Elvis look-alike contests in Australia and Britain, Disney’s theme-park Empire expand-ing to France and Japan, and the worldwide phenomenon of sports stars like golfer Tiger Woods with the ubiquity of the Nike symbol attached to every item of their attire: all these cultural images suggest that America’s pre-sence in the world is multi-layered and seemingly all-pervasive. The Americanisation Project (AMATAS) has been set up to interrogate these and other transnational phenomena and to analyse the positive and negative effects of Americanisation. It will interrogate relations between America and the world while documenting resistance to American commercial and political power from those unwilling to live under the sign of the mighty golden arches.
Although the project focuses on cultural interactions it does so while paying attention to socio-political phenomena such as globalisation and first world imperialism. British/American relations are a very lively debate in the culture at the moment. In the wake of the American spy plane incident in Spring this year, British commentators such as Polly Toynbee in the Guardian and Anne McElvoy in the Independent have written contrastive accounts of America as either evil Empire or liberating ally. The project aims to provide the academic context for such debates in the culture at large.
The project is avowedly cultural and will be of interest to many English Departments. It is a curriculum project and aims to promote the critical teaching of Americanisation to providers in the higher education sector. The project has set up a website http://www.amatas.org to house materials of interest on the subject (such as a media log and academic articles on Anti-Americanism). Apart from materials, the project is also developing workshops that will be available to English and other Departments from September. These workshops aim to disseminate good practice in the teaching of Americanisation and can be accessed to fit into your department’s curriculum or as a special one-off session to highlight the issues of Americanisation and cultural interaction. Some workshops already devised have a literary/cultural studies focus and would be especially pertinent to English providers. They range from Images from the Black Atlantic in British Collections (Ms. Carol Smith – King Alfred’s) to Disney and the European Fairy Tale (Dr. Jane Darcy – University of Central Lancashire) to The Royal Family and the USA (Dr. Jude Davies – King Alfred’s).
For providers in England there is no cost for the workshops. Elsewhere in the United Kingdom, the cost will be travel expenses only. A full syllabus pack including details of all workshops and some specimen syllabi on Americanisation from Britain and elsewhere will be available by the end of August. If you would like a copy e-mail email@example.com. We hope you will want to use our resources and access our workshops. We see the project as contributing to a dynamic questioning of national boundaries in all our teaching across the humanities.
In Autumn 2002, the project will culminate in an international conference at the University of Central Lancashire on “Teaching Americanisation in the Twenty-first Century”. We will update material on this and other events associated with the project on the website and through a bi-monthly e-mail bulletin. To subscribe to the bulletin e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMATAS is the first funded teaching and learning project in Area Studies. Housed in the Cultural Studies Department at the University of Central Lancashire with consortium partners at the University of Derby and King Alfred’s College, Winchester, we aim to spread dynamic curriculum ideas on Americanisation throughout the American Studies community and beyond.