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Course Descriptions (2021-22)

FALL 2021 | WINTER 2022 | SPRING 2022 | SUMMER 2022 

Fall 2021

GNDR_ST 101-6-20: To Paint Their Lives

This seminar will focus on how women, across cultures and time, represent their lives through various media and means, from visual art to literary engagements to graphic media, from movies and photography to music and social media. Our interdisciplinary investigation of (mostly non-Western) women's autobiographical practices, past and present, will allow us to work closely with primary sources (in English translation, if necessary), and with pertinent theoretical work in the fields of gender, sexuality, feminist theory, and queer studies.

The authors we will engage include Sarashina, Artemisia Gentileschi, Li Qingchao, Lady Hyegyong, Orgyan Chokyi, Zora Neale Hurston, Charlotte Salomon, Theresa H. K. Cha, Rigoberta Menchu’, Trinh Minh-ha, Audre Lorde, Marjane Satrapi, Keum Suk Gendry-Kim and Thi Buy, among others. When possible and meaningful, we will set their autobiographical practices against the grain of male representations of women's lives, and in dialogue with our own autobiographical gestures and utterances.

GNDR_ST 101-6-21: Intersectionality & Coalitional Politics

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 these readings with collective research into both past and present projects that engage this form of Black feminist “critical praxis” to respond to complex social inequalities, including Black Lives Matter, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and the Poor People’s Campaign.

GNDR_ST 220-0-20: Sexual Subjects: Introduction to Sexuality Studies

This course is an introduction to the kinds of questions and hypotheses around which the interdisciplinary field of sexuality studies has coalesced over the past thirty or so. Topics include the history of sexuality as a social category, the ways sexuality intersects with other important social categories such as race and class, the ways individuals from different social groups understand and experience their sexuality, and the ways different social movements have organized around or in response to demands for sexual liberation or exploration.

GNDR_ST 230-0-20: Traditions in Feminist Thought

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?

GNDR_ST 321-0-20: Paris Noir in the Twentieth Century

In 1924, when the African-American poet Langston Hughes arrived in Paris, hungry with only seven dollars in his pocket, he ran up the Champs Elysées in the snow, thrilled to see the Arc de Triomphe in the distance. In Montmartre where he eventually found a job as a busboy and occasional bouncer, he consoled Ada “Bricktop” Smith, the singer and dancer from New York who owned of the most popular jazz club in the neighborhood and for whose attention Cole Porter and F. Scott Fitzgerald competed. Soon, Josephine Baker (originally from St. Louis, Missouri) would shock and delight audiences with her Revue Nègre to become the most celebrated entertainer in Paris. While state-side, newspapers dubbed this community, the “Harlem Renaissance Overseas,” Black and Brown artists, intellectuals, students, journalists and other sojourners from the United States encountered another “exotic” in Paris: their own counter-parts from the Caribbean and Africa. Out of this engagement, a multi-lingual diasporic identity developed within a new internationalism. It birthed the Nègritude movement and fostered an anti-colonial nationalist opposition that would lead de-colonization struggles in the 1950s and ‘60s. This seminar invites students to explore this extraordinary flowering of artistic and political expression. Over the quarter, we will study the Afro-diasporic poetry, novels, painting, photography, film, music, and dance of the period as well as the political, philosophical, and social commentaries of the era. After a broad overview, including developments in French and Parisian history in the 1920s and ‘30s, students will select (with the guidance of the instructor) an area to research and write a 10 to 12 page essay based on the array of primary sources collected by the instructor. Reading knowledge of French is not required. The course will especially highlight the contribution of women. In addition to 395 credit for History majors, the course is open for 350 registration for students in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Students from all disciplines are welcome.

GNDR_ST 321-0-21: US Women’s History since 1865

This course explores the history of women in the United States from 1865 to the present. Adopting an intersectional approach, we will examine women’s changing roles as wage earners, mothers, and activists. We will also explore how prevailing ideas about race, gender, work, and the family shaped women’s lives, in both the public and private arenas.

