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School of Languages, Cultures, and Race College of Arts and Sciences

Ph.D. in American Studies and Culture


The doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in the American Studies and Culture program at Washington State University requires a previous bachelor’s degree in American Studies or a related discipline in the social sciences or the humanities. The degree aims to achieve both breadth of knowledge in U.S. cultural history while providing in-depth inquiry in the following areas: Latina/o/x and Latin American Studies; Ethnic Cultural Studies; Cultural Texts, Linguistics,; and Theory, and Asia, Asian America, and the Pacific Rim.

The Graduate School requires that the Ph.D. program include a total of 72 credit hours beyond the B.A., including transfer, research, and dissertation credits. The American Studies and Culture program requires a minimum total of 36 graded credit hours in graduate courses. The distribution of required courses and all other requirements are indicated below.

The 36 graded credits will be divided as follows:

  • Core Courses: 12 graded credits
  • 24 graded credits
  • Research Credits: A minimum of 20 credits of American Studies 800

Core Requirements

Ph.D. students in American Studies and Culture will take the following 12 graded credit hours of core requirements in the first year of their graduate course work:

  • AMER_ST 505: Proseminar in American Cultural Studies (3cr) Provides an introduction to critical theoretical engagement within an interdisciplinary field. Emphasizes the professionalization of students into the academy.
  • AMER_ST 506: Frameworks in American Cultural Studies (3cr) Provides a critical framework for the varied intellectual, theoretical, and political genealogies within American cultural studies.
  • AMER_ST 507: Contemporary Practices in American Cultural Studies (3cr) Provides an overview of contemporary practices in American cultural studies. Identifies important concepts and major insights within the field.
  • AMER_ST 526: Contemporary Theories of Race and Ethnicity (3 cr)  Major theoretical readings and key recent texts in U.S. and transnational ethnic studies scholarship.


Students will choose 24 credits from the following lists:

AMER_ST 511     US Presence and Intervention in the Pacific Rim

AMER_ST 512     Applied Linguistics in Contemporary American Culture

AMER_ST 515     The Neoliberal University

AMER_ST 520     Colonization, Globalization, and Decolonization

AMER_ST 524     Critical Studies in Popular Culture

AMER_ST 528     Cultural Studies

AMER_ST 529     Cultural Politics of the Body

AMER_ST 553     Latino/a and Latin American Literatures and Cultures

AMER_ST 555     U.S. Interventions in Latin America

AMER_ST 560     Race and Popular Culture

AMER_ST 580     Race and U.S. Immigration

AMER_ST 590     Seminar in American Studies

AMER_ST 596     Topics and American Studies


List of Approved CES Upper-Division Courses

CES 406        Philosophy and Race

CES 407        Race, Gender, and the Prison Industrial Complex

CES 411        Asian Pacific American Women

CES 413        Asian Pacific Americans and Popular Culture

CES 426        Workers Across North America

CES 436        Black Masculinities

CES 442        Nation, Ethnicity, and Modernity

CES 444        White Power Movements and Ideologies

CES 446        Race and Racism in a Global Context

CES 454        Latinas in U.S. Culture and Society

CES 465        Race, Science, and Society


  1. AMER_ST 590 or AMER_ST 596 may be used more than once in a student’s program of study, provided different seminar topics and syllabi.
  2. Students pursuing their Ph.D. can take up to 9 graded graduate credits outside the School offerings in pertinent disciplines, mainly, Anthropology, Cultural Studies in Education, English, History, Political Science, and Sociology. However, graduate seminars outside of American Studies and Culture cannot substitute for the core seminars outlined above.
  3. Substitutions must be approved by the American Studies and Culture Graduate Director and the student’s Dissertation advisor (when pertinent) before the student enrolls.
  4. Although students may take up to 9 graded undergraduate credit hours within SLCR (see approved list of courses above), no undergraduate courses outside of the School will be permitted. Any upper-division undergraduate course within the school not listed above must be vetted by the Graduate Director.

