Course Descriptions (2020-21)
What does it mean to describe race, gender, sexuality and class as “intersecting” identities or categories? What new forms of knowledge and ways of knowing, political tools and ways of doing politics does this insight make possible? And how can we use these to make sense of and respond to the urgencies of the present moment? In this seminar we will focus on “intersectionality” as a mode of feminist critical inquiry and activist practice (or “critical praxis”) forged by Black feminists. As Patricia Hill Collins explains, “The term intersectionality references the critical insight that race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nation, ability, and age operate not as unitary, mutually exclusive entities, but as reciprocally constructing phenomena that in turn shape complex social inequalities.” Together we will read foundational texts by Collins and other Black feminist scholars and activists to understand and explore this critical insight and the coalitional politics that an intersectional analysis both demands and makes possible. We will pair this work with collective research into ongoing projects that engage this form of Black feminist “critical praxis” to respond to the complex social inequalities exposed and exacerbated in and by this political moment, including Black Lives Matter, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and the Poor People’s Campaign.
American political rhetoric has often taken for granted that women are “too emotional” to make effective leaders. Partially in response to this kind of sexist stereotype, many feminist thinkers have argued that we need more rigorous thinking about the role of emotion in our personal, political lives. How does the U.S. electoral process rely on and shape the feelings of the public, and what does this process have to do with ideas about gender and sexuality? How can appeals to emotion make for effective feminist protest practices and grassroots organizing? How do our most intimate feelings shape our relationships to gender roles and social norms? In this class, we’ll explore how feminist thinkers have answered these questions, and we’ll test out their arguments in relation to a variety of popular media texts. Students will have the opportunity to select a research topic inspired by the GNDR_ST material, which will be developed over the GNDR_ST of the quarter as we explore interdisciplinary research methods and writing practices.
This course is an introduction to the ways humanist scholars over the past thirty or so years have revolutionized our understanding of sexuality not as something we do but rather as an extraordinarily dense, historically contingent way of understanding—and controlling—human subjectivity. Not sure what that means? Take this class! TRIGGER WARNING: Our conversation will likely venture into areas you have not previously associated with the word “sexuality.” Some of it—such as primary sources in which people use vernacular, racist, or sexist terms to describe their own or other people’s practices and identities—may be upsetting.
This course is a rigorous introduction to feminism’s multiple intellectual and political traditions and genealogies within and outside the US at different historical junctures. The course emphasizes the rich debates that have been staged within feminism as feminists have labored to imagine other worlds in a variety of media and contexts. Our task is to understand how these varied feminist traditions have interrogated the same sites -- marriage and family, sexuality, reproduction, the nation and the state, work, liberation, and feminism itself - in radically different ways. Why are these the key areas that feminist theorists have focused on across time and cultural divides? How have feminists around the world imagined these spaces as both sites of oppression and potential venues for freedom?
This class will investigate how gender shapes politics and policy, and how these in turn shape gender, with a focus on the United States, placed in comparative and global contexts. Gender is conceptualized as a set of relations, identities and cultural schema, always constituted with other dimensions of power, difference and inequality (e.g., race, class, sexuality, religion, citizenship status). We will analyze the gendered character of citizenship, political participation and representation, social rights and economic rights. We aim to understand gendered politics and policy from both "top down" and "bottom up" perspectives. What do states do, via institutions of political participation and representation, citizenship rights and policies, to shape gender relations? How do gender relations influence the nature of policy and citizenship? How has feminism emerged as a radical challenge to the androcentrism and restricted character of the democratic public sphere? And how has anti-feminism come to be a significant dimension of politics? We expand on conventional conceptions of political participation and citizenship rights to include the grassroots democratic activism that gave birth to modern women's movements. We explore how women's political efforts have given rise to the creation of alternative visions of democracy, social provision and economic participation, as well as reshaping formal politics and policies. And, finally, we will take advantage of the fact that we are in the middle of a Presidential election to examine the gendered aspects of the political landscape in the contemporary United States.