GNDR_ST 331-0-20: Work & Occupations: Focus on Gender

The gender division of labor is a key organizing principle in all known societies, but it takes a fascinating array of forms. In industrialized and post-industrial societies, women have increasingly taken up paid employment and moved into formerly-masculine fields, driven by demand for women workers as the economy shifts toward the service sector, and more recently by feminist movements. Yet women are still doing the majority of caring and household labor, while men's take-up of traditionally feminine caring labor has been far more limited. Moreover, the sex segregation of occupations and substantial gendered earnings gaps remain. Meanwhile, much of the work formerly done by housewives has been "outsourced" to paid service workers, many of whom migrate from global South to global North to take up this work. Scholars debate about whether and how these arrangements will change, and whether they may be influenced by political initiatives, either top-down (e.g., affirmative action to recruit women to STEM fields) or bottom-up (e.g., cultural and media campaigns to validate new norms). In this course, we will investigate the ways in which work - paid and unpaid, in families and in places of employment - is organized by gender and other forms of power, difference and inequality, such as race, class and migration/citizenship status. We will examine family divisions of labor across diverse households: how do men and women divide domestic work and care for children or others needing care? Where does non-familial provision come into play? What are the consequences for outcomes in paid employment and in terms of the distribution of time, respect, and power? We will learn about the development of the modern economy and occupational sex segregation, as well as how different kinds of men and women are treated at work. Finally, we will consider the role of government policy in sustaining or changing these arrangements.

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.

GNDR_ST 332-0-20: Health Activism

Issues of health and disease have been inextricably entangled with politics this last year. Scientific recommendations, public health mandates, and the role of institutions from the CDC and the FDA to the WHO have been subject to heated debate and partisan politics. Meanwhile, the pandemic has made newly visible and further exacerbated ongoing health disparities within the U.S. and globally. Simultaneously, demands for “healing justice” (Black Lives Matter), the “freedom to thrive” (BYP 100) and the “right to live” (Poor People’s Campaign) articulate a politics that reconceptualize “health” and “healing” as urgent liberation projects, building on a tradition of radical health activism in the U.S. since the 1960s. To make sense of this moment, we examine this tradition of radical health activism, which often targeted these same institutions in their efforts to transform healthcare in the U.S., to eliminate ongoing health disparities, and to challenge the contemporaneous ideological assumptions about gender, sexuality, race, and class that inform (and are often used to justify) these disparities. We begin with AIDS activist Sarah Shulman’s recent political history of ACT UP, Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993 (2021), which also functions as a primer for how to build a health activist social movement able to respond to pandemic conditions, and pair this with Shulman’s ACT UP Oral History Project and online collections of archival materials from ACT UP actions. Importantly, both Shulman and the AIDS activists she interviews attribute the success of ACT UP to members’ use of tactics and strategies they learned as participants in earlier forms of health activism--in establishing community health centers and free clinics during the Civil Rights Movement, in Black Panther Party “survival programs,” in setting up underground abortion services pre-Roe v Wade and in the broader feminist health and reproductive rights movements, and in defense campaigns to secure the rights of those incarcerated in prisons and mental health institutions. In our second unit, we explore each of these earlier movements, beginning with participants’ accounts collected in the ACT UP Oral History Project, and then through recent histories of each movement and related online archival collections and collections of activist ephemera from each housed in Northwestern’s Special Collections. In our third unit, we make use of this history of radical health activism to explore the politics of the present and to examine current movements that build on and carry forward these legacies.

GNDR_ST 340-0-20: Gender, Sexuality, and the Law

This course offers an introduction to the relationship between gender, sexuality, and law in the United States, both historically and currently. We'll look at legal categories of gender and sexuality that have governed (and, often, continue to govern) the household (including sex, marriage, divorce, reproductive rights, and custody), the economy (including employment, property, and credit), and the political sphere (including voting, jury service, and citizenship). We will also explore how feminist and queer activists have resisted legally produced inequalities and how their efforts have created enduring social change.

GNDR_ST 341-0-20: Trans*-Related Medical Surgeries in Thailand

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.

GNDR_ST 352-0-20: Intro to Foucault: Power, Sex, & Knowledge

This course introduces one of the most influential late-twentieth-century French philosophers, Michel Foucault, and his  ongoing importance for contemporary studies in philosophy, critical theory, gender and sexuality studies, and critical race studies. The primary texts studied are: History of Madness, Discipline and Punish, and History of Sexuality, volume one. It explains Foucault’s development, throughout his work, of fundamental Foucauldian concepts such as : otherness, the historical a priori, epistemic conditions and epistemic rupture, discourse,  archaeology discipline, normativity,  biopolitics, power-knowledge, resistance, and genealogy, many of which have become central to inquiry and critique in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The course provides a transition to advanced studies in these areas. It does  assume prior knowledge, and is the opportunity for a more  systematic engagement with Foucault’s overall work, for those who have encountered this thinker  briefly in other courses. 

Thematically,  the course will consider Foucault’s writings on madness, the medical gaze, prisons and related disciplinary institutions, the association between sexuality and  truth, and Foucault’s critique of a number of modern understandings of freedom, selfhood, knowledge, and resistance.

