American Studies Major, B.A.–Folklore Concentration

Department of American Studies

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204 Greenlaw Hall, CB# 3520

(919) 962-5481

Sharon Holland, Chair

Gabrielle Berlinger, Director of Undergraduate Studies

The concentration in folklore emphasizes the study of creativity and aesthetic expression in everyday life, focusing on those expressive realms that communities infuse with cultural meaning and through which they give voice to the issues and concerns they see as central to their being. These realms are often deeply grounded in tradition; this doesn’t mean, however, that they’re always or necessarily old. Just as communities change their own sense of self in response to shifting social, political, and economic realities, so too does the artistry they create evolve. Folklore also explores emergent meanings and cultural forms. Trending tweets, food trucks, slam poetry, and hip hop freestyling are just as relevant to folklorists’ study as are string-band tunes, Cherokee quilts, family recipes, and blues. The communities that our students study are equally broad, ranging from Lumbee sheetrock workers and Latino line cooks to urban homesteaders and Black Lives Matter activists. The main way that we explore contemporary folklore, in turn, is ethnographic fieldwork, the real-world study of people’s lives in everyday settings, grounded in conversation and participatory engagement. Students may petition the director of undergraduate studies to have courses not listed approved to fulfill major or minor requirements; such courses will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Department Programs



Graduate Programs

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the American studies program, students should be able to:

  • Apply critical skills of analysis to a variety of primary historical sources and/or cultural expressions
  • Exercise advanced writing skills that demonstrate clear articulation of ideas and effective expression of understanding
  • Assess the value of interdisciplinary learning by engaging with a variety of disciplinary perspectives on the study of America within their major elective courses
  • Interpret national traditions and ideals from different local, regional, transnational, and/or global situations and from diverse ideological and/or ethnic perspectives
  • Report satisfaction with the American studies major and its value for their postgraduate academic and professional careers


In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • attain a final cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major course requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum of 18 hours of C or better in the major core requirements (some majors require 21 hours).

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

The concentration in folklore consists of nine courses. Courses listed more than once can be counted for only one category. At least one course must be at the 300 level or above.

Core Requirements
FOLK/ANTH/ENGL 202Introduction to Folklore3
Four core content courses from the list below12
Two ethnographic-intensive courses from the list below (the same course may not be taken to satisfy two different concentration requirements)6
Two other AMST courses numbered AMST 101 or above6
Total Hours27

American studies (AMST) course descriptions.

Content Courses

AMST 283American Home3
AMST 284Visual Culture3
AMST 340American Indian Art and Material Culture through Interdisciplinary Perspectives3
AMST 350Main Street Carolina: A Cultural History of North Carolina Downtowns H3
AMST 482Images of the American Landscape3
AMST 485Folk, Self-Taught, Vernacular, and Outsider Arts3
AMST 489Writing Material Culture3
AMST/FOLK 375Southern Food Studies: Beyond the Plate3
AMST/HIST 671Introduction to Public History3
AMST/JWST 486Shalom Y'all: The Jewish Experience in the American South3
AMST/JWST/WGST 253A Social History of Jewish Women in America3
FOLK 476Graffiti, Gods, and Gardens: Urban Folklore3
FOLK 490Topics in Folklore3
FOLK 550Introduction to Material Culture3
FOLK 560Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition3
FOLK 690Studies In Folklore3
FOLK/AAAD 480Vernacular Traditions in African American Music4
FOLK/ANTH 424Ritual, Festival, and Public Culture3
FOLK/ANTH 334Art, Nature, and Religion: Cross-Cultural Perspectives3
FOLK/ANTH 340Southern Styles, Southern Cultures4
FOLK/ANTH 675Ethnographic Method3
FOLK/GEOG 254American Historical Geographies3
FOLK/ANTH/LING 484Discourse and Dialogue in Ethnographic Research3
FOLK/ANTH 537/WGST 438Gender and Performance: Constituting Identity3
FOLK/COMM/HIST/WGST 562Oral History and Performance H3
FOLK/ENGL 310Fairy Tales3
FOLK/ENGL 487Everyday Stories: Personal Narrative and Legend3
FOLK/HIST 571Southern Music3
FOLK/HIST 670Introduction to Oral History3
FOLK/JWST 481Jewish Belongings: Material Culture of the Jewish Experience3
FOLK/JWST 380Traditions in Transition: Jewish Folklore and Ethnography3
ANTH 356Artisans and Global Culture: Economic, Historical, Experiential, and Cross-Cultural Dimensions H3
ANTH 454The Archaeology of African Diasporas3
MUSC 144Introduction to Country Music3
MUSC 291Music and Politics3

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Ethnographic-Intensive Courses

AMST 396, FOLK 490, or FOLK 690 may be counted if appropriate with the permission of the director of undergraduate studies.

