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American Studies

Featured photo: “Flag is Bleeding,” Faith Ringgold.

American studies serves as the academic focal point for the study of race and ethnicity in a national and transnational frame.

Whose story is being told, ignored, modified, marginalized, reimagined? American studies provides an interdisciplinary approach to the study of racial categories and racialized experiences in the United States by encouraging close and systematic examination of a wide range of cultural and political narratives, and by creating structured opportunities to apply theory in real-life community settings.

Majoring in American studies will prepare you for a wide variety of career opportunities including the legal profession, government, the media, post-secondary education, and academia.

Why study American Studies at Macalester?

American studies teaches you how to build a broad, comparative, and applied framework for understanding the racial dimensions of American national identity. Students will gain an appreciation for the significance of race in their own lives and in the general world around them.

What is American Studies? It’s not the same as U.S. civics or U.S. history. Our courses respond to lived social experience. They emphasize a critical approach to race and culture—in film, theater, literature, education, history, and politics. We’re interdisciplinary, and we put the knowledge and experiences of marginalized people at the center of our curriculum. Course titles include: Black Public Intellectuals; Bruce Lee, His Life and Legacy; Indigeneity, Politics, and Visual Culture; Critical Prison Studies; Latinx in the Midwest.

Our civic engagement component—a required seminar and community-based experience during your junior year—is essential, and encourages you to deal with real-world complexities of racial difference and inequality.

Life after Macalester

  • Recent Employers

      • Macalester College

      • World Savvy

      • Stack Overflow

      • Saint Paul Preparatory Seoul

      • Children and Family Justice Center

      • University of Minnesota

      • CityYear – Washington, DC

      • Percolate Inc.

      • East Side Neighboorhood Services

      • Carl & Eloise Pohlad Family Foundation

      • Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota

      • TakeAction Minnesota

      • IES Abroad

      • Unknown Nonprofit Organization

      • Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia

      • Borough of Manhattan Community College

      • Irie Rafting

      • Rebuilding Together

      • Kidblog Inc

      • Santa Clara County Ofice of Education

      • Science Museum of Minnesota

      • Scituate High School

      • Self Employed

      • Metropolitican Council of the Twin Cities

      • Starbucks

      • Minnesota Alliance with Youth

      • The Newman Institute

      • Neighborhood Development Center

      • New York City Hedge Fund

      • Washington University in St. Louis

      • Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart)

      • Brooklyn Prospect Charter School

      • Young Workers United

      • Pangea World Theater

      • Peace Corps

  • Recent Graduate Schools

      • Brown University

      • University of Minnesota/Twin Cities

      • Columbia University

      • Ohio State University

      • Uppsala University

      • University of San Diego

      • University of Chicago

      • Washington University

      • Northeastern University

      • Queens College

      • University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill

American Studies in the cities


Number of internship sites near campus, including Admissions Possible, Indigenous Tourism Rights International, and Breaking Free


Number of courses at Macalester that partner with businesses and organizations nearby

Explore the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum & Gallery, a bus ride away to downtown Minneapolis

Join our community

  • American Studies Conference: Held every February during Black History Month, our conference highlights the links between scholarship, activism, and civic engagement by bringing internationally renowned scholars to campus to present their work and engage with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members.
  • El-Kati Lectureship: Held every other year, this lectureship celebrates the life and work of Mahmoud El-Kati by bringing distinguished scholars to campus for an extended engagement with students and the community. Macalester held the Elder El-Kati Lectureship Campaign through July 2021. 327 donors raised $91,413 (or 182% of a $50,000 goal), and gifts were matched dollar-for-dollar by two Trustees.

Department Happenings

Professor Duchess Harris received the 2021 Thomas Jefferson Award, created to honor members of the Macalester community who exemplify the principles and ideals of the third President of the United States. Read the College Newswire article.

Professor Karín Aguilar-San Juan received the 2021 Jack and Marty Rossmann Excellence in Teaching Award that recognizes “a faculty member who has been identified by colleagues and students as exemplifying the teaching goals of Macalester College.” Read President Rivera’s citation.

Professor Kirisitina Sailiata is a project lead in the development of a humanities curriculum around the Mississippi River that received a $1.49 million grant from Mellon Foundation. Read about it here.

Mahmoud El-Kati Distinguished Lectureship in American Studies 2021, featuring Dr. Crystal Marie Moten on Vimeo. View the lecture here.

Department News