Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
AMHERST COLLEGE Fall 2013 Courses

AMST 232 – Racialization in the U.S.:  The Asian/Pacific/American Experience
Monday, Wednesday  3:00-4:20 p.m.
Sujani K. Reddy

This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to Asian/Pacific/American Studies. We will begin by looking at the founding of the field through the student-led social movements of the 1960s and ask ourselves how relevant these origins have been to the subsequent development of the field. We will then use questions that arise from this material to guide our overview of the histories, cultures, and communities that make up the multiplicity of Asian/Pacific America. Topics will include, but not be limited to, the racialization of Asian Americans through immigrant exclusion and immigration law; the role of U.S. imperialism and global geo-politics in shaping migration from Asia to the U.S., the problems and possibilities in a pan-ethnic label like A/P/A, interracial conflict and cooperation, cultural and media representations by and about Asian Americans, diaspora, and homeland politics. In addition, throughout the semester we will practice focusing on the relationships between race, gender, class, sexuality, and nation.

AMST 240 – Rethinking Pocohontas – An Introduction to Native American Studies
Tuesday, Thursday 10:00-11:20 a.m.
Kiara Vigil

From Longfellow’s Hiawatha and D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature to Disney’s Pocahontas and James Cameron’s Avatar, representations of the indigenous as “Other” have greatly shaped cultural production in America as vehicles for defining the nation and the self. This interdisciplinary course introduces students to the broad field of Native American Studies, engaging a range of texts from law to policy to history and literature as well as music and aesthetics. Film and literary texts in particular will provide primary grounding for our inquiries. By keeping popular culture, representation, and the nature of historical narrative in mind, we will consider the often mutually constitutive relationship between American identity and Indian identity as we pose the following questions: How have imaginings of a national space and national culture by Americans been shaped by a history marked by conquest and reconciliation with indigenous peoples? And, how has the creation of a national American literary tradition often defined itself as both apart from and yet indebted to Native American cultural traditions? This course also considers how categories like race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion have contributed to discussions of citizenship and identity, and changed over time with particular attention to specific Native American individuals and tribal nations. Students will be able to design their own final research project that may focus on either a historically contingent or contemporary issue related to Native American people in the United States.


Sociology/Anthropology 102 Morgan Hall 542-2193

ANTH 339 – The Anthropology of Food
Wednesday 2:00-4:30 p.m.
Deborah Gewertz

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.

Black Studies 108 Cooper 542-5800

 BLST 231 – Slave Trade Reconstruction
Tuesday, Thursday  10:00-11:20 a.m.
Hilary Moss

This course is a survey of the history of African American men and women from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries through the Civil War and Reconstruction. The content is a mixture of the social, cultural, and political history of blacks during two and a half centuries of slavery with the story of the black freedom struggle and its role in America’s national development. Among the major topics addressed: the slave trade in its moral and economic dimensions; African retentions in African American culture; origins of racism in colonial America; how blacks used the rhetoric and reality of the American and Haitian Revolutions to their advancement; antebellum slavery; black religion and family under slavery and freedom; the free black experience in the North and South; the crises of the 1850s; the role of race and slavery in the causes, course, and consequences of the Civil War; and the meaning of emancipation and Reconstruction for blacks. Readings include historical monographs, slave narratives by men and women, and one work of fiction.


Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought 208 Clark House 542-2380

LJST 374 – Norms, Rights, and Social Justice:  Feminists, Disability Rights Activists and the Poor at the Boundaries of the Law
Tuesday  2:30-4:30 p.m.
Kristin Bumiller

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.


Political Science 103 Clark House 542-2318

POSC 302 – Disabling Institutions
Tuesday, Thursday  11:30-12:50 p.m.
Kristin Bumiller

This course will consider how institutions, often contrary to their intended purposes, serve to disable individuals and limit their life potential. We will examine a variety of institutions, including state bureaucracies, facilities designed to house people with mental and physical conditions, schools, and prisons. We will also consider a range of disablements, resulting from visible and invisible disabilities as well as gender, sexuality, race and class-based discrimination. We will explore how institutions might be redesigned to less rigidly enforce normalcy and to enable the political participation of individuals who currently experience social exclusion. 


Women and Gender Studies 14 Grosvenor 542-5781

WAGS 100 – The Cross Cultural Construction of Gender
Tuesday, Thursday  10:00-11:20 a.m.
Polk, Saxton

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 121/MUSI 121 – LGBT Perspectives in Popular Music
Tuesday, Thursday  2:30-3:50 p.m.

LGBT Perspectives in Popular Music is an introduction to the ways that LGBT people and members of other sexual minorities have participated in popular music as composers, performers, and crucial audiences. In this historical survey of the recorded repertory of (mostly) American popular song, students will acquaint themselves with music in a wide range of vernacular styles and explore the social, political, and aesthetic contexts within which they have appeared. Representative figures in this respect include blues singers like Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday; composers of standards and musicals, such as Cole Porter or Stephen Sondheim; and Post-Stonewall musicians from Alix Dobkin to Rufus Wainwright. The course is designed to be welcoming to non-majors, and knowledge of musical notation and technical vocabulary is not required to enroll.

WAGS 208 – Black Feminist Literary Tradition
Tuesday, Thursday  1:00-2:00 p.m.

