Thinking critically about what it means to be an American

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American & Ethnic Studies students critically examine issues of power, identity, and social justice movements. Through our courses and campus events, our students study the different forces that created the United States and continue to shape what it means to be an “American.” We explore and investigate categories of race, place, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, nationality, and ability. AES draws from the humanities and social sciences. Our approach integrates history, literature, sociology, anthropology, public policy, and cultural studies. We ask and answer questions in critical, comparative, and practical ways.

AES is the revised name of American Studies, which was one of the first majors on campus. Our major has always been interested in questions of power, inequality, resistance, social and environmental justice, and difference. We changed our name because we wanted to mark the work that many of us were doing in our classrooms, where questions of power and difference animate our pedagogy. We also wanted to link teaching and learning at UW Bothell with the larger fields of American Studies and Ethnic Studies. Along with the name change, we revised the curriculum to make it easier for students to navigate. AES majors now take one core course and then take classes across different areas of knowledge. 
 

What we do: Power, dissent, and intersectionality

abstract art design made of circlesAmerican & Ethnic Studies scholarship takes up questions of power in diverse and interdependent ways. Our major prepares students with the skill-sets and knowledge necessary for career and graduate-school options such as arts practice, K–12 teaching, journalism, advocacy and grassroots organizing, law, humanities, and social sciences.

Our courses examine the many ways that power, privilege, oppression, and dissent are connected to each other and operate in tandem. For example, we study how race works through class, the environment, or sexuality. The following classes demonstrate how students might explore three concerns central to AES: borders and place, diversity and difference, and inequality and resistance.   

Borders & Place:

  • BCUSP 104 & 107 Place & Displacement in the Americas
  • BIS 266 & 267 U.S. History to/from 1865
  • BIS 293 Pacific Northwest & Washington State History 
  • BISAMS 363 Conflict & Connection in the Americas
  • BISAMS 367 Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration
  • BIS 393 The U.S./Mexico Borderlands

Diversity & Difference:

  • BCUSP 174 American Lives
  • BIS/BEDUC 255 Critical Diversity Studies
  • BIS 216 Intro/Cultural Studies
  • BIS 221 Gender & Sexuality
  • BIS 265 Comparative Ethnic Studies
  • BIS 370 American Ethnic Literature
  • BIS 490 Asian American Media in the Pacific Northwest 

Inequality & Resistance: 

  • BIS 257 Intro/Asian American Studies
  • BIS 327 History of U.S. Labor Institutions
  • BIS 341 Human Rights & Literature
  • BISAMS 364 Memory & Dissent in American Culture
  • BIS 393 The Politics of Imprisonment
  • BIS 487 Legacies of Slaves Narratives
  • BIS 490 Women, Race, & Class

Tips: Ideas on what courses to take and when to take them

There are several courses students are required to take. With the exception of BIS 300, however, students are able to take these requirements at any point during their time in IAS. Here are some tips on when to take what classes. 

  1. When possible, take AES’ 200-level courses on race and diversity before taking the 300- and 400-level classes. Classes at the 200 level are meant to provide foundational knowledge that is helpful for doing well in more advanced courses. In particular, we encourage you to take BIS265: Intro to Comparative Ethnic Studies or BIS/BEDUC255: Critical Diversity Studies prior to taking the AES core class, BISAES305: Power, Dissent, and American Culture. These and other 200-level “intro” courses (including BIS256, BIS 257, and/or BIS 258) will provide a necessary foundation to the work we do in AES.
     
  2. The Diversity Studies minor is a good complement to the AES degree. Like AES, the new minor in Diversity Studies promotes deepened understanding of power, difference, equity, and civic engagement. We encourage students interested in AES to consider the Diversity Studies minor, and vice versa. The core classes in that minor, BIS/BEDUC255: Critical Diversity Studies and BIS/BEDUC 328 Diversity, Leadership, and Engagement, serve the AES degree well.
     
  3. The AES core class, BISAES 305: Power, Dissent, and American Culture, should be taken before taking any other 300- or 400-level AES classes. BISAES305 is the core class in American and Ethnic Studies. It introduces students to the core concepts, perspectives, andapproaches utilized in all specialized and upper-level AES courses. If possible, we also recommend taking BISAES305 after completing BIS300.
     
  4. Take at least five credits from each “bin.” Classes counting for the AES degree fall into one (or more) of three possible bins:  Critical Theory and Practice (CTP); Historical and Social Inquiry (HIS); and Textual Analysis and Interpretation (TAI). Students are required to take five credits from each bin. This structure allows students majoring in AES to be exposed to the diverse methods and modes of analysis that comprise American and Ethnic Studies.