American Studies | Home/Made: Crafting Gender and Power in the United States
A202 | 13894 | Lindquist


The establishment of do-it-yourself cable television is only the
latest manifestation of Americans’ longstanding investment in
the “homemade.” This class investigates housework and handwork in
the United States, approaching these topics not only as they relate
to economics and aesthetics, but also as they advance a range of
social and political goals, from the creation of a distinct national
identity to the social roles and status of women. How, for instance,
have housework and handicraft been praised or condemned in the
United States, when, and by whom? How have domestic or “homemade”
images and processes been used to promote or to critique ideologies
of gender, nation, and culture? How can a set of beliefs or
assumptions be mobilized for radically different ends? And what can
we learn about life in America by combining analysis of primary
texts, secondary research, and first-hand observation of things and
behaviors? In exploring these questions, we’ll trace the role
of “the homemade” in national ideologies during the country’s first
century, then move on to consider housework and handicraft as
expressive and political resources that have been manipulated for
varied personal and social ends, from nuclear protests to
Americanization campaigns. Finally, we’ll consider the status of
domestic and handcrafted work today, looking at how attendant ideas
and practices may isolate or connect, empower or disempower, on the
basis of gender, class, and other factors. Course materials draw
upon folktales, comics, written records and literature, foodways,
material culture, customary behavior, and students’ firsthand
experience. In addition to in-class activities, a midterm exam, and
a seven-page research paper, assignments will include interviewing a
community worker/artist, analyzing a contemporary or historical
periodical, and learning a new craft or skill through extended
participant-observation.