Princeton Program in American Studies

Princeton University

By bringing together students and faculty from the arts, the humanities, and social sciences to explore questions that cross disciplinary boundaries, the Program reflects a generative field of intellectual curiosity and creativity, a nexus of energy and engagement.  American Studies scholars share a dynamic commitment to democratic inquiry rather than a universally agreed upon canon of required methods or venerated works. The field encompasses an eclectic array of practices and pedagogies that cohere around openness to studying diverse research objects, asking a broad range of research questions, and engaging with a wide range of scholarly approaches, methods and theories. 

We strive to gain a deeper and broader perspective on issues which profoundly affect contemporary life and scholarship, including questions of migration, colonization, race, borders, and diaspora; art, culture, and language; law and public policy; and gender and sexuality. Approaching the complex issues of race, ethnicity, and identity through the lens of American Studies also allows us to understand American liberalism and national power alongside indigeneity, slavery, racialized immigration, urbanization, war, military occupation, and globalization.  In short, we aim to understand America in the world as well as how the world lives in America.

Through resources such as the University Library and archives, art museum, and campus buildings, students have a variety of ways to examine American life. The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has a rich store of public policy papers, including those of alumnus and former Princeton president Woodrow Wilson; Nassau Hall, the site of the Continental Congress from June to November 1783, also bears scars from its role in the Revolutionary War Battle of Princeton; and the University Art Museum's holdings range from Charles Willson Peale's 1784 portrait of George Washington at the Battle of Princeton to works by Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keefe, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol. We also encourage students to explore untraditional archives and to ask questions about what has been left out of the archive.

For the past several years, the Program in American Studies has been instrumental in bringing a comparative and fuller range of race and ethnicity studies to Princeton. Going forward, we look to expand on the progress we have made, especially in the fields of Asian American/Diasporic Studies, Jewish American Studies, and Native American/Indigenous Studies, while continuing to strengthen our ties with African American and Latinx Studies. We aim to develop these fields in a way that integrates these inquiries into mainstream Princeton curriculum and intellectual life across the whole of the campus. We insist on a perspective on America that struggles towards a holistic understanding of America as a global presence and as a product of global processes. We focus on “integration” less as a normative ideal than as a methodological precept. In this regard we go beyond conventional notions of “intersectionality” or other trendy terms.  And we acknowledge that in order to understand America as a space that integrates diverse histories and identities and processes we need to take seriously all of the social movements and processes and politics that separate and segregate and isolate groups and identities from one another within America.

  • Go international
America United States Mid-Atlantic
Institution type
Foreign Institutions Universities and university institutes