Women's Studies courses, Amherst College, Fall 2009

Womens and Gender Studies 14 Grosvenor 542-5781
Asian Languages 110 Webster 542-5841
Anthropology 109 Shattuck Hall 538-2257
Classics Grosvenor 542-2189
English 309 Skinner Hall 538-2377
Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought 208 Clark House 542-2380
Political Science 103 Clark House 542-2380
Psychology 321 Merrill 542-2318
Sociology 205 Morgan Hall 542-2193


WAGS 02-01 – Global Politics of Gender
Manuela Picq
Tuesday, Thursday  2:00-4:30 p.m.

This course is designed to provide students with a solid understanding of the mechanisms by which international norms of gender equality and women’s rights develop and are implemented, with a special emphasis on discourses and practices of international human rights. The course analyzes international treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and addresses issues regarding domestic violence, political participation, reproductive rights, economic opportunities, and modern slavery, among other gendered problems. Bridging gender and global politics, we explore the ways international norms are transported from the United Nations to the daily reality of women throughout the world, and how states, civil society and institutions collaborate (or not) to promote women’s rights where they are most needed.

WAGS 03-01 – Gender/Ethnicity in Latin America
Manuela Picq
Tuesday, Thursday  11:30-12:50 p.m.

This course explores gender and ethnicity in Latin America, focusing on the tension between universal rights and cultural rights. The first part maps the daily lives of indigenous women across the region, looking at indigenous women in Central America (Mexico and Guatemala), the Andes (Ecuador, Chile, and Bolivia) and the Amazon (Shuar, Huaorani). We look at socio-economic indicators, gender-based violence, and political participation, while taking into consideration history and culture. In the second part of the course, we examine the ways social and political movements (e.g., agrarian reform, democratic, and environmental movements, the New Left), and, most recently, discourses of indigenous rights (e.g., Ecuador’s Pachakutik) have affected them and their communities over time. Through various case studies, such as that of Rigoberta Menchú in Guatemala, we analyze women’s capacity to maneuver politics of identity to advance their rights as women and as Indians. The third part pays special attention to the issue of minorities within minorities and the debate between universalism and cultural relativism. This section explores issues such as indigenous justice and the discrepancies between international norms of gender and the inequalities prevailing in indigenous practice. Through the lenses of gender, this course offers a window on the complexity of Latin America.

WAGS 11-01 – Construction of Gender
Kristin Bumiller, Martha Saxton
Tuesday, Thursday  10:00-11:20 a.m.

This course introduces students to the issues involved in the social and historical construction of gender and gender roles from a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspective. Topics change from year-to-year and have included women and social change; male and female sexualities including homosexualities; the uses and limits of biology in explaining human gender differences; women’s participation in production and reproduction; the relationship among gender, race and class as intertwining oppressions; women, men and globalization; and gender and warfare.

WAGS 13-01/ASLC 29– Fashion Matters
Paola Zamperini
Monday, Wednesday  12:30-1:50 p.m.

This course will focus on both the historical and cultural development of fashion, clothing and consumption in East Asia, with a special focus on China and Japan. Using a variety of sources, from fiction to art, from legal codes to advertisements, we will study both actual garments created and worn in society throughout history, as well as the ways in which they inform the social characterization of class, ethnicity, nationality, and gender attributed to fashion. Among the topics we will analyze in this sense will be hairstyle, foot-binding and, in a deeper sense, bodily practices that inform most fashion-related discourses in East Asia. We will also think through the issue of fashion consumption as an often-contested site of modernity, especially in relationship to the issue of globalization and world-market. Thus we will also include a discussion of international fashion designers, along with analysis of phenomena such as sweatshops.

WAGS 38-01/CLAS 38-01 – Greek Drama
Frederick Griffiths
Monday, Wednesday  2:00-3:20 p.m.

This course addresses the staging of politics and gender in selected plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, with attention to performance and the modern use of the plays to reconstruct systems of sexuality, gender, class, and ethnicity. We also consider Homer's Iliad as precursor of tragedy, and the remaking of plays in contemporary film, dance, and theater, including Michael Cacoyannis, The Trojan Women; Rita Dove, The Darker Face of the Earth; Martha Graham, Medea and Night Journey; Pier Paolo Pasolini, Oedipus Rex and Medea; and Igor Stravinsky, Oedipus Rex.

