archived at: Tue, 05 Nov 2019 02:36:07 +0000

American Studies

About the major

American Studies is a unique multi- and interdisciplinary field that examines the history, culture, politics, laws, foreign policy, and economics of the United States. Units examine the USA's evolution, its relationship with other nations ranging from China to Australia, and its cultural, political, and economic dominance in the 21st century. From the study of America’s government to its popular culture, you will be challenged to think creatively about the complex construction and meaning of American identity and power while developing analytic and research skills that span the humanities and social sciences and can be applied to close contextual study of nations and societies around the world.

An American Studies major gives you broad, multi-faceted knowledge of this diverse and dynamic nation and its relationship with the broader world. You will analyse the US using a variety of different approaches ranging from literary to quantitative to historical to ethnographic and beyond with an emphasis on the complex interactions between aspects of the world that are frequently treated in isolation. In addition to core American Studies units, you can take cross-listed units of study in English, History, Government, and other disciplines. With such a diversity of approaches, an American Studies major is a unique opportunity to learn a variety of approaches, methodologies, and theoretical traditions.

Undertaking a major in American Studies gives you access to the widest range of units of study focused on the US and to the largest concentration of scholars working on the US of any university in Australia and the entirety of the Southern Hemisphere.

Requirements for completion

A major in American Studies requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 6 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level selective units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level core units
(v) 12 credit points of 3000-level selective units
(vi) 6 credit points of 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project unit

A minor in American Studies requires 36 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 6 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level selective units
(iv) 6 credit points 3000-level core units
(v) 6 credit Points 3000-level selective units

First year

Students will complete 12 credit points of 1000 level units, and can choose from the following units:
AMST1001, Global America.
USSC1201 America and Australia: The Issues Compared
USSC1602 US Politics: Presidents, Elections and Laws
USSC1604 Sex, Race, and Rock in the USA

America and Australia: The Issues Compared explores major American social issues by comparing them with similar issues in Australia via social scientific methodologies. What makes America different? How do personal rights, from gun rights to LGBTI rights, work differently in the two countries? What differences and similarities exist on issues like race and mass incarceration? How much do we either exaggerate or downplay political differences between the United States and ourselves? (Taught in Semester 1, 2019)

Sex, Race and Rock in the USA explores the historical and contemporary intersections of sexuality, race, and popular culture in the United States. We focus on the intersection of music and other cultural forms with transformations in family, sexuality, racial identity, and gender. Students will study how popular culture and music in particular has provided a vital realm for the creation and deconstruction of identity, as well as for rebellion, profit, community, and freedom. (Taught in Semester 1, 2019)

Global America examines why and how American politics, culture, economics, and ideas have such a significant impact around the world. To effectively analyse how America captures and shapes international relations and imaginations across the globe we examine a series of topics (imperialism, freedom, race, the environment, and sexuality) from both political and cultural/literary perspectives. (Taught in Semester 2, 2019)

US Politics: Presidents, Elections and Laws offers a comprehensive understanding of US political institutions and political culture. We examine the American electoral system, recent presidential elections, and the careers of American presidents from the 1960s onwards while focusing on issues like inequality, American exceptionalism, divisions in party and public opinion, and political campaigns. (Taught in Semester 2, 2019)

Second Year

Students majoring in American Studies must complete the core second year unit AMST2701 American Dreams. From a multidisciplinary standpoint, this unit introduces students to the contradictory richness of "Americanness" and prepares them for the major in American Studies. Divided into five historically grounded modules - race, religion, gender, politics, and region - the unit approaches each from a variety of methodological angles. It opens lines of interrelation and interpretation between historical, political, and imaginary forms in the construction and ongoing redefinition of the United States.

Students complete an additional 6 credit points of 2000 level selective units. They have a choice of selective units including AMST2606 Stand Up America: American Comedy and Humour and USSC2601 US in the World: Policies and Strategies as well as a variety of other options offered in different disciplines. Collectively, these units encompass a comprehensive study of the US, with options for how students want to shape their Major around the intellectual issues they find most compelling.

Third Year

The final year gives students the opportunity to form a capstone to their major. Students must complete 6 credit points from the core unit AMST3601 American Perspectives, which discusses key texts from politics, history, English, film studies, and music to critically examine the United States from multiple angles, including contemporary politics, race and racism, gender, legal culture, regionalism, and religion. Students will have the chance to develop a substantial primary source–driven research project on any topic of their choosing relating to the study of the US. This project has frequently formed the basis for Honour’s and Ph.D study and students have published their research in leading world academic journals and popular publications

Students must also complete 12 Credit points of 3000 level selective units. USSC3603 Dissent and Protest studies the long history of social movements and protest in the U.S with an innovative use of the Harvard Business School Case Method as a model for evaluating effective movement strategies across the political spectrum. USSC3601 and Public Opinion and Voting gives students a thorough understanding of how to use, read, and create opinion polls, surveys, and voting data. Like in the Second Year, students in the Third Year have the option of incorporating selective units focused on the U.S. from other departments in order to tailor their major to their personal interests and careers goals.


If you commenced your degree prior to 2018, admission to honours requires a major in American Studies with an average of 70% or above or approval of the Program Coordinator.

If you commenced your degree in 2018, admission to honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in American Studies with an average of 70% or above or approval of the Program Coordinator. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing honours.

Upon completing a Bachelor’s degree, students can pursue a year-long research program that involves the production of an 18,000-20,000 word thesis. This can be a capstone to your pursuit of American Studies at the undergraduate level, giving you an edge on other graduates with your level of expertise in a specific area of enquiry. In addition, this also acts a significant independent project to prepare graduates for the workforce, as the autonomous pursuit of information and personal setting of targets and goals makes the transition to project-based work easier. Honours in the first or second class is also a great pathway into Ph.D. research and has frequently resulted in student publications.

Our previous honours students have researched such diverse subjects as: voting behaviour and inequality; Women’s National Basketball Association, political memes, Hollywood bromances, race and fashion, religion and US foreign policy, and American policy in Iraq.

As part of the course, students attend two seminars - AMST4115 American Studies: Theory and Practice, and AMST4112 Cultural Capital: Kant to Kardashian.

Contact/further information

Further information can be found at the United States Studies Centre website:

The American Studies Coordinator is Dr Thomas Adams

Phone: 02 9036 7948

The Honours Coordinator is Dr Rodney Taveira
Phone: 02 9114 2612

The Academic and Student Support Coordinator is Jessica Regan
Phone: 02 9351 7249
Example pathways
Year One 1000 Level Units of Study
Sem 1 1 x 1000-level AMST or USSC Unit
USSC1201 America and Australia: the issues compared or USSC1604 Sex, Race and Rock in the USA
Sem 2 1 x 1000-level AMST or USSC Unit
AMST1001 Global America or USSC1602 US Politics, Presidents, Elections and Laws
Year Two 2000 Level Units of Study
Sem 1 1 x Senior core 2000-level unit
AMST2701 American Dreams
Sem 2 1 x Senior 2000-level
USSC2601 US in the world: Policies and Strategies or AMST2606: Stand Up USA: US Comedy and Humour


Year Three

3000 Level Units of Study

Sem 1 Any AMST or USSC 3000-level unit Any AMST or USSC 3000-level unit
Sem 2 Senior core 3000-level unit
AMST3601 American Perspectives
AMST3999 Interdisciplinary Project unit