The course is reading intensive. In addition to weekly excerpts, you should plan to read  your choice of one of Foucault's major texts throughout the quarter, and to reflect on your choice of one line of contemporary criticism (or modification) of Foucault from a range of suggested fields that include gender and sexualities studies and critical race studies.

The course is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. In fall ’21 we  are able to offer a  dedicated graduate discussion section (Wed 8 pm).

GNDR_ST 353-0-20: Deportation Law and Politics

The course reviews the history and theory of citizenship and deportation policies. Students will learn about deportation and "transportation" laws in colonial-era Britain and the colonies, as well as United States deportation laws from 1776 through the present. There will be some lecture but most of the class time will be used to discuss the readings and train students in how to conduct original legal research using databases with case law, Congressional hearings, and federal regulations, as well as immigration law enforcement statistical information. Two weeks will be devoted to citizenship and deportation policies outside the United States. For the final paper, students will be asked to compare a policy from before 1996 with a deportation policy after 1996. Students must attend at least three hours of immigration court hearings in downtown Chicago before the fourth week of the quarter. No exceptions. This can be accomplished in one visit. (The court is easily accessible by public transportation.)

GNDR_ST 372-0-20: Women Rock

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.

GNDR_ST 372-0-21: Black Feminist Performance

In this course we will examine a multitude of performances investigating the complexities of Black feminisms. Considering the intersections of gender expression, class, sexuality, and ethnicity, we will reflect on how feminism has been defined and contested by Black women, non-binary, and gender queer artists. Over the course of the quarter, we will also delve into our own performance making practices and consider how performance can be used as a tool to clarify and embody theory. Questions we will consider include: What have been the defining characteristics of Black feminist performance throughout history? How is performance uniquely situated to articulate the evolving concerns of Black feminism?

GNDR_ST 381-0-20: Queer Theory

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 US, medical, international, and transnational contexts. We will trace the development of both the term queer and the history of queer theory, beginning with foundational essays by queer theorists by Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Michael Warner and Lauren Berlant. We will then read both canonical essays by a variety of queer theorists and essays questioning the politics of a Queer Theory canon and how that might politically occlude relevant voices and non-binary participants such as trans and BIPOC populations. These theoretical texts are placed in dialogue analyzing several contemporary fiction and film. Seminar discussions require synchronous participation. They 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. Most readings are done on a shared platform ( so the class annotates, comments, and replies to each other on both daily readings, midterm essay, and seminar paper.

GNDR_ST 390-0-20: Sex and the American Empire: Journalism and Frames of War

This course will be an intensive study in understanding the relationship between American journalism and the U.S. military in creating an American empire. By focusing on how the U.S. military has segregated service members by race, sexuality, gender and gender identity—and on how on U.S. media has covered the military—students will study how identity roles have been formed by both the military and the media in American society. Readings will include primary sources, works of journalism, and scholarship. Topics covered will include the histories of LGBTQ rights; “pinkwashing” and “homonationalism”; “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; racial segregation; the development of the condom; access to birth control; government management of HIV/AIDS; subjectivity/objectivity; critical theory; critical race theory; transgender studies; and, essentialism. In groups, students will study coverage of a single contemporary story in the news. The course is intended for journalism majors and non-majors alike, and will be centered on helping both analyze news media critically in order to better understand how race, gender, sexuality and American identity are constructed.

GNDR_ST 396-0-20: Senior Capstone in Gender & Sexuality Studies

This capstone course will allow advanced Gender & Sexuality Studies majors to apply a wide range of discipline-specific methods, studies, and thought traditions to a series of movies and television shows that premiered during the years that course participants pursued their degrees in GSS. The abilities to amplify, complicate, or contest popular narratives with historical context, empirical data, intersectional nuance, and conceptual rigor, and to express those positions in clear, persuasive writing, are valuable skills that a degree in Gender & Sexuality Studies make possible. So is the ability to hold meaningful, challenging, but mutually supportive conversation across the broad spectrum of subfields that our discipline encompasses. We will pursue those high levels of writing and conversation through our studies of scripted feature films (Atlantics, The Favourite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Us), nonfiction documentaries (Boys State, Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops, Seahorse, Time), and limited series (I May Destroy You, Mrs. America).

GNDR_ST 401-0-20: Graduate Colloquium

The Gender and Sexuality Studies Graduate Colloquium is an interactive, participatory forum for graduate students in the GSS cluster and certificate programs. Activities include the circulation and discussion of work-in-progress and a workshop for pre-professional activities, meetings with faculty in the program, presentations by recent fellowship recipients, and review of important publications by visiting scholars.

