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Culture: North America


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.

Limited places are also open for exchange students. Please note: this course takes place in The Hague.


When studying a particular region of the world, knowledge of its cultural universe is crucial; the study of culture allows the understanding of the deeper structures behind history, politics and economy. Culture is the symbolic repertoire that gives form and content to national and collective identities, the subjectivity of individuals, and the environment. Culture is expressed in both material and immaterial resources, through which relations of legitimacy and domination are built in specific temporal and geographical contexts. Culture is a domain in which strategies for winning consent and cohesion are reflected, but it also includes mechanisms of in- and exclusion or conflicts on the basis of e.g. nationality, language, religion, ethnicity or gender. This course looks at these processes in specific cultural contexts of the world, and revises the regional scholarly traditions in the study and circulation of culture.
This course is an introduction to the study of contemporary culture in North America. We draw upon a variety of ethnographic, literary, historical, visual, and musical sources to examine how the diverse identities of North Americans have been defined and shaped. We attend to the ways that gender, religion, sexual orientation, and social class impact the experiences of different cultural groups as we explore sociocultural issues such as race and racism, immigration, cultural imperialism and the spread of American values. Particular attention will be paid to intersections of and resistance to sociopolitical and economic power structures in North America. Other topics to be discussed include the indigenous cultures of North America and their struggles for cultural and territorial sovereignty, and the role of language in the social life and culture of communities in North America.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • discuss different understandings of culture, race, and ethnicity in North America;

  • describe historical trends in immigration in North America and changing attitudes towards immigration;

  • analyze the role of race, gender, language, and social class in shaping the cultures of North America;

  • examine relations of dominance and subordination between diverse cultural groups in North America;
    identify the role of ideology in supporting and sustaining belief systems that favor established, dominant groups;

Other skills to be developed and exercised include:
Basic research and written presentation skills:
1. to collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques;
2. to analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability;
3. to formulate on this basis a sound research question;
4. to explain clear and substantiated research results;


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture course with tutorials.

Attending lectures and tutorials is compulsory. If you are not able to attend a lecture or tutorial, please inform the tutor of the course. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam or essay.

Course Load

Total course load for the course is 5 EC x 28 hours is 140 hours, broken down by:
Lectures: 2 hours per week x 12 weeks =24 hours
Tutorials: 2 hours every 3 weeks (4 weeks) =8 hours
Reading: 35 pages per week (approximately 7 pages per hour) =60 hours
Assignments (including time for reading and research): =48 Hours
Total =140 hours

Assessment method

Tutorials 30%
Midterm Exam 30%
Final Exam 40%

If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the full 70% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier mid- and endterm grades. No resit for the tutorials is possible.
To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:
the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

A selection of readings will be made available.

  • Frederick Douglass’s “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?”

  • James Baldwin, “Encounter on the Seine: Black meets Brown”

  • De Leon, J. 2012. “Better to Be Hot than Caught”: Excavating the Conflicting Roles of Migrant Material Culture First chapter from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique

  • bell hooks’s “Homeplace”

  • Ch. 1 of Hank Johnston’s Culture, Social Movements, and Protest

  • Selected chapters from American Identities

  • George Lipsitz’s “Frantic to Join…the. Japanese. Army”: Black Soldiers and Civilians Confront the Asia-Pacific War”

  • LeiLani Nishime’s “I’m Blackanese”: Buddy-Cop Films, Rush Hour, and Asian American and African American Cross-racial Identification”

  • Two stories from Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth

  • Introduction of Marjorie Garber’s Vested Interests—“Clothes Make the Man”

  • Bruce Forbes’s “Introduction” in Religion and Popular Culture in America.

  • Jane Naomi Iwamura’s “The Oriental Monk in American Popular Cinema”

  • Zine, Jasmin; Taylor, Lisa K.; Davis, Hilary E. “An Interview with Zarqa Nawaz.” Intercultural Education 18.4 (Oct 2007): 379-382.

  • The first 20 minutes of Zarqa Nawaz’s 2005 documentary Me and the Mosque at (

  • Smitherman 1998, pages 203-224 “Word from the hood: the lexicon of African-American vernacular English”

  • Wolfram and Schilling-Estes, Ch. 6 “Social and Ethnic Dialects” (pp. 190-209)

  • Chs 1-2 of American Society: How it really works by Wright and Rogers (32 pages)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. S. Moody, email
S.A. Polak MA, email