The course readings feature different types of materials – original documents, scholarly books and articles, a textbook, policy reports, popular non-fiction work on aspects of gender, policy, politics and society. These are supplemented by films and online resources.
This course is situated at the intersection of theoretical, cultural, medical, and commercial online discourses concerning the burgeoning Gender Affirmation-related surgeries presented online and conducted in Thailand. Using Gender, Queer, Trans, Asian American, and Digital Humanities Theories, we will discuss the cross-cultural intersections, dialogues, refusals, and adaptions when thinking about medical travel to Thailand for gender/sex related surgeries. We will examine Thai cultural/historical conceptions of sex and gender, debates concerning bodies and diagnoses, and changes in presentations of sex/gender related surgeries offered online. We will also explore how digital archives are created and managed. Investigating transcripts of live interviews, medical discourses, and an archive of web images offering GAS surgeries produced by Thais for non-Thais will serve as axes for investigating this topic.
This class will examine lesbian representation in film and television over the last four decades. "Representation" is a tricky word in politics and media: queer communities, communities of color, and disabled communities (and those categories overlap in important ways) have pushed for more representation in film, television, the music industry, and publishing. Lesbian women have long complained of the community's invisibility. At the same time, minoritized communities must grapple with the fact that simple representation can be a mixed bag. If the primary goal is visibility, is all representation good representation? Are lesbian villains, or lesbians who are narratively punished, still politically useful? Does the inclusion of a lesbian character (or lesbian characters) "count" if no one involved in the production of the object was themselves a lesbian? This course will explore these questions and more, discussing theoretical readings from cultural studies alongside our primary films, television, music, and print media. We will consider the difficult and derogatory tropes that are part and parcel of lesbian representation in the media, but we will engage most intensively with narratives that have attempted to expand the narrative potential of queer female life and to affirm lesbian identities—with complex results.
An examination of the roles of women in rock music from the inception of the genre through today, framed by changing social expectations for women and increasing acceptance of diversity among performers and consumers. Students will read scholarship in music, gender theory, and social sciences, and will conduct research in online archives as well as engage critically with music, video, and film.
What happens to queer futurity, and its vision of new and different, queerer worlds, in the wake of catastrophic loss and destruction? Is queer worldmaking and queer utopianism possible in the midst of any number of ending worlds? And what forms of queer potentiality can cohere within the negation of the here and now? This course will explore such questions by engaging art, performance, and scholarship by and about queer and trans futurity—and in particular queer of color and trans of color life—in the midst, wake, and eve of catastrophe.
This course will engage queer theory to study art, literature, performance, and theory that imagines and interrogates the question of queer futurity in the midst of catastrophe and loss. Artists, theorists, and works studied may include speculative fiction (novels such NK Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, Octavia Butler’s Dawn or Lizzie Borden’s film Born in Flames); musicians including Janelle Monáe and Antony and the Johnsons; scholars such José Esteban Muñoz, C. Riley Snorton, Jayna Brown, and Juana María Rodriguez; and artists such as Danh Võ, Félix González-Torres, Dorian Wood, Tourmaline, and Ocean Vuong.
GNDR_ST 380-0-20: Black Feminist Theory: Another World is Possible: Black Feminisms, World-Making, and Radical Futures
This undergraduate seminar focuses on the visionary work of black feminists and Afro-diasporic women’s contributions to feminist theory as a heterogeneous field of knowledge encompassing multiple streams of gender-and race-cognizant articulation and praxis. It attends to a series of texts that pose questions like: How do we survive – and thrive – in a world marked by vast inequities? What would another world look and feel like? What are other ways of being that might feel more equitable, more free, more transgressive? What would togetherness, belonging, and community look like in that world? The central concerns of diverse Black feminists include: the “intersectionality” of race, gender, sexuality, class, and national or transnational identity; reproductive health; sexual violence; homophobia and heteronormativity; the historicity and cultural specificity of the subordination Black women face; and the effects of racism, colonialism, unequal forms of economic development, and globalization on Black communities. We will examine these concerns through a critical reading of a wide range of texts—from literature to film to cultural criticism and sociopolitical analysis.
