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Course Descriptions (2023-24)

FALL 2023 | WINTER 2024 | SPRING 2024 | SUMMER 2024

Fall 2023

GNDR_ST 101-7-1: Coalitional Politics & Case studies from Chicago and beyond: archiving the past for the present

"In this seminar, we explore several 1970s-era projects in Chicago and beyond that exemplify a coalitional feminist politics and consider the usefulness of this history in an increasingly polarized present. We will read histories of this period and memoirs by movement participants, but our focus will be on engaging in collective archival research and, ultimately curating collections of (8-10) documents that aid us in recuperating these instances of successful coalition building across anti-war, women’s and gay liberation, and black power/ethnic nationalist movements, as well as the intersectional politics that informed these collaborative projects. The seminar will meet in Special Collections and will introduce students to the practice of archival research as well as the remarkable range of archival materials housed in Special Collections, which might form the basis for research projects during your four years at Northwestern. Our final class project will be to collectively curate an exhibition of our findings that will be exhibited in the Main Library at the end of Spring Quarter. Over the course of the quarter, we may host a class visitor and, if covid protocols allow, go on a field trip to the Chicago Women’s Health Center (established in 1975 and still going strong!) to explore current coalitions and projects that build on this legacy.

Cases: Anti-Vietnam war movement; Gay and lesbian/feminist liberation movements in Chicago and at Northwestern; Chicago’s first “Rainbow Coalition” (which included the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, and Young Patriots and Rising Up Angry); Chicago’s free clinic movement; and reproductive rights/justice projects in Chicago."

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

This interdisciplinary introductory lecture/discussion course surveys the sprawling topics of sex, sexuality, and sexuality studies. It is one of two courses intended as introductions to the Gender and Sexuality Studies major. In addition to considering the multiple ways in which sexuality is simultaneously a somatic fact, a locus of identity; a site of regulation, contestation, and sociability—and, of course, an arena of pleasure—explicit attention will also be paid to the work of Northwestern scholars in different disciplines (history, sociology, anthropology, literature…) and the ways they formulate and attempt to answer questions about sexuality. Major questions will include: what makes a body male or female, homosexual or heterosexual, “normal” or “deviant” and how have the answers to those questions changed over time? Is the history of sexuality one of increasing liberation? How is the policing of sexual behavior related to the (re)production of other social categories such as race, gender, and adolescence?

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 235-0-20: Beyond the Binary

This introductory course explores the boundaries and binaries of gender, sexuality, race, and disability. This course will analyze approaches to understanding gender norms and identity categories, as well as consider experiences and contestations beyond these binaries. Particularly through reading trans, non-binary, and genderqueer histories, experiences, and politics, this class will consider the possibilities and problems of categorizing “the beyond.” We will discuss shifting conceptualizations of “normal” as it pertains to identity and embodiment, 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 United States? What possibilities and realities exist beyond the binaries of straight/gay, Black/white, abled/disabled, citizen/non-citizen? How does power in social, cultural, and political arenas impact these discourses? This course aims to recognize and understand these contested histories through the lens of our current moment.

GNDR_ST 321-0-20: Female Pleasure: Feminism & the Sexological Tradition

In this course we will read key sexological texts, each of which articulates a position on female pleasure as part of a more comprehensive theory of female (& male) sexualities, including work by Havelock Ellis (1890s-1920s), Sigmund Freud (1905-1930s), Alfred Kinsey (1953) Masters & Johnson (1966), Shere Hite (1976) and the Berman sisters (2000s). We will read these alongside contemporaneous feminist statements, position papers, and manifestos that articulate (or link) female pleasure to explicitly feminist political positions and liberation projects, such as Emma Goldman’s treatises on ‘free love’ (1911), Anne Koedt’s “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm” (1970), and Rubin’s “Thinking Sex” (1984). Our goal will be threefold. We will work to distinguish between multiple theories on the ‘nature’ of female pleasure and the assumptions about gender and sexuality that inform each. Feminist statements on female pleasure will aid us in assessing the political stakes and effects of contemporaneous scientific theories of female sexuality as we consider how particular conceptions of “good sex” get hitched to visions of “liberation.” We will consider these positions on female pleasure in their historical context in relation to several trajectories: the durability of some formulations and the relative evanescence of others, the unsettled rapport between sexological and feminist projects, and ongoing debates over the “nature” of sexuality itself.