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination consists of the following elements:

  • Two (2) written essays that respond to questions produced by the student and the graduate degree committee.
  • A dissertation prospectus.
  • An oral defense.

During the fourth semester, a preliminary examination meeting (between the student, the student’s dissertation committee chair, and the faculty members of the student’s dissertation committee) is required to clarify expectations of the specific readings to be considered, the general framework and content of the exam questions, and the direction of the prospectus. Two (2) reading lists (one for each exam question) should be agreed upon and developed by the end of the spring semester, giving the student the summer to prepare.

Early in the fall semester, the student will turn in his/her dissertation prospectus. After the prospectus is reviewed and approved, the student’s dissertation committee will construct the two (2) preliminary exam questions, drawing significantly but not exclusively on the reading lists. Once the student receives the questions from the committee chair, the student will be given two (2) weeks to prepare the essays.

The preliminary examination must be defended no later than the end of the sixth semester.

Preliminary Examination Essay Questions

The Project of American Studies: One of the questions should demonstrate the student’s readiness for advanced teaching, research, and writing in the field of American studies. Questions in this area will address the institutional contexts and intellectual history of American studies with emphasis on the salient shifts in the understanding of the “field,” its objects, aims, and methodologies.

Critical Problems in Dissertation Research: Questions in this area of the exam will focus on the student’s interdisciplinary-based research and preparation and should reflect both the benefits of and contributions to their knowledge of American studies. Students should expect to formulate their research interests both topically and conceptually.

Dissertation Prospectus

Typically 10–15 pages (including the bibliography), the prospectus describes the dissertation topic more fully, including how it will contribute to the field of knowledge in which it is focused, an outline of the component parts of the dissertation (chapter by chapter), and a bibliography. It should also include some discussion of the research methods to be employed, key questions to be addressed, and the projected development of the argument. As part of the preliminary exam, the student’s chair and members of the committee may provide suggestions and guidance for revising the prospectus, if needed. The prospectus must be approved by the student’s committee chair and the members of the dissertation committee during the preliminary oral exam.

Oral Defense of the Preliminary Examination

Once the two essays and the prospectus have been approved by the student’s dissertation committee, the student must schedule a time for the oral defense. The preliminary oral defense may be held anytime during the same semester except for finals week.

Recommended Preliminary Examination Timeline

Fall (3rd) Semester

  • Submit Program of Study to the Graduate School.

Spring (4th) Semester

  • Meet with the dissertation committee.
  • Discuss and formalize reading lists for the two (2) essay questions and the dissertation prospectus.


  • The student prepares for the exam and writes the dissertation prospectus.

Fall (5th) Semester

  • Essay questions are developed by the dissertation committee in consultation with the student.
  • Chair of the dissertation committee forwards the finalized essay questions to the student.
  • Student submits essays and dissertation prospectus to the committee within two (2) weeks of receiving the exam questions.
  • If revisions are needed, the student has 1–3 weeks to revise and resubmit the exam to the dissertation committee depending on the needs of the committee.
  • Once the preliminary exam is approved, the student schedules the Oral Defense of the Preliminary Exam.


Following the preliminary examination, the candidate will prepare a dissertation under the supervision of his/her committee. Two-thirds of the dissertation committee must consist of American Studies Graduate faculty in the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race who hold a doctoral degree. (Note: for more rules on committee composition, please refer to the bylaws of the American Studies Program).

The dissertation consists of a written manuscript (typically 200–300 pages) demonstrating in-depth command of original research on a topic chosen by the student in consultation with their committee.

The Graduate School requires completion of the dissertation within three years after passing the preliminary examination.

Dissertation Defense

The final examination is an oral examination, conducted by the student’s dissertation committee. The candidate is expected to show the significance of her or his dissertation as a contribution to published research in their area(s) of expertise and to demonstrate mastery of interdisciplinary methods in the study of U.S., global, and/or transnational culture.



Note: The deadline for applications every year is January 10.

Contact the American Studies and Culture Graduate Director:
John Streamas
Phone: 509 335 4791

Learn more

Visit the WSU Graduate School website for prospective student information.