AMST 482Images of the American Landscape3
FOLK 476Graffiti, Gods, and Gardens: Urban Folklore3
FOLK 550Introduction to Material Culture3
FOLK/ANTH 370Southern Legacies: The Descendants Project4
FOLK/AAAD 480Vernacular Traditions in African American Music4
FOLK/ANTH 424Ritual, Festival, and Public Culture3
FOLK/ANTH 675Ethnographic Method3
FOLK/ANTH/LING 484Discourse and Dialogue in Ethnographic Research3
FOLK/ENGL 487Everyday Stories: Personal Narrative and Legend3
FOLK/JWST 380Traditions in Transition: Jewish Folklore and Ethnography3
FOLK/JWST 481Jewish Belongings: Material Culture of the Jewish Experience3
ANTH 477Visual Anthropology3
ANTH 625Ethnography and Life Stories3
WGST 230Women in Contemporary Art: A Field Study3

Special Opportunities in American Studies

Honors in American Studies

The American studies major offers a two-course honors program: AMST 691H in the fall semester and AMST 692H in the spring semester. Students must propose their thesis and contract with a faculty advisor during the semester prior to the beginning of their senior year. For each semester of honors work, thesis students must submit a signed learning contract to the Department of American Studies during the registration period. During the two semesters devoted to honors work, students conduct individual research and prepare an honors thesis under the supervision of a faculty member. Students also will attend a weekly seminar at the discretion of the advisor. Students must maintain a 3.3 cumulative grade point average to be eligible. With the approval of the associate or the assistant dean for honors, students with a slightly lower average who have a reasonable expectation of meeting the requirement within one more semester may embark upon the honors thesis, understanding that if they do not attain the 3.3 standard they may continue the research project as independent study but are not eligible to graduate with honors or highest honors.

Experiential Education

The Department of American Studies offers a seminar on Service Learning in America (AMST 398) and offers credits for approved internship projects (AMST 493). Students have learned about American studies by serving the community in museums, schools, social agencies, and other cultural institutions. Many courses in the folklore program also offer experiential education credit through ethnographic training and fieldwork opportunities.

Study Abroad

The Department of American Studies encourages students to consider a semester or more of study abroad and has developed close relations with several American studies programs in different countries. Studying American experience in international contexts is an integral part of understanding the place and influence of the United States in the world. Student learning is enhanced by the perspectives gained by examining how American subjects are taught in universities around the globe as well as by encountering the international students who enroll in American studies courses in Chapel Hill. Study abroad offers students of folklore the opportunity to understand the rich vernacular and traditional cultures of other parts of the world from both a local and a comparative perspective. Students can receive American studies major credit for selected study abroad programs and are encouraged to make study abroad part of their academic plans. Study abroad courses can count toward the global American studies major or minor. Students interested in this experience should consult with the director of undergraduate studies or with the Study Abroad Office about international exchange programs sponsored by UNC–Chapel Hill. Furthermore, American studies majors and minors may apply for the Julia Preston Brumley Travel Scholarship, which is only available to American studies students, to help fund their study abroad.

Undergraduate Awards

The department awards Julia Preston Brumley Travel Scholarships to help fund international travel and study abroad. The Peter C. Baxter Memorial Prize is awarded annually to the outstanding senior majoring in American studies.

Undergraduate Research

The department offers credit for AMST 396 and FOLK 495. Majors can develop a two-semester honors thesis project (AMST 691H and AMST 692H) in consultation with an advisor. Students have received summer undergraduate research fellowships, earned research support and travel awards, and presented their work at the Annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research each spring.