Please see the NYU GSAS General Application Policies.
To qualify for the doctorate, a student must satisfactorily complete graduate studies totaling at least 72 points, with a minimum of 32 points at the doctoral level in residence at New York University; pass qualifying examinations; and present an approved dissertation. Students who have completed relevant graduate courses elsewhere may request that such courses be credited to degree requirements within the second semester of study. Credits may be earned through courses, independent study, and group study.
COURSE OF STUDY
Distribution Requirements fall roughly into three categories: the Core Requirements, the Methods & Research Requirements, and the Field Requirements. N.B.: There may be some overlap among the courses taken to satisfy the Core, Methods, and Field Requirements; nevertheless, satisfaction of these Distribution Requirements—expected of all doctoral students—will clearly account for a fair portion of the 72 points of PhD course work, and students entering with MA degrees should bear this in mind when contemplating transferring credit earned elsewhere.
The Core Requirements are meant to ensure both the cohesiveness of the Program in light of the wide variety of interests that students bring to it, and the coherence of individual students’ courses of study. They comprise from 40 to 56 of the 72 points required for the PhD, apportioned as follows:
- Three required seminars (12 points): the Introductory American Studies Seminar, the Strategies for Social and Cultural Analysis ; and for PhD candidates who have completed field exams, the Dissertation Proposal Workshop.
- Eleven additional courses (44 points) offered by the American Studies faculty. The roster of courses is offered on semi-regular rotation and is occasionally modified to reflect changing faculty interests and Program demands. It has in the past included the following: Technology and Nature; Urban and Suburban Studies; Genres in Popular Culture; Inter-American Studies; Globalization; Cultural Politics and Social Movements; Gender and Cultural History; The State, the Law and the Public Sphere; Feminist/Queer Theories; The Long Twentieth Century; Race and Racism in the Modern World; Migration: Ideas and Populations; Historicizing American Literature; Literary into Cultural Studies; Marxist Thought and Critical Practice; US Ethnography: History, Topics, Theory.
- An optional maximum of 16 points of registration credit for the preparation and writing of the field exams (described below).
The Methods Requirement stipulates that a student must show competency in two of the three modes of intellectual practice featured in the Program: Textual Analysis, Historical Analysis, and Ethnography. The Research Requirement stipulates that a student must submit to the DGS for approval one substantial paper (25-35 pages) based upon original research before undertaking the field examination process. Qualifying papers should be written (and revised) during course work. Consonant with the transdisciplinary focus of the program, papers submitted in fulfillment of the research requirement should demonstrate a high-level integration of theoretical and methodological reflection with empirical investigation.
The Field Requirements entail students’ demonstration of proficiency in two of the six major areas of scholarship designated in the list presented below. Students must complete at least 16 points of course work (four courses) in each of their two chosen fields, which represent their official areas of specialization for the PhD, and serve as the basis for the doctoral exams (described below). The six designated fields are obviously conceived very broadly, and while the terms that follow each of the headings exemplify the types of topics that may be addressed under that field rubric, they are not meant to be exhaustive. N.B.: While students interested in studying intensively the phenomena of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and/or class generally do so under the field of Identity, Citizenship, and Social Formations, it should be emphasized that these analytical categories pervade all of the six fields, and students are expected to develop critical perspectives that grant them priority.
Work, Economy, and Everyday Life
The study of popular culture: folk, vernacular, commercial, mass, and niche. Patterns of everyday life. The demarcation of work, leisure and consumption. Cultural attitudes toward work. Folklore. Material Culture. Growth and development of consumerism. Marketing and public relations. Politics of taste, style and fashion. Sports. Tourism and Entertainment. Youth, and subcultures. The heritage industry. Patterns of cultural labor. The cultural logic of commodities.
Identity, Citizenship, and Social Formations
The study of identity markers race, gender, sexuality in the construction of community, nation and other social formations. The anatomy of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Citizenship and rights. Liberal pluralism and multiculturalism. The history and culture of indigenous people of the Americas. Land rights and sovereignty claims. Indigenismo and mestizaje. Nationalism, national culture, and social, political and cultural exchanges across national borders. Diasporic identity. History and theory of nation state formation in the Americas and Pacific Islands. Pan Americanism.
Media, Communication, and Expressive Culture
The study of the political economy of literature, the arts and the media: public, mass and alternative. Oral, print, radio, visual, and electronic forms. From indigenous media to the Information Society. Structure and organization of media industries. National and transnational cultural policy. The coordination of elite opinion and the construction of "minority" venues. The manufacturing of consent and moral panic. Alternative and underground networks of information and analysis. Privacy and publicity. The aesthetics and politics of highbrow, middlebrow and vernacular taste.
