Amherst College Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies courses, Fall 2011

WAGS 200-1 - Feminist Theory
Krupa Shandilya
Monday, Wednesday  8:30-9:50 a.m.

In this course we will investigate contemporary feminist thought from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. We will focus on key issues in feminist theory, such as the sex/gender debate, sexual desire and the body, the political economy of gender, the creation of the "queer" as subject, and the construction of masculinity, among others. This course aims also to think through the ways in which these concerns intersect with issues of race, class, the environment and the nation. Texts include feminist philosopher Judith Butler's Gender Trouble, anthropologist Kamala Visweswaran's Fictions of Feminist Ethnography, and feminist economist Bina Agarwal's The Structure of Patriarchy.

WAGS 207 - The Home and the World:  Women and Gender in South Asia
Amrita Basu, Krupa Shandilya
Monday, Wednesday  12:30-1:50 p.m.

This course will study South Asian women and gender through key texts in film, literature, history and politics. How did colonialism and nationalism challenge the distinctions between the “home” and the “world” and bring about partitions which splintered once shared cultural practices? What consequences did this have for postcolonial politics? How do ethnic conflicts, religious nationalisms and state repression challenge conceptions of “home”? How have migrations, globalization and diasporas complicated relations between the home and the world? Texts will include Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown, Ram Gopal Varma’s epic film Sarkar and Partha Chatterjee’s The Nation and Its Fragments.

WAGS 252/HIST 252 – Women’s History, America:  1607-1865
Martha Saxton
Tuesday, Thursday  11:30 – 12:50 p.m.

This course looks at the experiences of Native American, European and African women from the colonial period through the Civil War. The course will explore economic change over time and its impact on women, family structure, and work. It will also consider varieties of Christianity, the First and Second Awakenings and their consequences for various groups of women. Through secondary and primary sources and discussions students will look at changing educational and cultural opportunities for some women, the forces creating antebellum reform movements, especially abolition and feminism, and women’s participation in the Civil War.

WAGS 313/ASLC 329 – Fashion Matters:  Clothes, Bodies and Consumption in East Asia
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 362/HIST 397/ASLC 363 – Women in the Middle East
Monica Ringer
Tuesday, Thursday  11:30-12:50 p.m.

The course examines the major developments, themes and issues in woman’s history in the Middle East. The first segment of the course concerns the early Islamic period and discusses the impact of the Quran on the status of women, the development of Islamic religious traditions and Islamic law. Questions concerning the historiography of this “formative” period of Islamic history, as well as hermeneutics of the Quran will be the focus of this segment. The second segment of the course concerns the 19th- and 20th-century Middle East. We will investigate the emergence and development of the “woman question,” the role of gender in the construction of Middle Eastern nationalisms, women’s political participation, and the debates concerning the connections between women, gender, and religious and cultural traditions. The third segment of the course concerns the contemporary Middle East, and investigates new developments and emerging trends of women’s political, social and religious activism in different countries. The course will provide a familiarity with the major primary texts concerning women and the study of women in the Middle East, as well as with the debates concerning the interpretation of texts, law, religion, and history in the shaping of women’s status and concerns in the Middle East today.

ANTH 339 – The Anthropology of Food
Deborah Gewertz
Wednesday  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.

GERMAN 349 – Witches:  Myth and Reality
Kyle Frackman
Monday, Wednesday  12:30-1:50 p.m.

This course examines the historical construction of the witch and the context of the women (and men) labeled as witches. Our main topics will be: European Pagan religions and the spread of Christianity; the “Burning Times” in early modern Europe, with an emphasis on the German situation; 17th-century New England and the Salem witch trials; the images of witches in folklore and fairy tales in the context of the historical persecutions; and some contemporary Wiccan/witch practices in their historical context.  Readings are drawn from documentary records of the witch persecutions and witch trials, literary representations, scholarly analyses of witch-related phenomena and themes, and essays examining witches, witchcraft, and the witch persecutions, including from contemporary feminist and/or neo-Pagan perspectives.  Readings and discussions will be supplemented by related material taken from current events in addition to visual material (videos, slides) drawn from art history, early modern witch literature, popular culture, and documentary sources.