This course will introduce you to Queer Theory and theories of sexuality, emphasizing the practice of reading theory from a variety of textual sources as well as conceiving of sexualities within both local and transnatinoal contexts. We will trace the development of both the term queer and the history of queer theory, beginning with foundational texts about sexuality and its regulation by Foucault and seminal essays about queer theory by Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Michael Warner and Lauren Berlant. We will then read canonical essays by a variety of queer theorists which will serve the basis for analyzing several contemporary books and films. Discussions will query how queer theory formulates racial, class and national identities in relation to sexuality, and how it might offer politics beyond those based on identity.
Queer/Trans Ethnic Studies examines discourses shaping communities as produced by and producing unequal power relations across geographic sites, social networks, and strategic alliances. By focusing upon social inequalities generated from various social structures: the government, the school, the prison, the media, and the hospital, we’ll explore how webs of power both indirectly and directly inform our everyday lives. How do critical race, feminist, and queer analyses of these institutions highlight areas of oppression and opportunities for resistance across shifting hierarchies of race, sexuality, gender, class, nationality, and ability? How have various queer/trans of color communities been affected by these institutions what strategies and tactics have they pursued in the quest for intersectional social justice?
What do representations of robots and cyborgs in popular film, sci-fi literature, and music tell us about gender, sexuality, race, and what it means to be “human?” Using queer of color critique, feminist theory, disability studies, and science and technology studies (STS), we will investigate the ways that science fiction’s disruption of race, gender, and sexuality as stable categories offers radical models for our present and possible futures. Our case examples explore the politics of the body through narratives of artificial intelligence, sex work, urbanism and segregation, biotech research, prosthetics and athleticism, new reproductive technologies, and more. We will engage with poetry, film, visual art, and speculative fiction to explore how bodies are dreamed, crafted, and represented as these works re-imagine bodily and social estrangement in the present through the creation of counter-futures.
From its most traditional to its most liberal forms, contemporary Judaism has been deeply influenced by feminism and its call to pay attention to the way gender and sexuality shape and are shaped by religious experiences and ideas. In this course, we will use gender and sexuality as lenses for analyzing the sacred texts, rituals, and theology of Judaism. Along the way, we will also consider how attention to gender and sexuality sheds light on the lives of Jewish men and women of the past and present. The course is divided into three sections, each organized around a central category of Jewish thought: Torah, Israel, and God. The first section, Torah, considers two stories from the biblical book of Genesis: first the creation of the world and then the sisters Leah and Rachel, both married to the patriarch Jacob. How does each story define what it is to be a man or a woman? Where is there room for more subversive readings that might question masculinity or femininity? The second section, Israel, turns our focus to the rituals of Niddah, women's monthly immersion in the mikveh, ritual bath, following menstruation, and brit milah, circumcision. We will consider the origins of these rituals, how they construct notions of gender and personhood, and contemporary views of the practices. How have these rituals been adapted for use by individuals who are transgender? The third section, God, examines examples of feminist and queer Jewish theology and, in particular, the use of marriage as a metaphor for the relationship between God and the Jewish people in biblical, rabbinic, and contemporary contexts.
GNDR_ST 390-0-23: The Viral Underclass: How Journalists Cover Outbreaks, Depict Humans as Viruses, and Make News Go Viral
What are viruses? Are they living or dead? How does news media affect their influence on the world? And why do we say news "goes viral?"
Designed for Medill and non-Medill students alike, this will be a course where students come together to think critically about how media is created and perceived in terms of viruses, particularly in terms of how viruses intersect with race, sexuality, disability, economics and the news media. Historically and contemporarily, the course will look at how actual viruses and infectious diseases (such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Hepetitas and the novel coronavirus) have been covered in the global press; it will consider how certain groups of humans have been depicted as viruses themselves (i.e., how Jewish/disabled/queer/Roma people were described by the German and US press circa WW II, how African Americans were described in the US press circa Jim Crow, and how Muslim, Mexican and immigrant people are described in press and social media now); and, it will consder why popular news is considered "viral." Students will work in research groups to study viruses and virality in the news throughout the term.
