Inventing America


INSTRUCTOR: Jose Rodriguez


SCHEDULE: Tuesday, Thursday 2:00PM – 3:15PM

Course Description

Since the inception of the United States, the concept of what it means to be an American has been contested. In the last hundred years, various groups that were once excluded from the American mainstream have come to dominate that mainstream. Additionally, the character and adaptation patterns of immigrants have drastically changed since the major influxes of European immigrants at the early part of the last century.

What does it mean to be an American in the second decade of the 21st century? What are the processes (social, psychological, geo-political) that have created a different type of immigrant experience now from a hundred years ago? Is America a melting pot, or is there a better metaphor? To answer these, a many more questions, we will endeavor on an interdisciplinary journey through various fields of the humanities and social sciences.

In the fall semester, we will focus on the experience of immigrants in their own words, through the use of memoirs. Additionally, we will investigate some of the historical and current reasons various groups of people have for coming to the US and how they develop (or not) a sense of American identity. Possible student projects include oral histories, personal memoirs, among others. In the spring semester, we will focus on the social science of demographic shifts, the psychology of adaptation and assimilation, social stratification and the creation of ethnic enclaves, as well as the science of identity development and change. Possible student projects include qualitative and quantitative projects in the various ethnically concentrated neighborhoods of Miami.