black and white Photograph of 1958 Lincoln Memorial Youth March for Integrated Schools from National Archives

American Identities and Cultures

The minor in American Identities and Cultures is housed in the English Department but draws on course offerings from many departments.  It aspires to bridge the gap between the academic study of the humanities and the passionate concern that students today express for the future of their nation and their planet.  It does so by emphasizing connections between the past and present, between historical injustices and current conflicts, between classroom analysis and real-life experience.

American Identities and Cultures minors study American history, culture, and national identity by taking classes from several different disciplines including (but not limited to) literature, history, film, music, and politics. They study the construction of local, regional, ethnic, indigenous, borderland, and diasporic communities alongside dominant ones, and situate the understanding of American society in transoceanic, hemispheric, and global frameworks as well as national ones.

In 2022, a $500,000 NEH grant, the largest humanities grant in the university’s history, funded the creating of bold new innovative courses in the field.  View a slideshow of these courses below:


The program provides deep content knowledge and fosters acute critical thinking about crucial issues in American culture and society in the past and present.  These issues include the role of ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, and other constructs of identity in producing marginalized communities. Students learn to analyze the reciprocal relationship between culture and identity—how various cultural products shape identity, and how group identities of many kinds play a role in producing cultures, subcultures and countercultures.

Students who minor in American Identities and Cultures will enhance their skills in critical thinking and analysis, writing, communication, and collaboration by developing an interdisciplinary and transnational understanding of American cultures past and present and the role of the United States within larger world systems.

In addition, the program cultivates and refines students’ understanding of many issues of the utmost importance in society and politics, as well as in the workplace and in private life.  With a deeper, more historically informed, and more nuanced understanding of issues related to racial, ethic, gender, and economic inequality and injustice, students will be better able to negotiate and even help to solve conflicts both large and small–in their communities, their workplaces, and their society. Understanding encounters between cultures as sites of both violent conflict and dynamic creativity, a course of study in American Identities and Cultures provides voices to people who have been silenced, and offers a more complete and inclusive education in American cultural life than students are likely to have received.

View the Current Program Requirements