Provided texts will include journalism stories as well as Bong Joon-hi's Oscar winning film Parasite; Ibram Kendi's COVID Racial Tracker; the photography of LaToya Ruby Frazier; the soundtrack of the Pulitzer Prize winning musical A Strange Loop; poetry by Jericho Brown, Danez Smith and Justin Phillip Reed; and journalism by New York Times magazine contributor Linda Villarosa.
As Patricia Hill Collins acknowledges in Intersectionality as Critical Praxis (2019), “During times of such visible and contentious change, it’s reasonable to question the worth of intellectual work, especially when everyday problems seem so pressing” but argues that “resistant knowledge projects” that engage in “critical praxis,” or that conjoin critical analysis and social action, “are needed more now than ever” (290). Our goal in this senior seminar is to examine and explore the relationship between theory-building and social change and what Collins describes as the “recursive relationship” between theory and action in recent and foundational Black feminist, trans, and queer interdisciplinary knowledge projects central to the field of Gender & Sexuality Studies. We examine the new ways of knowing (methodologies) and forms of knowledge (epistemologies) that critical theories of intersectionality, trans liberation, and queer becoming enact, the social justice movements in which these knowledge projects were forged, and the activist projects they have inspired. Throughout, we also engage in “critical praxis” by experimenting with practices of archiving, oral history collection, (auto)ethnography, and popular education to explore the analytical and methodological tools each offers and to ultimately design final projects that contribute to these resistant knowledge projects.
Readings & materials include selections from Patricia Hill Collins, Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory (Duke 2019); Combahee River Collective Statement (1977); Keeanga Taylor, How we Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective (2017); Transgender Studies Quarterly issues on Key Concepts for a Twenty-First Century Transgender Studies (2015), Trans/Feminisms (2016) and Trans Futures (2019); Sandy Stone, “The Empire Strikes Back: a Posttransexual Manifesto” (1992); The Gayle Rubin Reader; The Angela Davis Reader; The Stuart Hall Reader; and related archival, oral history, (auto)ethnography, and curriculum projects.
This graduate colloquium is dedicated to the discussion of recent published work in gender and sexuality studies and of graduate student work in progress. This two-course colloquium will meet ten times during fall and winter-quarter.
This course will investigate some of the many intersections between music and ideas of gender and sexuality during the "long seventeenth century" (ca. 1580-1725). We will consider late twentieth- and early twenty-first century histories and theories of gender and sexuality, particularly of the periods in question, but also some key ideas that are especially applicable to early modern constructs of the body, selfhood, and gender identity. With these in mind, we will explore large-scale and smaller musical works and ways in which they were created and consumed in public and private spaces, as well as how they represented, reinforced, and subverted a range of ideas about masculinity, femininity, and related constructs of nationality, race, and class. In true seminar style, class meetings will consist of discussion of shared material plus presentations by individual students. It is hoped that, collectively, we can answer some of the open questions about gender and sexuality of the early modern era by using musical evidence, and better understand the era's music through concurrent notions of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality.
This seminar will investigate how gender shapes politics, and how politics in turn shapes gender, with gender conceptualized as a set of relations, identities and cultural schema, co-constituted with other dimensions of power, difference and inequality (e.g., race, class,sexuality, religion, citizenship status). We aim to understand gendered politics and policy from both "top down" and "bottom up" perspectives. What do states do, via institutions of political participation and representation, citizenship rights and policies, and official categorization to shape gender relations? How do gender relations influence thenature of policy, classification systems, and citizenship? How have movements and counter-movements around the transformation of gender developed, and how have gendered divides influenced politics of all sorts? We expand on conventional conceptions of political participation and citizenship rights to include grassroots democratic activism, the creation of alternative visions of democracy, social provision and economic participation, as well as examining formal politics and policies. We will read and discuss scholars drawing on diverse theoretical and methodological traditions, and we engage with analyses of a variety of contexts across the world (the US, other rich capitalist democracies, postcolonial states and beyond), striving to situate states and political mobilization in global contexts. The course draws on sociology, political science and gender and sexuality studies to understand gender, power and politics.