GNDR_ST 321-0-21: Medieval Sexuality

Christian theorists were convinced that human sexuality underwent an irreversible debasement as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. Their negative assessment has remained with us until the present day. This course will grapple with the both the origins of this negative bequest as well as some of the anomalies of the medieval tradition. For example, despite the insistence that heterosexuality was ordained by God, the disparagement of physicality and women led to the institutionalization of clerical celibacy in the West. This, in turn, fostered a gay subculture. Likewise, despite the theoretical insistence on a separation between the sexes that was even present in the afterlife, these same theorists not only praised “virile women,” but occasionally celebrated cross-dressing in female saints! This course will examine the institutions and ideas that dominated the construction of gender in the Middle Ages. It will also lend insight into not one, but many, “sexualities.”

GNDR_ST 331-0-22: Political Sociology: Gender & Politics

This class will investigate how gender shapes politics and policy, and how these in turn shape gender, primarily in the United States. I aim also to provide comparative and global context. 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. We examine some of the gendered aspects of the political landscape in the contemporary United States, with class input on which issues to explore. 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 an society. These are supplemented by films and online resources.

GNDR_ST 332-0-21: Race/Gender/Sex & Science: Making Identities and Differences

How do developments in the life sciences affect our understandings of who we are, how we differ, and how social inequalities are created, perpetuated, and challenged? This seminar explores how scientific claims and technological developments help transform cultural meanings of race, gender, and sexuality. Conversely, we will consider how cultural beliefs about race, gender, and sexuality influence scientific knowledge and medical practice. By studying controversies, we will explore the dynamic interplay among expert findings, social identities, and political arguments.

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 Trans-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 361-0-20: Feminist, Queer, Crip: South Korea & Its Discontents

This course examines contemporary discussions on the topics of gender, sexuality, and disability in South Korea. The past decade has seen an explosion of popular interest in feminism in South Korea. Along with this were competing debates on social and economic inequalities and legislations, as well as debates on gender identity, everyday experiences of discrimination, and overlooked sites of intersectional violence. As the scholar Alison Kafer has poignantly shown, thinking through the entanglements of feminist, queer, and disability concerns is important to rethinking exclusionary claims and their attendant problems. Students will explore how queer and crip frameworks trouble and deepen feminist debates, and situate these frameworks in relation to Korea’s history of militarism, war, and migration. Course materials include scholarship on feminist, queer, and crip theories beyond the Korean context, novel and short stories, TV show, news articles, and films.

No prior knowledge of the Korean language or culture is necessary. Student participation, discussion, and peer collaboration are important aspects of this course, and all students will be encouraged to speak in class.

Img Credit: still from "Planet of Snail" (2011)

GNDR_ST 361-0-21: American Girlhood

What does it mean to be an American Girl? The phrase itself has spawned a lucrative line of dolls and other merchandise, but long before the rise of American Girl dolls, authors used the figure of the ‘girl’ to make claims about the imagined future of the nation. What kinds of ideas about race, gender, sexuality, and class underpin these fantasies about who the American girl is? How does literature about the ‘American girl’ further white, colonial ideas of nation building or protest against these norms? In this class, we will study key texts about American girlhood from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to examine how the girl is deployed as a figure making and remaking claims about the nation. We will read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie–texts which fantasize about being universal texts of American girlhood while in reality putting forth a vision of whiteness–against contesting visions of girlhood found in texts such as Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig, the first novel published by an African-American woman, and Zitkala-Ša’s American Indian Stories. We will pair these texts alongside critical readings from scholars in childhood studies.

Texts: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (ISBN: 9780140390698), Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (ISBN: 9780064400022), Our Nig by Harriet Wilson (ISBN: 0143105760), American Indian Stories by Zitkala-Ša (ISBN: 0142437093), How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez (ISBN: 9781565129757), and Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (ISBN: 0241433983).

