As President of the American Studies Association in 2004, Stanford American Studies Director Shelley Fisher Fishkin called on the field of American Studies to embrace what she referred to as the transnational turn. Recognizing that it was impossible to do justice to the complexity of American history and culture using only US-based sources and scholars, she argued that one cannot adequately study America’s past without engaging the global forces that shaped it and that it, in turn, helped shape.
The Stanford American Studies Program has taken this call to heart, embracing the transnational turn on multiple levels. On the ground level, we have shaped the program to enable transnational engagements by our undergraduates, whether by infusing transnational perspectives into our course offerings and options, by inviting students aboard as researchers for transnational projects sponsored by the program, or by giving our students the curricular room to participate in Bing Overseas Studies—and heartily encouraging them to do so.
Following Professor Fishkin’s lead, the Stanford American Studies program has also become a leading hub and launch-pad for transnational initiatives that reach beyond campus—and beyond national borders. These include the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project, created in 2012 to redress a stunning lack of knowledge about these crucial laborers through globe-spanning, multilingual, and multidisciplinary research and collaboration; and the Journal of Transnational American Studies (JTAS), an innovative, open access, digital journal jointly sponsored by Stanford’s American Studies Program and UC Santa Barbara’s American Cultures and Global Contexts Center.