This course will analyze concepts that are in the orbit of biopolitics broadly conceived -- that is, conflicts over how to reproduce, maintain, or destroy a particular body politic -- in order to engage with theories of "biopolitics" and "biopower." The objective is to understand the uses and disadvantages of Michel Foucault's critiques of discourses of sovereignty for analyzing current political conflicts situated in practices of the nation, race, class, and the family, as well as the subject positions associated with these, e.g., citizens, immigrants, Whites, Asians, rich, poor, the 1%, dependents, women, men, LGBT, queer, and many more. The course will attend to the intellectual and political history informing Foucault's critiques of, and elaborations on, the discourse of sovereignty, including legal discourses. During class meetings we will discuss Foucault's historical periodizations of changing discourses of power/knowledge relations associated with biopolitics and evaluate the metanarrative that informs his heuristics. Lectures will discuss the readings in the context of Foucault's own intellectual history. The class will read extensively from works by Foucault as well as texts by Giorgio Agamben, Judith Butler, Nancy Fraser, Bruno Perreau, Jacques Rancière, Ann Stoler, and others. You are encouraged reflect on how the weekly assignments are in conversation with your own research interests. This will be done in part by your selecting for class discussion a Foucauldian-themed article on the week of your presentation.
Much recent fiction, film and theory are concerned with representing the internet and the World Wide Web. Sometimes cyberspace is depicted as a continuation of previous media such as television, cinema or telephone, but often it is envisioned as a new frontier. This course will examine the ways in which virtual media appears in cultural discourses. We consider how technological objects and tools participate in shaping elements of our culture that may appear natural, logical, or timeless. Our guiding questions will include the following: In what ways are these narratives shaping collective perceptions of the internet? How have virtual technologies challenged experiences of language, gender, community and identity? We will focus on social networking, gaming, artificial intelligence, and literary and filmic representations of these. Following a Cultural Studies model for inquiry, this course will be project-based and experiential. Your attendance and participation are mandatory. No experience needed, only a willingness to take risks and share work.
Though media discourses, policy debates, and cultural productions around trans, nonconforming, and nonbinary gender have markedly increased in recent years, filmmakers have explored stories and characters along these lines for over a century. This course will offer an eclectic survey of that cinematic tradition, with a strong but not exclusive focus on the US and an emphasis on diverse styles, subjects, and debates over the last few decades. Along the way, students will learn fundamentals of nuanced film analysis as well as important vocabularies and concepts in trans* studies, originating both within and outside the academy.
An exploration of the role that gender plays in the language of and about men and women, focusing on gendered speech as part of social practice in local communities. Topics include identity categories and labels, ‘reclaimed epithets’ (e.g. bitch and slut), gender vs. sex vs. sexuality, the contested notion of ‘political correctness’, sexist/misogynist language, and linguistic prescriptivism.
This class introduces students to a variety of philosophical problems concerning gender and politics. Together, we’ll read classic and contemporary texts that examine questions such as: what is gender -- and how, if it all, does it relate to or differ from sex? What does it really mean to be a woman or a man -- and are these categories we’r e born into or categories that we become or inhabit through living in a particular way under specific conditions? Human history all the way up to the present seems to be rife with asymmetrical relations of power that relegate those marked out as women to a subordinate position -- what explains this? What would it mean to over turn this state of affairs -- and which strategies are most likely to accomplish this task? And to what extent is it possible to grapple with all of the above questions -- questions of gender, sex and sexuality -- without also, at the very same time, thinking about how they relate to questions of class and race? Readings will include selections from Simone de Beauvoir, Iris Marion Young, Sandra Bartky, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Judith Butler, Talia Bettcher, and others.
Exploration of transgender history, identity, and expression, with a focus on the intersection of gender and race. (A fuller description is forthcoming.)Back to top