Reading the work of black feminist literary theorists and black women writers, we will examine the construction of black female identity in American literature. How have black women writers negotiated race, gender, sexuality, and class in theory and in literature?  What are the fissures and continuities between black feminist literary theory and black women's writing? What was the relationship between black women’s literary tradition and the canon? Finally, how has that relationship changed over time? Authors will include Toni Morrison, Hazel Carby, Dorothy West, Barbara Christian, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Hortense Spillers among others. 

WAGS 210 – Anthropology of Sexuality
Tuesday, Thursday  2:30-3:50 p.m.
Sahar Sadjadi

This course draws on anthropological literature to study the socio-cultural making of human sexuality and its variations, including theories of sexuality as a domain of human experience. It seeks to critically examine some of the most intimate and often taken-for-granted aspects of human life and locate sexual acts, desires and relations in particular historical and cultural contexts. The course offers analytical tools to understand and evaluate different methods and approaches to the study of human sexuality.  We will examine the relation of sex to kinship/family, to reproduction and to romance. As we read about the bodily experience of sexual pleasure, we will explore how sexual taboos, norms and morality develop in various cultures and why sex acquires explosive political dimensions during certain historical periods. The course will explore the gendered and racial dimensions of human sexual experience in the context of class, nation and empire. How do class divisions produce different sexual culture? What economies of sex are involved in sex work, marriage and immigration? What has been the role of sexuality in projects of nation building and in colonial encounters? When, where and how did sexuality become a matter of identity?  In addition to a focus on contemporary ethnographic studies of sexuality in various parts of the world, we will read theoretical and historical texts that have been influential in shaping the anthropological approaches to sexuality. We will also briefly address scientific theories of sexuality.

WAGS 232/SPAN 232 – Strange Girls:  Spanish Women’s Voices
Tuesday, Thursday  2:30-3:50 p.m.

This course is conducted in Spanish. Although at times derided as abnormal "chicas raras," Spanish women have carved out a particular niche in the history of Spanish literature.  These novelists, poets, essayists and short story authors have distinguished themselves by tackling issues of sexuality, subjectivity, isolation, sexism and feminism head-on.  But how do we define an escritura femenina in Spain and what, if anything, differentiates it as a gendered space from canonical "masculine" writing?  This course examines the social, historical and cultural transformations women have undergone in Spain from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century.  We will explore a variety of texts and literary genres by authors such as Rosalia de Castro, Carmen Laforet, Carmen Martín Gaite, Ana Rosetti and Dulce Chacón. In addition, students will create their own canon by becoming the editors of an Anthology of Spanish Women's Writing.

WAGS 271/ENGL 271/BLST 332/FAMS 374 – Reading Popular culture:  Girl Power
Thursday 1:00-4:30 p.m.

Girl Power is the pop-culture term for what some commentators have also dubbed “postfeminism.”  The 1990s saw a dramatic transformation in cultural representations of women’s relationships to their own sense of power.  But did this still rising phenomenon of “women who kick ass” come at a cost?  Might such representations signify genuine reassessments of some of the intersections between gender, power, and the individual?  Or are they, at best, superficial appropriations of what had otherwise been historically construed as male power?  With such questions in mind, this class will teach students to use theoretical and primary texts to research, assess, and critique contemporary popular culture.  Each student will also be trained to produce a critical multimedia project. 

WAGS 310/ARHA 385/EUST 385 – Witches, Vampires and Other Monsters
Tuesday, Thursday  10:00 – 11:20 a.m.

This course will explore the construction of the monstrous, over cultures, centuries and disciplines. With the greatest possible historical and cultural specificity, we will investigate the varied forms of monstrous creatures, their putative powers, and the explanations given for their existence-as we attempt to articulate the kindred qualities they share. Among the artists to be considered are Valdés Leal, Velázquez, Goya, Munch, Ensor, Redon, Nolde, Picasso, Dalí, Kiki Smith, and Cindy Sherman.

WAGS 313/ASLC 329 – Fashion Matters:  Clothes, Bodies and Consumption in East Asia
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 410 – Gender and HIV/AIDS
Wednesday  2:00-4:00 p.m.
Sahar Sadjadi

This seminar explores the gender dimension of the HIV epidemic in the U.S. and globally, and the role of socio-economic, political and biological factors in the shaping of the epidemic. This course encourages students to think about AIDS and other diseases politically, while remaining attentive to their bodily and social effects. We will engage with AIDS on various scales, from the virus and T cells to the transnational pharmaceutical industry, and from intimate sexual relations to the political economies of health care. We will consider the processes by which some groups of people become more vulnerable to the epidemic than others and we will read about the power dynamics involved in negotiations over condom use. Global processes that guide our investigation include the feminization of poverty, the neoliberal economic restructuring of health systems and the politics of scientific and medical research on AIDS. In addition, the course examines the role of social movements in responding to the epidemic.

WAGS 467/POSC 467 – Social Movements, Civil Society and Democracy in India
Wednesday  2:00-4:00 p.m.
Amrita Basu

The goal of this seminar is illuminate the complex character of social movements and civil society organizations and their vital influence on Indian democracy. Social movements have strengthened democratic processes by forming or allying with political parties and thereby contributed to the growth of a multi-party system. They have increased the political power of previously marginalized and underprivileged groups and pressured the state to address social inequalities. However conservative religious movements and civil society organizations have threatened minority rights and undermined secular, democratic principles. During the semester, we will interact through internet technology with students, scholars and community organizers in India.