WAGS 40-01/ASLC 40-01 – Flower in the Mirror: Writing Women in Chinese Literature
Paola Zamperini
Tuesday, Thursday  11:30-12:50 p.m.

The focus of this course will be texts written by women throughout the course of Chinese history. We will deal with a wide range of sources, from poetry to drama, from novels and short stories to nüshu (the secret script invented by peasant women in a remote area of Hunan province), from autobiographies to cinematic discourse. We will address the issue of women as others represent them and women as they portray themselves in terms of gender, sexuality, social class, power, family, and material culture. We will try to detect the presence and absence of female voices in the literature of different historical periods and to understand how those literary works relate to male-authored literary works. In addition to primary sources, we will integrate theoretical work in the field of pre-modern, modern and contemporary Chinese literature and culture.

ANTH-35-01 – Gender: Anthropological Perspective
Deborah Gewertz
Wednesday  2:00-5:00 p.m.

This seminar provides an analysis of male-female relationships from a cross-cultural perspective, focusing upon the ways in which cultural factors modify and exaggerate the biological differences between men and women. Consideration will be given to the positions of men and women in the evolution of society, and in different contemporary social, political, and economic systems, including those of the industrialized nations.

ANTH-39-01 – The Anthropology of Food
Deborah Gewertz
Monday 2:00-5:00 p.m.

Because food is necessary to sustain biological life, its production and provision occupy humans everywhere. Due to this essential importance, food also operates to create and symbolize collective life. This seminar will examine the social and cultural significance of food. Topics to be discussed include: the evolution of human food systems, the social and cultural relationships between food production and human reproduction, the development of women’s association with the domestic sphere, the meaning and experience of eating disorders, and the connection among ethnic cuisines, nationalist movements and social classes.

ENGL-60 – Sexuality and History in the Contemporary Novel
Judith Frank
Tuesday, Thursday  11:30-12:50 p.m.
A study of American and British gay and lesbian novelists, from 1990 to the present, who have written historical novels. We will examine such topics as the kinds of expressive and ideological possibilities the historical novel offers gay and lesbian novelists, the representation of sexuality in narratives that take place before Stonewall, and the way these authors position queer lives in history. Novelists include Sarah Waters, Emma Donoghue, Jeanette Winterson, Leslie Feinberg, Alan Hollinghurst, Colm Tóibín, and Michael Cunningham.

LJST 74/POSC 74 – Norms, Rights, and Social Justice: Feminists, Disability Rights Activists and the Poor at the Boundaries of the Law
Kristin Bumiller
Tuesday  2:00-4:00 p.m.

This seminar explores how the civil rights movement began a process of social change and identity-based activism. We evaluate the successes and failures of “excluded” groups’ efforts to use the law. We primarily focus on the recent scholarship of theorists, legal professionals, and activists to define “post-identity politics” strategies and to counteract the social processes that “normalize” persons on the basis of gender, sexuality, disability, and class.

SOCI-21-01 – Sociology of Family
Elizabeth Souza
Tuesday, Thursday  2:00-3:20 p.m.

This course assesses sources and implications of changes in family structure, focusing primarily on contemporary family relationships in America.  It explores historical antecedents of current arrangements and delves into cross-cultural examples as well.  Social class, gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity serve as filters for examining this essential social institution, with the goal of better understanding shifting attitudes toward family and the interactions among family and other social institutions.

PSYC-71-02 – Gender
Rose Olver
Wednesday 2:00-4:30 p.m.

In this section the study of gender will be used as a basis for the students' work described above.  We will begin with an examination of controversies about the definition and the sources of gender and will review a variety of theoretical perspectives--biological, evolutionary, psychoanalytic, social learning, cognitive--which offer differing conceptualizations and explanations of gender and gendered behaviors.  Each student's own library research will be focused on a topic within a specific realm in which psychological gender differences have been reported, for example, mental abilities, motor behaviors, communication, and more.