GNDR_ST 405-0-20: Advanced Feminist Theory

This seminar’s aim is to introduce students from a variety of disciplines to a range of later (post-Beauvoir) c20th and c21st book chapters, articles, and essays in feminist theory and politics. Our challenge is to gain understanding of feminist theory (and practice) not as series of progressive “waves” (much less an undifferentiated monolithic entity) but as a multifaceted academic field of continuous debate animated by contemporary problems of gender, race, sexuality, class, power, oppression, exclusion, exploitation, action, violence, sovereignty, and relations of rule within and beyond what Gayle Rubin famously called the “sex/gender system.” The seminar will politicize these problems and stage encounters through the reading and interpretation of selected authors and texts, provisionally organized according to the following approaches and genres: (1) feminist historical materialist critiques of capitalism, global capital, sexual and racial division of labor, relations of (re)production; (2) standpoint feminisms (Black, white, of color) multiple voices, subjugated knowledges, experience and consciousness, coalition building; (3) theorizing intersectionality; Black feminist critique of interlocking oppressions; racialized and gendered structures of power, politics of identity; (4) “dominance” (radical) feminism, male violence against women, female sexuality as gender oppression, masculine domination as a social system; (5) postmodern critiques of gendered subjectivity; feminism and queer theory, heteronormativity, politics of performativity, beyond-the-binary; (6) feminist new materialisms, bodies that “matter,” biopower, posthuman ontologies of becoming; (7) feminist postcolonial criticism, alterity of the subaltern, decoloniality of gender, decentering Europe and the (feminist) West; (8) feminist political theory, sexual violence and gendered sovereignty of the “postcolonial” state, the sexed citizen and the heteropatriarchal nation; (9) feminist politics, world-building, solidarity, resistance, subversion, forms of freedom. Readings include works by S Ahmed, N Alarcon, K Barad, E Barkley Brown, W Brown, J Butler, B Cooper, K Crenshaw, P Hill Collins, N Fraser, S Federici, H Hartmann, N Hartsock, KI Jackson, L Irigaray, M Lugones, C MacKinnon, B Mendoza, B Martin, U Narayan, T Reynolds, J Rose, G Rubin, C Sandoval, J Scott, A Simpson, H Spillers, G Spivak, B Theobald, E Wingrove, M Wittig, L Zerilli.

GNDR_ST 490-0-20: Sociology of Immigration

 This graduate seminar will survey the recent sociological literature on immigration. We will focus on a range of topics that include: the evolution of sociological immigration theories; the social construction of immigrants and "expats," as well as the tension between these two categories; the social construction of refugees and asylum seekers; the structural factors that propel and hinder transnational migration; the entrenchment of international borders in the era of globalization; the shifting understandings of immigrant incorporation in host societies; the emergence of transnationalism as a framework for understanding the links that immigrants maintain with their home countries; and the effects of shifting attitudes on immigration policies. We will link transnational migration to a wide range of related sociological issues, including gender, sexuality, race, economics, nationalism, nativism, culture, religion, crime, and social stratification and inequality.

Winter 2022

GNDR_ST 101-6-20: Imagining the Internet: Fiction, Film & Theory

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. There will be writing assignments in multiple formats.

GNDR_ST 231-0-20: Contemporary Women Filmmakers


GNDR_ST 234-0-20: Language & Gender

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, gender-based slurs and reclaimed epithets (e.g. "bitch" and "slut"), gender vs. sex vs. sexuality, the contested notion of ‘political correctness’, sexist/misogynist language, and the role of linguistic prescriptivism.

Spring 2022

GNDR_ST 101-6-20: Pleasure in the Archives


GNDR_ST 235-0-20: Beyond the Binary

This course is a 200-level, introductory course that explores racial formation and the boundaries and binaries of gender. This course will overview approaches to understanding gender norms and categories, as well as consider experiences, living, and contestations beyond these binaries. Particularly through reading trans*, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming histories, identities, experiences, and politics, this class will consider the possibilities and problems of categorizing “the beyond.” We will discuss shifting conceptualizations of “normal” gender, and what is assumed to defy this “normal” as embedded in the intersecting histories and legacies of race, class, sexuality, nationality, and ability. For instance, what is the relationship between race and gender that specifically shapes and forms the boundaries of gender in the US - both historically and in the contemporary moment? What is the enduring role and stakes of scholarship and discourses in the social sciences, such as anthropology, that seeks to frame the boundaries of gender? How does power in social, cultural, and political arenas impact these discourses? This course aims to recognize and understand these contested histories of gender through the lens of our current moment, and we will consider the potential and limits of visibility, representation, and inclusion that trans* activism and liberation, particularly from the legacies of trans* of color communities, has continued to challenge within coercive gender systems.

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