American Studies | U.S. Arts & Media Topic: Home/Made: Crafting Gender & Power in the United States
A202 | 14801 | Danille Lindquist


(3 cr. A & H) 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.