North American Studies

Invitation to North American Studies

Most Japanese who study a foreign language, especially English, tend to be satisfied if they achieve a level of basic conversational proficiency. Yet what the world needs most today is people who go a step further and achieve a genuine understanding of the countries and societies where English is spoken. The aim of area studies is to grasp a region in its totality by bringing together scholarship from a wide range of disciplines with their own established methodologies, including history, cultural studies, psychology, political science, economics, sociology, and anthropology. This means probing deeply even while building a broad base of knowledge. Rather than settle for expertise in a single narrow discipline, North American studies aims to build a comprehensive understanding of the region in its entirety.

Academic Aims of the North American Studies Concentration 

1. To develop expert knowledge of the North American region by examining and exploring it from a multidimensional, interdisciplinary perspective (including political science, economics, sociology, literature, history, psychology, media studies, and representational culture).

2. To engage in comparative studies to identify differences, similarities, and connections between North America and other regions, including Latin America and the Asia-Pacific, thereby deepening one’s understanding of North America and one’s ability to approach it critically.

3. To position oneself in the context of a relationship with North America from a scholarly perspective and develop the ability to reflect on one’s role in the global and regional communities.

Curriculum of the North American Studies Concentration

The Sophia University Institute of American and Canadian Studies was founded in 1987 to conduct historical, political, social, and cultural research and to apply the resulting expertise to education. Since that time, the institute faculty has taught a wide selection of American studies courses within the Faculty of Foreign Studies, the Faculty of Humanities, and, to a lesser extent, the Faculties of Law and Economics. Unfortunately, Canada has received scant attention until now. In the North American Studies concentration, therefore, we hope students will develop a deeper understanding of Canada through comparison with the United States, beginning with our introductory courses on North American Studies. Given the rise of cross-border research in areas like immigration and the environment, this broader, regional perspective is likely to become increasingly beneficial in the years ahead.

In addition to courses focusing on the countries of North America, the concentration’s course offerings encompass other countries and regions with deep ties to North America (such as Mexico and the Asia-Pacific region). By exploring the politics, economics, migration, and other factors linking these regions, students are able to view and understand North America in a broader, more meaningful context.

Introductory Courses

To graduate with a concentration in North American Studies, students are required to complete at least two of the following introductory courses in the concentration. These courses encompass reading classes that introduce the varied methodologies and perspectives by which scholars approach North American studies; classes that present examples of Japanese research on North America as topics for class discussion to encourage students to consider the meaning and purpose of North American studies; and North American studies courses taught in English.

Selected Course Offerings

North American Studies A
North American Studies B
Introduction to American Society

Core Courses

In their second year, students can begin taking core courses, which are designed to develop more specialized knowledge, building on the foundation established in the introductory courses. Core courses in the North American Studies concentration are grouped into four broad domains: International Politics & Economics; History, Geography, & Thought; Multicultural Society; and Literature, Media, & Representational Arts. They deal not only with the United States and Canada but also with Mexico, the Asia-Pacific, and other regions that are closely linked to North American society. We give students free rein either to focus their coursework in a specific subject area or to range across several domains, allowing them to explore North American studies as their own interests and ideas dictate.

Selected Course Offerings

(Courses followed by an [E] are taught in English) 
History of Women in the United States
Topics in American History [E]
Psychology of Discrimination [E]
History of Japanese Immigrants in the Pacific Region
American Theater and Film [E]
US Politics and Foreign Relations

Seminar Courses

In seminar courses, open to third- and fourth-years, students play an active role in the learning process, instead of passively absorbing knowledge from their instructor. Seminars are where students receive the tools and guidance to conduct original research leading to the submission of a graduation thesis based on the interests and questions that have emerged from their course study in the concentration. Almost all of the seminars offered in the North American Studies concentration require students to submit a graduation thesis in English. Making maximum use of their skills in Japanese, English, and a second foreign language, students gather and read literature relevant to their topic, conduct field research, analyze and interpret the information they have gathered, and write up the results in thesis form. Seminars are where students sum up four years of university study by applying the language proficiency and area expertise they have acquired and bringing them to fruition in a graduation thesis.

Selected Course Offerings

Seminar in American History
Seminar in American Studies
Seminar in Globalization and Migration