American Studies


The Hamilton American studies faculty are active scholars and teachers. Their areas of expertise include 20th-century U.S. history, American modernism, reform and radical movements, the American left, 20th century American ballet and modern dance, and literature and film.

Yvonne Zylan, Ph.D., Chair, Associate Professor of Sociology

Areas of Expertise: law and society, the state and social policy, political sociology, gender and sexuality, and social movements.
Yvonne Zylan, associate professor of sociology and department chair, earned a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Yale University, a Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and a juris doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law. More >>

Zylan has published articles in the Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Gender & Society, Social Forces, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, and Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.  Zylan's book - a study of sexuality, social theory and the law titled States of Passion: Law, Identity, and the Social Construction of Desire - was published by Oxford University Press in spring 2011. Her areas of scholarship include law and society, sexuality, social theory, political sociology, and the state and social policy. Prior to joining the Hamilton faculty, Zylan practiced law for three years in the litigation department at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

Lydia Hamessley, Ph.D., Professor of Music

Areas of Expertise: American folk and traditional musics; banjo; music and film; Medieval and Renaissance music; and music and gender.
Hamessley received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota before coming to Hamilton in 1991. She teaches courses in Medieval and Renaissance music history, world music, American folk and traditional music, opera and film music. More >>

She received the Class of 1962 Outstanding Teaching Award in 2007 and the Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2013. She was twice awarded the Class of 1963 Faculty Fellowship to support the development of additional areas of teaching expertise.

She was the coordinator for the conference Feminist Theory and Music: Toward a Common Language, in Minneapolis, held in 1991. Hamessley has published articles in Music & Letters; Queering The Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology; Menacing Virgins: Images of Virginity in the Middle Ages and Renaissance; Women & Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture; Ruth Crawford Seeger's Worlds: Innovation and Tradition in Twentieth-Century American Music; and 19th-Century Music. She is the co-editor, with Elaine Barkin, of Audible Traces: Gender, Identity, and Music. Hamessley is currently working on a project about Dolly Parton as well as a preparing an article on the music for Paul Green's symphonic drama The Lost Colony (1937). She is also a clawhammer banjo player.

Steve Yao, Ph.D., Edmund A. LeFevre Professor of English

Areas of Expertise: 20th century American and British literature, literary translation, Ezra Pound, comparative literature, Asian American literature, especially poetry, global literary modernisms, Asian diasoporas and transpacific literature.
Steven Yao earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Yao taught at Ohio State University from 1997 to 2002. More >>

He is the author of two books, Translation and the Languages of Modernism (Palgrave/St. Martins, 2002) and Foreign Accents: Chinese American Verse from Exclusion to Postethnicity (Oxford, 2010) which was selected by the Association for Asian American Studies for its Book Award in Literary Studies. He is also co-editor of Sinographies: Writing China (Minnesota 2008), Pacific Rim Modernisms (Toronto 2009), and Ezra Pound and Education (2012).

In 2012 he was awarded an ACE Fellowship for the 2012-13 academic year. In 2005 Yao was awarded a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and he also served as a Stanford Humanities Center External Junior Faculty Fellow for 2005-06.


Angel David Nieves, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Africana Studies

Areas of Expertise: race and the built environment, digital humanities, spatial humanitites, heritage preservation, urban histry, South Africa and Southern Africa, truth and reconciliation in post-conflict countries and diaspora studies.
Angel David Nieves currently co-directs Hamilton's Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi) an $800,000. Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant-funded project. More >>

Nieves taught in the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at the University of Maryland, College Park, from 2003-2008. Nieves completed his doctoral work in architectural history and Africana Studies at Cornell University in 2001.

His co-edited book, ‘We Shall Independent Be:’ African American Place-Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the U.S. (2008), examines African American efforts to claim space in American society despite fierce resistance. Nieves has published essays in the Journal of Planning History; Places Journal: A Forum of Design for the Public Realm; Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies; and in several edited collections, most recently in Places of Pain and Shame: Dealing With Difficult Heritage (2009). He is also associate editor of Fire!!!: A Multimedia Journal of Black Studies, an online journal of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. His digital research and scholarship have also been featured on MSNBC.com and in Newsweek.

Nieves’ scholarly work and community-based activism critically engages with issues of memory, heritage preservation, gender and nationalism at the intersections of race and the built environment in cities across the Global South. In 2010 he received The John R. Hatch Class of 1925 Excellence in Teaching Award.