American Studies


Students under 60 units must complete American Studies 10 (with a C or better) before they can declare American Studies as their major. Students beyond 60 units must be enrolled in American Studies 10 and speak with a faculty advisor before being allowed to declare.

To declare, students are required to take four lower-division courses relevant to the major: American Studies 10 plus three other lower-division social sciences or humanities courses that focus on the United States. No more than two of these three may be from any one department.  With faculty approval, you may use courses from other institutions to satify these requirements.

Students must receive a “C” in each of the four lower-division requirements.

American Studies 10 (or 10AC when offered) —  Introduction to American Studies

You must take American Studies 10 at UC Berkeley; you cannot use a course taken elsewhere to subsitute for this requirement.

Three Lower-Division Courses

The lower division prerequisites are meant to introduce the student to a variety of  scholarly approaches to the study of American culture and society. If you have questions about whether a particular course fulfills the prerequisites, please contact the American Studies major office or an American Studies faculty advisor.

A total of 30-36 upper-division units are required in the major with at least 20 units in the Area of Concentration. All courses taken to satisfy the major requirements must be taken for a letter grade, and students must maintain a 2.0 GPA in the major in order to graduate.

All courses taken to satisfy the major requirements must be taken for a letter grade.

Core Methods Courses (8 units)

* Examining U.S. Cultures in Time
* Examining U.S. Cultures in Place

Students are required to take one course each from the two methods series, “Time” and “Place.” It is expected that these courses will be completed during the junior year. See department listings for available courses every semester. Due to the unique interdisciplinary nature of the courses, these requirements should be satisfied at UC Berkeley. Note: “Time” courses include A.S. 101 and A.S. C111 and “Place” courses include A.S. 102 and C112, as well as other courses noted in each semester’s department listings.

Area of Concentration (20-22 units)

A minimum of six classes (20-22 units) of upper-division course work, drawn from the College of Letters and Science and the Professional Schools and Colleges, are required in the student’s individually articulated area of concentration. The area of concentration must include courses from at least three different departments, but no more than three courses from any one discipline. The area may include courses from up to six different departments.

Areas of concentration may be highly individualized, depending on the student’s intellectual focus, prior preparation, and the availability of courses. Students planning to declare the major should complete a four year plan, major application form and meet with a faculty advisor in their sophomore year or early in their junior year to plan their upper-division program. Subsequently, this program can be revised only with the approval of the faculty advisor. For further information see the sample areas of concentration.

Senior Thesis (4 units)

Because American Studies at UC Berkeley is an interdisciplinary program based on the major’s own offerings and supplemented by individualized programs of study drawing on the resources of the whole campus, students in this major complete their work in the major with an interdisciplinary senior thesis. The thesis is intended to give students the opportunity to develop an extended analysis of a significant problem, and to craft the essay into a finished piece of scholarly work. It is designed to give students a sense of competence and confidence in framing, exploring, and completing an explicitly interdisciplinary project. NOTE: The senior thesis course may not be taken before students have completed the American Studies core requirements and most of their area of concentration classes.

American Studies 189 is an optional intensive reading and research seminar that will assist students in the development of skills fundamental to advanced research in the humanities, social sciences and cultural studies. The effort entails identification of research topics, cultivation of interdisciplinary metholodologies, compilation of annotated bibliographies, and completion of a literature review, which may serve as the first portion of the American Studies senior thesis.

There are four ways to satisfy the thesis requirement:

1. American Studies 191
Students in this course will work together and independently to achieve individual interdisciplinary research papers which draw on their preparatory work in American Studies. Students should prepare for this project over the course of their careers at UC Berkeley, and be ready, by the second week of class, to submit a thesis prospectus, including a working title, a 1-page description of the problem or issue addressed, and a statement of the method or approach which they plan to utilize.

2. American Studies 190 (under the direction of an individual faculty member)
Students who elect this option must prepare a bibliography and write a brief description of their proposed thesis the semester before they plan to enroll in 190. They must also secure a faculty advisor from an appropriate field who will agree to direct the thesis. They must then submit their proposal, along with the signature of their faculty director, to the American Studies office to obtain a course control number. Note: Students who wish to include creative work as part of their thesis requirement may use this option. Students should pick up the blank Thesis Proposal / Faculty Advisor Agreement in 237 Evans Hall.

3. American Studies H195 — Honors Thesis
In order to graduate with Honors in the major, eligible students must enroll in A.S. H195 (Senior Honors Thesis). For admission to A.S. H195, students must have senior standing, an overall gradepoint average of 3.51, and a grade-point average of 3.65 for all(upper- and lower-division) courses taken in completion of the major.

4. Thesis Course Offered by Another Department
Students may enroll in an upper-division seminar in a department or field appropriate to their area of concentration for which they must write a substantial research paper. This course must be approved in advance by an American Studies faculty advisor.

Interdisciplinary American Studies majors are expected to develop a solid grounding in the cultural history of the United States and scholars’ debates about that history. Because the past is a condition of the present, we cannot understand who we are, where we are, what we care about, nor the lives we live without exploring what the sociologist George Herbert Mead called the “doings and sufferings” of those who came before us. To understand more fully contemporary American culture, society, politics, we must return to the past—to that which “marks out and in a sense selects what has made the present possible.”

Source: Smithsonian National Museum of American History

For students admitted to American Studies in Fall 2003 or later, one of the courses taken to complete the American Studies major (either upper- or lower-division) must be a course focusing on U.S. history, culture, and/or politics before 1900. Students should check with an American Studies faculty advisor or the American Studies Student Academic Advisor to ensure that the course they take satisfies this requirement.