HIST 432 – Gender, Class and Crime:  The Victorian Underworld

Victorian Britain was a nation of contrasts. It was at once the world’s foremost economic and imperial power, the richest nation in Europe, and the country where the consequences of industrialization – slums, poverty, disease, alcoholism, sexual violence – took some of their bleakest forms. In an era of revolution, Britain enjoyed one of the most stable political systems in Europe; yet it was also a society plagued by crime and by fears of popular unrest, the place where Marx predicted the worker’s revolt would begin. This seminar explores the complex world of the Victorians through a focus on what contemporaries termed the “social problem”: the underclass of criminals, paupers, and prostitutes who seemed immune to reform. Themes will include political Liberalism and the Poor Law, imperialism at home and abroad, industrialization and urbanization, sanitation, hygiene, and disease control initiatives, shifting cultural understandings of gender and class, and Jack the Ripper.

RELI 222 – Religious Ethics and Human Rights

This course examines central issues in the relationships between several religious traditions and human rights.  The first two-thirds of the course is largely theoretical: we explore some of the most influential religious and philosophical criticisms of human rights, assess several proposed theories of human rights, and survey the approaches to justifying human rights of three religious traditions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  In the remaining third of the course we will consider several contemporary human rights debates in which religion is centrally or frequently involved.  These may include women's rights, sexual orientation, religious violence and terrorism, religious freedom, and the role of religion in politics and public law.

PSYCH – Sex Role Socialization
Rose Olver
Wednesday  2:00-4:20 p.m.

An examination of the processes throughout life that produce and maintain sex-typed behaviors. The focus is on the development of the psychological characteristics of males and females and the implications of that development for participation in social roles. Consideration of the biological and cultural determinants of masculine and feminine behaviors will form the basis for an exploration of alternative developmental possibilities. Careful attention will be given to the adequacy of the assumptions underlying psychological constructs and research in the study of sex differences.

LJST 374/POSC 474 - 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.

LJST 349 – Law and Love
Martha Umphrey
Thursday  2:00-4:00 p.m.

At first glance, law and love seem to tend in opposing directions: where law is constituted in rules and regularity, love emerges in contingent, surprising, and ungovernable ways; where law speaks in the language of reason, love’s language is of sentiment and affect; where law regulates society through threats of violence, love binds with a magical magnetism. In this seminar, placing materials in law and legal theory alongside theoretical and imaginative work on the subject of love, we invert that premise of opposition in order to look for love’s place in law and law’s in love. First we will inquire into the ways in which laws regulate love, asking how is love constituted and arranged by those regulations, and on what grounds it escapes them. In that regard we will explore, among other areas, the problematics of passion in criminal law and laws regulating sexuality, marriage, and family. Second we will ask, how does love in its various guises (as, philia, eros, or agape) manifest itself in law and legal theory, and indeed partly constitute law itself? Here we will explore, for example, sovereign exercises of mercy, the role of equity in legal adjudication, and the means that bind legal subjects together in social contract theory. Finally, we will explore an analogy drawn by W. H. Auden, asking how law is like love, and by extension love like law. How does attending to love’s role in law, and law’s in love, shift our imaginings of both?

PoSC 217 – Domestic Politics
Kristin Bumiller
Tuesday, Thursday  11:30-12:50 p.m.

This course will explore the domestic sphere as a site of politics. We will define the domestic sphere broadly, including politics in the home, private life, indigenous culture, and internal versus foreign affairs. The principle questions addressed will include: How does the boundary defining the private sphere shift over time and what are the forces driving these changes? How is the domestic sphere seen as a site of safety versus danger? What are the consequences of the intervention of state power and policing into private life? How are power relations within the private sphere interconnected with privilege and status in the public domain? Our attention will be focused on the social construction of gender, race and ethnic identities, and local/grassroots activities. A wide range of issues will be covered regarding the social organization of families, domestic violence, local/urban politics, the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities, disadvantaged communities, policing, political activism, and domestic and “homeland” security. The course will examine these issues primarily in the context of American politics and society.