As of this quarter, the Division of Culture, Arts and Communication at the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences has begun offering a new minor called American popular cultures. According to the program’s website, the minor “[p]rovides students with the opportunity to critically analyze popular culture, its production and its consumption from an interdisciplinary perspective.”
The name of the program, American popular cultures, was chosen to emphasize that there are many different cultures in the United States.
“Rather than just thinking of popular culture as one monolith, we want to think of popular culture in all of its diversity,” Dr. Ed Chamberlain, assistant professor of American studies & literature, said. “We wanted students to think about how there’s really various kinds of popular cultures.”
The 25-credit minor requires two five-credit foundational courses in American popular culture: Introduction to Popular Culture — which provides students with a broad overview of American popular media — and a 400-level project-oriented class called Studies in U.S. Popular Culture. The remaining credits can be satisfied by the list of approved topical courses listed on the minor’s webpage.
Several classes offered in the minor address American popular culture as a whole, while others focus on media representations of specific cultures and groups, such as African-Americans, Native-Americans and Latinos.
“These classes speak to Latinx lives [that will] help students have a better understanding of what’s going on around us,” Chamberlain said. “[They] also speak to the issues, problems and difficulties that folks are facing in today’s world.”
The American popular cultures minor was designed to integrate into a variety of humanities majors.
“We felt we could offer additional options to the students that would be helpful [and] … relevant to the work that they’re doing, to their studies [and] to their interests,” Chamberlain said.
The minor will also benefit students in other IAS majors, including communications and writing studies. According to their webpage, the program will also, “serve students who have an interest in pursuing graduate school, teaching, writing or working in creative industries.”
Chamberlain believes that this new minor will provide a curriculum that students will enjoy and learn from.
“By having these skills, [the minor] will help [students] to understand what is going on and it will help them to produce interesting and compelling work that will catch people’s attention and help people to tell stories … that can provide a commentary on problems or issues in our world today,” Chamberlain said. “There’s value in thinking more deeply about American culture and society. By doing so, we can have a better understanding of what America is [and] who Americans are.”
Correction: A Previous version of this article incorrectly cited Ella Lucente as the author. Steven LeBeau is the author of this article.
Steven LeBeau is a writing studies major at UW Tacoma.