Selected Designed and Taught Courses

Photo Credit: Caleb Duarte, part of his Pink Ladder project


  • The Politics of Visual Culture  |  This graduate seminar explores theories and methodologies employed by scholars working in the field of visual culture studies. During the past few decades, visual culture has emerged as an expansive interdisciplinary field of study, encompassing subjects and strategies as well at home in the fields of American Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Critical Indigenous Studies, as in Film/Media Studies and Art History. Our focus is on the visual as an arena in which cultural meaning is constituted and power relations played out. The readings in the course have an intersectional approach, as we examine how race, class, ethnicity, indigeneity, gender, sexuality, and other forms of identity inform the experiences of those whose cultural work we analyze. Within this general framework, we focus on forms of visual culture from the late 19th century to the present, tracing the rise of mass media and image-based popular culture in the United States. The readings are representative of recent scholarship in the field, including studies of photography, film, and performance.

  • Displacement and Migration in the America  |  This seminar focuses on the conditions facing migrants and refugees from the “Northern Triangle” of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) in the context of the current wave of mass migration during the early twenty-first century. We start by studying theoretical approaches to understanding displacement and migration in the Americas. We then examine what has led people from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to migrate and/or seek refuge in Mexico and the U.S. since the late twentieth century. Our readings follow the movement of migrant and refugees from Central America through Mexico to the U.S., including the treatment of Central Americans in the U.S. In the last section of readings, we examine how gender, class, racial, and ethnic identities, and Indigenous belonging shape experiences of transnational and transborder migration. We also investigate the efforts of U.S. and Mexican government agencies to police migrants and refugees as well as how the latter have responded to these policies.

  • Proseminar in U.S. Cultural Studies  |  The proseminar introduces entering graduate students in American Studies at UNM to the history, methods, and theories of American Studies. Our study of the discipline of American Studies necessarily engages a history of power relations within the academy, the nation, and globally. In additional to learning about the history and futures of American Studies, this class also introduces students to the academic profession.

  • Research Methods  |  This seminar critically examines the methods and means by which scholars conduct research and make arguments, focusing on how scholarship is shaped by institutional and disciplinary conventions and the production of knowledge. The course is comprised of two primary components—an introduction to various methods and the practices of research and a broad array of readings that facilitate our inquiry into methodology. Students are challenged to define their interests, to clarify their investment in particular projects, and to situate their approaches within the existing scholarship. The final assignment for the course is a 20-page critical research paper. Most assignments before then are intended to sharpen the planning, organizational, research, and methodological skills needed to shape students’ critical research papers and ensure that they meet the expectations and requirements for scholarly work. Part of the course follows a workshop model, with students taking turns presenting work-in-progress and responding to their peers.


  • Art and Community Engagement  |  This course focuses on culture, politics, and community through engagement with art organizations in Albuquerque. Experiential service learning is combined with readings and discussion to contextualize and analyze issues relevant to the community-based art activities in which students will engage. We also use class time to discuss, reflect, and theorize about our interactions with community organizations. In addition to in-class sessions in which we discuss assigned readings and engage with guest lecturers, students are expected to participate in on-site initiatives with local art organization that are partnered with the course. In preparation for their on-site assignments, students also read materials related to exhibitions at local museums and cultural centers. Depending on the needs of the organization, students assist in the design and/or implementation of exhibits and programs as part of their final project for the course.

  • Introduction to Im/migration in the Americas  |  This course focuses on issues of migration from Mexico and Central America to the United States from 1965 to the present, with a focus on transnational migrants and transnational communities. The texts that we read examine the experiences of migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees within the U.S., exploring the effects of transnational and transborder migration on gender, class, racial, and ethnic identities. We also analyze the ways that transnational communities have maintained aspects of their culture across national boundaries. Finally, we investigate how migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees have responded to political, social, and economic conditions in the United States.

  • Everyday Life and Labor: Representations of Work in America  |  This class introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of American Studies through focused thematic inquiry on work and labor in the United States. We examine the experiences of working people in diverse geographic regions of the United States – from the mid-20th century to the present. We consider issues such as shifting styles of work, the changing nature of working-class life and community, the evolution of organized labor movements, and the relationship of workers and unions to the state. In addressing these topics, we pay special attention to the way that issues of gender, race, and ethnicity affect historical developments. Readings, films, guest presentations, and in-class discussion situate issues of work and labor in the context of the longer history of social and economic inequality in the U.S. 

  • The Problem of “America”: American Studies Theory and Methods  |  This seminar introduces students to interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of “America.” We focus on how ideas about race, ethnicity, class, indigeneity, gender, sexuality, region, disability, and nationality have shaped contests over the meaning of citizenship and belonging. Further, through close analysis and classroom discussion of various research methodologies that employ primary source material such as historical documents, literature, ethnography, and visual and popular culture, this course gives students the tools to create their own interdisciplinary work. The seminar is framed around the following questions: What is distinct about interdisciplinary scholarship? What kinds of questions do interdisciplinary scholars ask and why?
  • Senior Seminar in U.S. Culture  |  This is the capstone course for the American Studies major. It is meant to give students an opportunity to synthesize what they have learned in their American Studies courses and related classes.  It is also a chance for students to do their own, original work on a topic that matters to them. We work together to develop and strengthen skills in research, analysis, and writing, but the major part of the seminar is the work they do to produce a 20-page original senior thesis. During the semester we meet during our regular class hours each week to work on the research project, helping each other with questions and problems in the writing process. At the end of the semester, students complete their thesis project and give a presentation on their work as part of an American Studies thesis symposium.
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