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Whose Body Is It Anyway? A Cultural History of the 20th Century

This course explores the history of the body as a site and as a means for the social construction of gender, race, sexuality, class, and modern selfhood. We will touch on topics as diverse as prostitution, pornography, and other aspects of the sex industry; medical technologies such as birth control, gender reassignment, and aesthetic surgery; and historic shifts in social categories that we commonly attribute to an unchanging biology of race, sex, disability, and health. Our goal is to understand “body history” in a way that not only illuminates the past but also interrogates the received wisdom that governs how we live our lives. Readings include cultural theory and fiction, as well as scholarship in history , anthropology , sociology , and gender studies. The course is also designed to expose students to the tools and techniques of historical research and writing.