A color lithograph. Groups of people are seen in a big empty field. In the central group of people, Chagoya is portrayed without skin, dancing in the center of the group.
Program Overview

Comparative American Studies

Interrogating power, exploring social change.

Detail of “The Pastoral or Arcadian State, Illegal Alien's Guide to Greater America,” Enrique Chagoya. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College.
Photo credit: John Seyfried

What is American Studies?

American Studies is an interdisciplinary field that explores histories, communities, and cultural practices in the United States. We examine the role of the nation in domestic and global contexts while also studying social experience and community formation from the ground up. Our department places particular emphasis on the comparative study of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality through archival, ethnographic, visual, and theoretical approaches.

Community-Based Research and Activism

At Oberlin, students in Comparative American Studies get a robust intellectual experience that expands their knowledge and critically assesses myths and assumptions about the nation. What distinguishes our ethos is our commitment to community-based research and embrace of social justice in the academic enterprise. During and after their Oberlin careers, our students work with community partners, collaborate on research with faculty, pursue careers with nonprofits, the public sector, education, and the law.

More than 40 interviews by students, staff, and faculty as part of the ongoing Latino Lorain oral history project
Learn more about the project

Student-Curated Digital Projects

Digital humanities projects encourage interdisciplinary work in which students in the Comparative American Studies Program interact with people in various parts of the college as well as community partners in Oberlin, Lorain, and throughout Northeast Ohio.

Four students in class, smiling.
100% of CAS major complete original research projects by graduation

Education and Social Justice

With a unique history beginning in 1833, Oberlin College works to acknowledge the distinctive cultural identities and histories of those who live, study, and work here while encouraging students to intentionally engage with those whose experiences and perspectives are different from their own.

Dick Gregory giving a speech at a podium.

Featured Courses

CAST 202

Visible Bodies and the Politics of Sexuality

How does visual culture shape our understanding of sexuality in American society? In this class, students analyze how “mainstream” culture universalizes certain experiences of gender and sexuality, as well as how marginalized groups have used visual representation to contest and subvert these hegemonic ideals.

Taught by
Wendy Kozol
CAST/GSFS 207

Introduction to Queer Studies

What is queer theory? LGBTQ studies? In this class, students explore LGBTQ history alongside contemporary queer cultural studies. They explore how historical, social, political, and economic systems have shaped and reshaped what it means to be queer or claim queer identity in the United States and abroad.

Taught by
KJ Cerankowski
CAST/HIST 318

American Orientalism

How has anti-Asian racism been expressed in America? What is Orientalism in a U.S.-context? Students explore how ideas about “Orientals” shaped understandings of American identity. Topics include Chinese “coolies” during Reconstruction; gender and sexual deviance; wartime representations of Asian enemies; and origins of the Model Minority.

Taught by
Shelley Lee
CAST 335

Latinx Oral Histories

Why are interviews useful as a research tool, and how can oral histories deepen how we understand Latinx experience in Northeast Ohio? In this class, students gain background and training in conducting oral histories, collaborate with community partners, and contribute to a growing archive of Latino oral histories in Lorain.

Taught by
Gina Pérez

Student Profiles

Truman Scholarship Recipient

Henry Hicks ’21, a comparative American studies and creative writing double major, has been awarded the Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers as public service leaders.

Henry Hicks.

From Oberlin to Brazil on a Fulbright

At Oberlin, Davíd Zager ’17, a comparative American studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies double major, studied Portuguese language and Capoeira. Now has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for Brazil.

Davíd Zager.

Helping Others Find Their Voice

Country Singer Eli Conley ’08 found his voice at Oberlin as a musician and student of comparative American studies. Now he’s helping LGBTQ singers and carving a space in country music for queer people.

Eli Conley.

What does Comparative American Studies at Oberlin look like?

Professor Renee Romano and students in class.

Professor Renee Romano leads a First Year Seminar “Racing the Environment.”

Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97
Professor Wendy Kozol and a student.

Professor Wendy Kozol hosts a Winter Term trip to local Ohio museums.

Photo credit: Yvonne Gay
Students in class.

The comparative American studies department often collaborates with El Centro Volunteer Initiative, a student-run program connecting students, faculty, and community members with Latinx residents in Lorain through community engagement.

Photo credit: Jennifer Manna
Three professors at a table.

Professors Meredith Gadsby, Gina Perez, and Shelley Lee collaborated on “Sanctuary Practices: Race, Refuge, and Immigration in America,” a StudiOC learning cluster.

Photo credit: Jennifer Manna

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.


Students studying in the Mary Church Terrell Main Library.