AMHERST COLLEGE COURSES - Spring 2010

Women and Gender Studies, 413-542-2352
Black Studies, 413-542-5800
English, 542-2231
History, 542-2229
Political Science, 413-542-2318
Religion, 413-542-2181


WAGS 04 - The Political Economy of Gender in Latin America
Manuela Picq
Wednesday  2:00-4:30 p.m.

Latin America has the greatest extremes of wealth of any region in the world, and gender is one of the most important factors leading to this inequality. The study of gender therefore offers a valuable window into the socio-economic structures and political systems of the region. Bringing together the disciplines of comparative politics, political economy, and gender, this course proposes to analyze the gender implications of economic and political reforms at large in Latin America, from the military dictatorships of the 1970s through the democratization of the 1980s, the neoliberal reforms of the 1990s, and the New Left. We will also explore the history and geography of women's rights in terms of political participation, agrarian reform, informal economics, reproductive rights, welfare policies, migration, and human trafficking. Beyond women's rights, the class offers a larger analysis of social movements and the politics of contestation in Latin America, the movements’ interactions with state actors and the impact of changing markets on women's empowerment.


WAGS 07 - Gender and the Environment


Manuela Picq
Tuesday, Thursday  11:30-12:50 p.m.

This interdisciplinary course lies at the intersection of gender and environmental studies. Exploring different regions of the world from Latin America to South East Asia, we will study the impact of environmental degradation on women's security, dealing with such themes as access to water, resource governance, and how access to resources such as firewood, food, and property affect education and health. The course also explores political ecology and diverging discourses on conservation and resource management by analyzing the engendering of international norms and practices in the U.N. system and beyond. Lastly, the course looks at the securitization of gender in global politics, pointing to the central role of women's agency in promoting environmental security and peace-making.


WAGS 24 - Gender Labor


Michele Barale, Rose R. Olver
Monday, Wednesday  12:30-1:50 p.m.

In this course we will explore the intimate relations of gender and labor: both the necessary labor of genders’ production as well as the gendered organization of labor itself. In general the course will use gender to focus on contemporary concerns in the American workplace--class, ethnicity, sexuality, and race--but will also make critical comparisons with developments in other nations. The biological labor of reproduction and its intersection with the labor of production will necessarily be a constant concern in our discussions. We shall have to become familiar with certain terms: glass ceiling, glass escalator, mommy-track, affirmative action, child care, sexual harassment, welfare to workfare. We certainly might want to ask what constitutes work? But we also might need to wonder if work is done for love, is it still work?

WAGS 26 - Women and the Law in Cross-Cultural Perspective
Margaret R. Hunt
Tuesday, Thursday  10:00-11:20 a.m.

Historically the law has functioned as much to differentiate women from men as to assert their similarities. This course will explore the variety of types of laws (natural law, religious law, statute law, customary law, and the like) that have been used to regulate women’s lives and try to assess the philosophies that lie behind them. Family law, especially where it pertains to marriage, divorce, married women’s property, domestic assault, custody, and so forth, will receive special attention through a comparison of Western European and American legal traditions with Muslim shari’a law, both in the past and the present. The course will look closely at the law and law enforcement as they pertain to female sexuality, and assess issues to do with women criminals as well as women as victims of specific types of criminal acts such as rape. It will examine what happens to women when (a) legal structures break down, as in war, and (b) when “the law” becomes a tool of racial, ethnic, religious, sexual or gender repression. Finally, it will address the extent to which “changing the law” succeeds as a strategy for empowering women by looking at several key legal campaigns involving women in both Western and non-Western settings.  Sources will include religious writing (such as the Book of Leviticus from the Bible and the second and fourth surahs of the Qur’an), transcripts of court cases from a variety of times and places, historical writings on adultery and prostitution, biographical accounts of female criminals, and contemporary discussions in various media pertaining to the human rights of women and sexual minorities.

WAGS 32/POSC 24 - Human Rights Activism
Amrita Basu, Martha Saxton
Tuesday, Thursday  2:00-3:20 p.m.

This course is intended to give students a sense of the challenges and satisfactions involved in the practice of human rights work as well as a critical sense of how the discourses calling it forth developed and continue to evolve. We intend to provide specific historical and cultural context to selected areas in which human rights abuses of women and men have occurred, and to explore how differing traditions facilitate and inhibit activism within these areas. The semester will begin by exploring the historical growth of human rights discourse in Europe and the United States, culminating in the emergence of the post-World War II Universal Declaration. We will then turn to the proliferation of these discourses since the 1970s, including the growing importance of non-governmental organizations, many of them internationally based, the use of human rights discourse by a wide range of groups, and expanding meanings of human rights including new conceptions of women’s human rights. The third part of the course will explore criticisms of human rights discourses, particularly the charge that for all their claims to universalism, these discourses reflect the values of European Enlightenment traditions which are inimical to conceptions of rights and justice that are grounded in culture and religion. Throughout the course, rights’ workers will discuss their own experiences, abroad and in the U.S., and reflect on the relationship between their work and formal human rights discourse.


WAGS 55/ ENGL 32 - Medieval Love, Sex, Marriage
Amanda A. Walling
Monday, Wednesday, Friday  10:00-10:50 a.m.

This course will examine the literary and cultural meanings of love, sexuality, and marriage in the Middle Ages, with a primary focus on late medieval England.  We will explore such phenomena as “courtly love,” bawdy humor, and the place of romantic love in marriage, while we also consider how various authors use the language and concepts of love to explore deeper questions of power, identity, and literary purpose.  We will read and discuss selected texts from the Arthurian tradition and from the works of John Gower and Geoffrey Chaucer, as well as assorted religious texts, love poems, comic tales of adultery, and debates about the sinfulness of women.  Readings will be in translation or in Middle English (of which no prior knowledge is required).


WAGS 61/BLST 25/POSC 29 - Women and Politics in Africa
Catharine Newbury
Monday, Wednesday  2:00-3:20 p.m.

This course will explore the genesis and effects of political activism by women in Africa, which some believe represents a new African feminism, and its implications for state/civil society relations in contemporary Africa. Topics will include the historical effects of colonialism on the economic, social, and political roles of African women, the nature of urban/rural distinctions, and the diverse responses by women to the economic and political crises of post-colonial African policies. This course will also explore case studies of specific African countries, with readings of novels and women’s life histories as well as analyses by social scientists.

WAGS 62/ ASLC 63/HIST 62- Women in the Middle East
Monica M. Ringer
Tuesday, Thursday  2:00-3:20 p.m.

The course examines the major developments, themes and issues in women’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.


WAGS 85/POSC 85 - States of Poverty


Kristin Bumiller
Tuesday  2:00-4:30 p.m.

In this course the students will examine the role of the modern welfare state in people’s everyday lives. We will study the historical growth and retrenchment of the modern welfare state in the United States and other Western democracies. The course will critically examine the ideologies of “dependency” and the role of the state as an agent of social control. In particular, we will study the ways in which state action has implications for gender identities. In this course we will analyze the construction of social problems linked to states of poverty, including hunger, homelessness, health care, disability, discrimination, and violence. We will ask how these conditions disproportionately affect the lives of women and children. We will take a broad view of the interventions of the welfare state by considering not only the impact of public assistance and social service programs, but the role of the police, family courts, therapeutic professionals, and schools in creating and responding to the conditions of impoverishment. The work of the seminar will culminate in the production of a research paper and students will be given the option of incorporating field work into the independent project. This course fulfills the requirement for an advanced seminar in Political Science.
Requisite: Some previous exposure to background material. Admission with consent of the instructor.


BLST 37/ENGL 52 - Caribbean Poetry: The Anglophone Tradition
C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander
Monday, Wednesday  8:30-9:50 a.m.
(component)

A survey of the work of Anglophone Caribbean poets, alongside readings about the political, cultural and aesthetic traditions that have influenced their work. Readings will include longer cycles of poems by Derek Walcott and Edward Kamau Brathwaite; dialect and neoclassical poetry from the colonial period, as well as more recent poetry by women writers and performance (“dub”) poets.


ENGL 47 - The Rise of the English Novel


Judith E. Frank
Tuesday, Thursday  2:00-3:20 p.m.
(component)

Exploring the relations between literary form and socioeconomic change, this course examines the rise of the novel in England in the context of the rise of capitalism.  Topics of discussion will include the novels’ portrayals of subjectivity, the representation of female experience, the role of servants in the imaginary worlds of novels by ruling-class authors, and the early novel’s affinity for and relation to criminality.  Novels by Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Burney and Edgeworth.


ENGL 62 - Studies in Nineteenth-Century American Literature – Emily Dickinson


Karen J. Sanchez-Eppler
Tuesday  2:00-5:00 p.m.

 “Experience is the Angled Road / Preferred against the Mind / By–Paradox–the Mind itself–” she explained in one poem and in this course we will make use of the resources of the town of Amherst to play experience and mind off each other in our efforts to come to terms with her elusive poetry.  The course will meet in the Dickinson Homestead, visit the Evergreens (her brother Austen’s house, and a veritable time capsule), make use of Dickinson manuscripts in the College archives, and set her work in the context of other nineteenth-century writers including Helen Hunt Jackson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Jacobs.  But as we explore how Dickinson’s poetry responds to her world we will also ask how it can speak to our present.  One major project of the course will be to develop exhibits and activities for the Homestead that will help visitors engage with her poems.


HIST 09 - Nineteenth-Century America
Martha Saxton
Tuesday, Thursday  11:30-12:50 p.m.
(component)

A survey of American history from the early national period to the turn of the century, with an emphasis on social history. The course will trace the growth of slavery, the dispossession of Native Americans, Civil War and Reconstruction, the rise of postwar large-scale industry, and big cities. Topics will include changing ethnic, racial, gender, and class relations, the struggles between labor and capital, and the emergence of middle-class culture. The format will include lectures and weekly discussions; readings will be drawn from both original and secondary sources.


HIST 05 - Britain and British Imperialism Since 1815
Michal Shapira
Tuesday, Thursday  10:00-11:20 a.m.
(component)

The course covers the historical transformations of the first modern, industrial nation with the largest empire in the world. We will examine the social, cultural, political, intellectual, and artistic developments in Britain and beyond since 1815. Topics will include industrialization and city life; Victorian culture, society, and sexuality; social reform; imperialism and colonial expansion; mass politics, democratization, and suffragette militancy; WW I, trench warfare and the home front; modernity and the 1920s; WW II and the Blitz; the rise of the welfare state; postwar culture and music; decolonization and post-colonial immigration; Thatcherism and New Labour, and the relationship between Britain and America. We will pay special attention to the history of marginalized people, including women, immigrants, and sexual, racial, and religious minorities. Course materials will include novels, newspaper articles, images, and films.


POSC 01 - Political Identities


Amrita Basu
Tuesday, Thursday  11:30-12:50 p.m.
(component)

The assertion of group identities based on language, region, religion, race, gender, sexuality, and class, among others, has increasingly animated politics cross-nationally. However, the extent to which identities become politicized varies enormously across time and place. We will explore what it means to describe an identity as political. This exercise entails assessing the conditions under which states, civil societies, and political societies recognize certain identities while ignoring or repressing others. In other words, it entails analyzing the ways in which political processes make and remake identities. What do groups gain and lose from identity-based movements? And what are the broader implications of identity-based movements for democratic politics?

POSC 56 - Regulating Citizenship
Kristin Bumiller
Wednesday  1:20 – 5:30 p.m.
(component)

This course considers a fundamental issue that faces all democratic societies: How do we decide when and whether to include or exclude individuals from the rights and privileges of citizenship? In the context of immigration policy, this is an issue of state power to control boundaries and preserve national identity. The state also exercises penal power that justifies segregating and/or denying privileges to individuals faced with criminal sanctions. Citizenship is regulated not only through the direct exercise of force by the state, but also by educational systems, social norms, and private organizations. Exclusion is also the result of poverty, disability, and discrimination based on gender, race, age, and ethnic identity. This course will describe and examine the many forms of exclusion and inclusion that occur in contemporary democracies and raise questions about the purpose and justice of these processes. We will also explore models of social change that would promote more inclusive societies. This course will be conducted inside a correctional facility and enroll an equal number of Amherst students and residents of the facility. Permission to enroll will be granted on the basis of a questionnaire and personal interview with the instructor.

RELI 46 - Inquisition, Heresy, and Popular Culture
Scott C. Sessions
Tuesday  2:00-4:30 p.m.
(component)

This seminar explores the history and legacy of institutions and practices developed by the Roman Catholic Church to address heresy from the twelfth to nineteenth century. Using a combination of primary and secondary materials, we will examine the legal and theological foundations of heresy inquisition, the methods and procedures employed, the movements and offenses pursued, and the experiences and testimonies of men and women involved in such proceedings. Focusing on cases from various European polities and colonial dominions, we will address issues such as religious conformity and social control, the changing nature of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, the efficacy of evangelization and the sincerity of conversion, race, gender, class, and cultural dynamics, and the use of inquisition records as a window into popular beliefs and practices. Attention also will be given to pertinent scholarly interpretations and debates, related church pronouncements, and critically examining the image of “The Inquisition” in literature, the arts, and popular discourse.