American Studies | Comparative American Identities / Topic: Borders, Communities, Crossings
A200 | 26285 | Denise Cruz


(3 cr. hrs.) A & H
In recent years, the question of American borders and identities has
occupied center stage in U.S. media and politics; think of the post-
9/11 rush to find ways of securing U.S. national borders or the most
recent debates about immigrants and immigration. Yet how we map the
United States (and how we define the national community that is
contained within these borders) have been fraught discussions
throughout U.S. history. In this course, we will compare a diverse
array of cultural works that examine what it means to live within,
without, or even on U.S. borders. One of our broader objectives will
be to situate our examination of U.S. borders and communities in
larger contexts; we will work hard to think beyond the U.S. to sites
such as the greater Americas, Asia, or the Middle East, and we will
also strive to analyze these works comparatively. We will frame our
discussions with some key questions: According to these works, what
is at stake in creating, defining, and redefining borders and
communities? How does each work define these communities through
boundaries of race, nation, region, class, gender, and sexualities?
How do these works imagine transgressing borders? What are the
challenges, problems, or potentials in such crossings?

A sampling of selected topics and works includes the nineteenth-
century South (Mark Twain’s Puddn’head Wilson); Muslim communities
in Indiana (Mohja Kahf’s 2006 novel, Girl in a Tangerine Scarf); a
1930s Cuban community in Florida (Nilo Cruz’s play Anna in the
tropics); Filipina and Filipino youth in Hawaii (R. Zamora Linmark’s
short stories); the urban spaces of Los Angeles (the film version of
Anna Deveare Smith’s play, Twilight) and Chicago (LeAlan Jones and
Lloyd Newman’s public-radio broadcasts and the corresponding text
version, Our America); and the global collapse of borders and
national communities (the 2006 film, Babel, written by Guillermo
Arriaga and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu).

Course requirements will most likely include one group
project/presentation, a midterm, 2 formal papers, active class
participation and attendance, and written responses