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 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 such as Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Michael Warner and Lauren Berlant. We will 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. Using Cultural Studies methodologies, we will analyze several works of fiction and film as theoretical productions.

GNDR_ST 382-0-20: AfroFeministFutures

This course invites students to explore feminist speculative fiction as a site for social justice advocacy. Students will read classic feminist and afrofuturist science fiction as they prepare their own original short stories for publication. Drawing heavily on the work of feminist afrofuturist Octavia Butler, students will engage imaginative narratives that allow them to think through solutions to the problems of our time. Students will explore the genre elements of short stories and speculative fiction, ultimately integrating these lessons into their own short stories. This is a writing and reading intensive class.

GNDR_ST 390-0-20: Witches, Bots, and Trolls: Misinformation in Society

This course surveys the social scientific study of misinformation in society. We will query the past to learn about how misinformation has evolved over time as a sociocultural feature of human societies. We will interrogate the present to examine how misinformation figures in the defining political, social, and economic problems of our time. And we will imagine the implications of misinformation for the future and explore our agency in shaping that future. We will draw on case studies, documentaries, and anthropological and social scientific literature on rumor and gossip, conspiracy theories, post-truth politics, deradicalization, and social media to explore topics and concepts such as "fake news," digital populism, algorithmic bias, weaponized disinformation, the "infodemic," deep fakes, and more. Case studies may include COVID-19, election, and climate change denialism; political conspiracy theories from the French Revolution to QAnon; troll farms and other tactics of information warfare; and the role of misinformation in current controversies over sexual & racial politics.

GNDR_ST 390-0-21: 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 390-0-22: Deportation Law & 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 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.

GNDR_ST 490-0-21: Cults, Communes, and Congregations

This course invites graduate students to consider the differences and similarities between cults, communes, and congregations through an exploration of multiple media. Through podcasts, documentaries, films, and more we will explore the borders between high control group types, taking special care to consider the communication strategies specific to each. Students will develop a mock high control group with principles and values, developing communication strategies for the proliferation of their groups’ ideas. Students will present their high control groups to a virtual audience at the end of the term.

GNDR_ST 490-0-22: The Archive, Performance, and Queer Method

The ephemeral, itinerant nature of queer and minoritarian performance raises significant questions regarding research methods: How does one study an aesthetic form that is always slipping away from grasp? How does (and should) one research performance cultures and communities that have been excluded from, or actively avoid capture within, institutional and imperial archives? Does performance stand opposed to and against the archive and/or in what ways do archives perform? With visits to archives (NU Special Collections and the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago) and other institutional holdings (the Block Museum), this course will train students in experimental approaches to, and critiques of, method. Authors studied may include Lisa Lowe, Diana Taylor, Saidiya Hartman, Jodi Byrd, José Esteban Muñoz, Alexandra Vazquez, Daphne Brooks, Tavia Nyong’o, D. Soyini Madison, and Jennifer Doyle.

GNDR_ST 490-0-23: Queer Pleasure & Politics

This course focuses on queer politics and personhood as differently articulated and practiced across diverse cultural contexts. Focusing on how a range of pleasures, desires, intimacies, attachments, and practices of care present an outside to cis-heteronormativity, the course examines the ways that queerness challenges colonial, national, and capitalist projects. Specifically, we focus on ethnographic and historiographic works that push the boundaries of queer theory, exploring the blurred lines between what constitutes LGBTQIA+ activism and de-colonial practices of living otherwise to cis-heteronormativity.

GNDR_ST 490-0-24: Reading Gender Otherwise: Indigenous Movements and Literature in “Latin America”

This course draws from queer and trans Indigenous feminist frameworks to interrogate gender as a social structure that mobilizes all forms of sociopolitical oppression. Through them, we will consider the role that literature plays in Abiayala (Guna Language meaning "the Americas" [literally, "continent of plenitude and maturity]") as a gendered form of resistance. Topics will vary and may include indigenous cosmovision and coloniality; hegemony, ontology and ethnogenesis; as well as identity politics, indigenous resistance and revitalization, among others.