The Department of American Culture (University of Michigan) records (5 linear feet, 12.36 GB and 1 archived website) contain administrative files, curriculum information, and faculty files. It also features materials documenting the interdisciplinary connections between the department and other schools, programs, and departments at the University of Michigan. The collection includes records from two of the Department of American Culture's ethnic studies programs, the Latino/a Studies Program and the Arab and Muslim American Studies Program.
The Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan began in 1952 through the efforts of English professor Joe Lee Davis and interested students. An early history of the program cites the reason for creation as the desire to provide students with the "opportunity to study American life from different points of view to get at the foundations of American culture." Before the existence of a formal American culture program, graduate and undergraduate degrees in the American culture area were administered through independent study. In 1952, the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and the College of Literature, Science and the Arts decreed that the discipline should be recognized as a formal department. Following that recommendation, Professor Davis was appointed as its first director and an Executive committee was created comprised of professors in other departments with American culture interests. At this time, the program depended upon the willingness of other department faculty members to participate in offering American Culture courses. Many professors who teach in the area are not solely appointed to the American Culture department, but also have joint appointments with other departments, such as English, History, or Women's Studies. The program achieved full departmental status in 2012.
Since the birth of the department, it's philosophy has passed through several stages. In its early days the program revolved around the study of traditional American values and aspired to build bridges between the humanities and social sciences in order to gain a better understanding of these values. Since then however, the program has broadened its scope significantly and become a truly interdepartmental program. In the early 1970s, the program began to view itself as a facilitator for the study of all American cultures, not just the European-American culture. Taking into account America's ever-increasing diversity of national origins, races, religions, and social status, program coursework evolved to include in its curriculum the study of women, Asian American, African American, Hispanic American, Native American and other ethnic minority cultures.
The new study of other cultures in the 1970s helped to attract new faculty and further expand the program's scope. In 1984 for example, the program developed a curricular program in Latino/a Studies to address the growing societal and student interest in the history and study of Hispanic culture in America. Students from Latino/a Studies sought out other Latin American area classes and faculty in departments such as romance languages, history, sociology, and anthropology, adding new classes and bringing new faculty members to American Culture.
The original undergraduate curriculum consisted mainly of literature, history, and social studies courses, though students were permitted to select several courses from anthropology, economics, education, journalism, philosophy, political science, the fine arts, music, and speech. In 1970, the first core course, "American Values," was created in an effort to attract concentrators, bring a more unified approach to undergraduate concentration, and provide teaching opportunities for the program's graduate students. Curriculum changes persisted throughout the 1970s. Four different undergraduate tracks were created in English, history, the social sciences, and fine arts. A comparative culture component was added to allow students to study other cultures in addition to American culture. These tracks were later expanded, and as of 1994, consisted of seven tracks: Arts and Media, British and American Studies, Minority Studies, Intellectual History and Literature, Society and Politics, Latino/a Studies, and Self-Designed.
The University of Michigan Program in American Culture was renamed the Department of American Culture in 2012. In 2019, the Department of American Culture offered two majors in American Culture and Latina/o Studies. The department features four formal ethnic studies programs in Arab and Muslim American Studies, Asian/Pacific Islander Studies, Latina/o Studies, and Native American Studies. The Department of American Culture also has a strong focus on African American Studies and Digital Studies.
Masters and Ph.D. programs originally existed in the Program in American Culture. Journalists and teachers were frequent recipients of the American Culture masters degree. However, the masters program gradually declined until in 1974, it was only "reserved for unusual cases where it was inadvisable for students to continue into the Ph.D. program." The Ph.D. program, on the other hand, strengthened over time especially with the demise of the masters program. The papers illustrate the growth of the doctoral program to be increasingly sensitive to the diversity of American Culture.
Directors of the Program in American Culture
|1952-1968 || Joe Lee Davis |
|1969-1971 || John Higham |
|1971-1978 || Marvin Felheim |
|1978-1984 || Robert Berkhofer |
|1984-1991 || James McIntosh |
|1991-1994 || June Howard |
|1994-1996 || George Sánchez |
|1997-2000 || Richard Cándida-Smith |
|2001-2003 || Alan M. Wald |
|2003 || Carroll Smith-Rosenberg (Interim) |
|2003-2007 || Philip J. Deloria |
|2007-2012 || Gregory Dowd |
Chairs of the Department of American Culture
|2012-2013 || Gregory Dowd |
|2014-2017 || June Howard |
|2017-2019 || Alexandra M. Stern |
|2019- || Gregory E. Dowd (Interim) |