American Culture and Society in Context module (HY22007)

Examine the historical origins of key social and political issues in the modern United States.

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Module code


The United States is arguably the single most important influence on the politics, culture, and society of the modern western world. This module seeks to explore many important issues in contemporary America by examining their historical and cultural background. It also places the United States within a broader global context by making specific comparisons with the history of South Africa.

This module focuses particularly on issues such as race, gender, violence, and colonialism utilising a range of different source materials.

What you will learn

In this module, you will:

  • learn about the histories and legacies of different movements such as the Civil Rights Movement, the different waves of the feminist movement, and gay rights and LGBTQ+ protests
  • study the legacies of colonialism and postcolonialism in the United States and Africa
  • explore the roles of concept of liberty and freedom in shaping both South Africa and the United States
  • consider the different arguments of historians about the development of African-American slavery and the motivations of policies towards Native Americans
  • examine a range of different primary sources from diverse perspectives

By the end of the module, you will be able to:

  • explain some of the principal forces shaping contemporary American politics and culture
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of contemporary issues such as racial, sexual, and gender discrimination
  • compare the experiences and development of the United States both over time and with other countries, most notably South Africa
  • build upon your experience analysing different arguments and ideas to work more effectively as a history student

Assignments / assessment

  • group project (50%)
  • module journal (50%)

This module does not have a final exam.

Teaching methods / timetable

  • pre-recorded presentations
  • live film and video screenings
  • discussion workshops


This module is available on following courses: