WOST 397L: THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF
WHITENESS AND WOMEN

Professor Arlene Avakian

Spring 2003
TuTh 2:30-3:45
OFFICE HOURS: Th 1:15-2:15, and by appointment, 208 Bartlett
email: avakian@wost.umass.edu

Designed for students who have some familiarity with the historical, economic and political bases of racism, this course will explore the social construction of whiteness, its interaction with gender, and historical and contemporary political resistance to white privilege. Goals of the course are: 1. to gain an understanding of the historical, economic and political forces responsible for the construction and maintenance of whiteness; 2. to explore the mechanisms which insure that whiteness is experienced as the norm and not as a race; 3. to explore the relationships between the constructions of whiteness and the constructions of gender; 4. to foster students' ability to position themselves on the multiple axes of race, gender and class and to help them gain an understanding of the role they play in maintaining the privileges they have; 5. to help students explore effective action to challenge white privilege.

This semester we are going to have three joint sessions with Professor Deschamps course WOST 394H, Theorizing Black Feminisms. These sessions will be arranged in the first week of class.



COURSE REQUIREMENTS

  1. CLASS PARTICIPATION: The work we do in this course will depend on the exchange of ideas that will take place in the class. Attendance is critical, and by attendance I mean coming to class ready to engage with the material having read it carefully and critically. Much of the work connecting gender to whiteness has not been done. Much of what we read will not mention women. I expect you to raise questions, and to make connections. Attendance in class, then, means more than being there; it means coming to class ready to be a participant. Since we are in a system in which your work is graded, and since I consider the class discussion to be a part of the work of the class, I will grade your work in class participation. (10%)

  2. INDIVIDUAL WRITTEN WORK: Students will be expected to write 2 five page analytic papers. Topics will be announced in class. Each paper will be 35% of the grade. (70%) Paper 1 due MARCH 6; paper 2 due MAY 8.

  3. ACTION PROJECTS: In addition to the strictly academic work of the course, students working in groups will be required to design and implement activist projects, on or off campus, to challenge white supremacy. The projects will be chosen and worked on collectively. The project design should include ways to evaluate success of project. I will devote some class time for sharing of projects -- successes and problems -- and will meet with each group outside of class. At the end of the semester each group will make a presentation to the class about the project and will be responsible for a written description and evaluation. The project will be given a group grade. (20%)

  4. DISCUSSION GROUPS: Students are required to enroll in WOST 296Q, a one credit mandatory p/f practicum which will provide a space to share emotional responses to the class material in a small group setting on a weekly basis. Groups will consist of approximately 10 students each and be facilitated by students who have taken this course. These facilitators are NOT RESPONSIBLE for the discussion. They will be there to help keep the focus on whiteness. It will be up to students in the group to come ready to share their own concerns. Each week students will be required to submit 2 copies of a 1-2 page (double-spaced, typed) journal focusing on one aspect of the material for that week. One of these copies should have your name on it and will be for the facilitator and the other should be anonymous and will be for me. They will not be graded but will be commented on by the facilitator and returned to students the next week. These journal entries are opportunities for students to work on some of the issues that come up in response to the class. Grades will be based on attendance and completion of journal entries on time. More than two unexcused absences, or more than two missed journal entries will result in a "F" for the practicum. The grade for the practicum is completely separate from the grade for the course. Only students who are registered in this class will be enrolled in the practicum.



REQUIRED BOOKS:

BOOKS ARE FOR SALE AT:
FOOD FOR THOUGHT BOOKS--E. PLEASANT STREET, AMHERST

READER IS FOR SALE AT:
COLLECTIVE COPIES--S. PLEASANT STREET, AMHERST

THE READER IS VERY EXPENSIVE SO I HAVE MADE COPIES FOR THE OFFICE AND FOR RESERVE. IN ORDER TO REDUCE THE PRICE, I HAVE ALSO TAKEN THE MOST EXPENSIVE PIECES OUT OF THE READER AND WILL GIVE THEM OUT AS HANDOUTS. THEY ARE NOTED AS SUCH ON THE SYLLABUS.

BOOKS AND READER ARE ON RESERVE IN LIBRARY AND AVAILABLE TO READ IN THE WOMEN'S STUDIES OFFICE DURING OUR REGULAR BUSINESS HOURS.

COURSE CALENDAR