Science, Technology, and Society
The study of science’s institutions and social practices. Histories of rationalism, empiricism, evolutionism. Technological utopianism and dystopianism. Social analysis of "the scientific method." From the laboratory to the drugstore. From the battlefield to the kitchen. Radical uses of technology. Cross cultural philosophies of healthcare. The ecological crisis. Peace studies. Eugenics and urban policy. Technological modernization and information society. Technology’s role in the division of labor.
Urban and Community Studies
The study of urbanization, suburbanization and community life. Urban planning and land-use policy. History and culture of citizenship. Ethnography of grassroots urban movements. Regional development and the city state nexus. Urban renewal, disinvestment, and gentrification. Economy of the global city. Migration and immigration. Housing policy and the housing industry. Civility and urban culture. The racial politics of zoning and mortgage financing. Private governance in planned communities. The built environment; architecture and urban development.
Social and Political Theory
The study of ideology and politics in relation to socio historical movements, economic patterns, and legal institutions. Rights and responsibilities in liberal societies. Class formation and social alienation. Consideration of civil society and social movements in transnational and global contexts. Law as an ideological medium, and as an instrument of social justice. Social movements aimed at legal reform and transforming civil society. The basis and nature of institutions. Regulation and governance. Cultural consent and capital accumulation. Federalism. Grassroots activism. The serviceability of intellectual history, religion, and philosophy to elite and subaltern groups. Professionalism and its perversions. Criminology and the Penal System.
The Department requires that PhD students successfully demonstrate, at minimum, intermediate-level proficiency in a language other than English—typically by either (a) passing a language proficiency exam (usually administered by GSAS) or (b) having successfully completed at least four semesters of undergraduate language preparation (final grade of B or better) no more than 2 years prior to the first term of enrollment in the program.
Students with special skills or technical requirements for their program of study may have some portion of the language requirement waived. For instance, students may, with special permission, take a minimum year-long course (with a grade of B or better) in a skill related to their research interests (e.g. computer methods, or documentary filmmaking). N.B.: such courses will not count toward the degree. Students should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies during the first semester about their plans for language study or for fulfilling the foreign language requirement.
The ASP exams are conceived as a student initiative, rather than as a formal test set by faculty. Students are the primary actors in constructing their field lists and posing the questions they will address in the writing period. The exams are designed so that students can display their close familiarity with two major areas of scholarship.
The exam is quite distinct from a research paper. The point of a research paper is to present a discovery or an argument in a persuasive manner. By contrast, the point of the exam is to show that you have read and understood the literature on your field list, and that you can discuss a broad spectrum of that literature in a fluid and coherent manner.
While students are expected to take their exams during the third year, the process of choosing and constructing fields should start much earlier. As indicated above, students are advised early on to acquire the habit of selecting courses and instructors with their two chosen fields in mind. Thus by the time you draw up your exam lists, at least half, and as many as two-thirds, of the titles in the bibliographies should be books with which you are already quite familiar. The remainder should be volumes that you need to know in order to master the field. Ideally, the exam preparation is an opportunity to reflect on what you already know, combined with an opportunity to catch up on prominent titles you never had the time to read.
N.B.: The exam should never be seen as an opportunity to embark on a new area of scholarship.
In addition, it is expected that your dissertation topic will draw on both field lists in some way. Accordingly, reading for the exams is, in part, a preparation for the next phase of the doctoral progress and naturally feeds into the research you will do to write a dissertation proposal.
In the long run, satisfactory completion of the exams allows candidates to display their proficiency in two employable areas of scholarship—i.e., a prospective employer might assume you can teach in either Urban Studies or Media Studies, to choose two examples.
Following approval of the proposal, the student may begin work on the dissertation, which should proceed in close consultation with the dissertation director. It is strongly recommended that students apply for outside funding to support this work; dissertation fellowship awards are often more lucrative than the funding available through NYU, and they raise the visibility of the student’s work as well as constituting resources beyond those available locally. N.B.: Dissertation fellowship applications are usually due in early to mid-November. Students are advised to aim for a proposal defense prior to that date in order to be cleared for fellowship competition. Upon completion of the dissertation, a defense will be organized. The Graduate School requires that the doctorate be completed within 10 years of matriculation.
PLEASE REVIEW PHD GUIDELINES HANDBOOK FOR MORE DETAILED PROGRAM POLICIES AND PROCEDURES