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Health Activism

How do conceptions of “health” relate to ideological assumptions about gender, race, class, and sexuality?  In this course, we will explore these questions through a close examination of activist movements that have attempted to challenge contemporary conceptions of health and models of disease. Case studies will include the 19th century birth control and eugenics movements, the 1970s women’s health movement(s) and the ongoing “pro-life” and reproductive rights/justice movements, ACT UP and AIDS activism, breast cancer and environmental activism, and mental health activism in the era of psychopharmacology. In each case, we will consider how activists frame the problem, the tactics they use to mobilize a diverse group of social actors around the problem, and their success in creating a social movement that challenges contemporary medical models and the ideological assumptions that inform them. The course also introduces students to recent interdisciplinary scholarship on social movements.