Course Descriptions: Selected Graduate Courses - Spring 2024

For a full list of all available WGSS classes, please see the Graduate Course Schedule.

Course Descriptions

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16:988:510 Proseminar: Technologies and Poetics of Gender and Sexuality (3 credits)

Instructor: Ed Cohen
Course Delivery: T 56 0350 P - 0650
At the time of his death from AIDS in 1984, Michel Foucault was completing the fourth volume of the History of Sexuality entitled Les Aveux de la Chair (Confessions of the Flesh).  This volume culminates Foucault’s reflections on the emergence of Western “sexuality” from the ways in which early Christian writers appropriated earlier Greek and Greco-Roman thinking, including the terms that Sigmund Freud popularized, “libido.”  In order to understand the context for Foucault’s final thoughts on sexuality—and especially the way he frames Christian sexuality as what I like to call a “mind-fuck”—we need to follow the development of his thinking through the lectures he gave at the Collège de France beginning in the early 1970s.  While it is not possible to read all of these texts in one semester, we will consider a number selectively, including Lessons on the Will to Know; Abnormal; Security, Territory, Population; The Subject and Truth; Hermeneutics of the Subject; The Government of the Self and Others, vols. 1 & 2; as well as a number of essays and interviews.   More than just a explication of these texts, we will consider the developments of Foucault’s thinking across the span of these lectures in order to both how he thinks and why he thinks thinking matters.

16:988:517; Advocacy: Tactics and Techniques (3 credits)

Instructor: Hasnaa Mokhtar
Course Delivery: M 56 0350 P - 0650
Find your voice as a feminist advocate. Learn key concepts such as heterosexism, privilege and oppression, intersectionality, and decoloniality. Explore the multiple histories, presents, and futures of varied feminist activisms and organizing across the global North and South. Develop your anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-sexist gender analysis, feminist writing, researching, and reflective participatory decision-making skills. This course will prepare you for the demands of transformative social change advocacy and will assist you in developing basic capacities such a public speaking, agenda-setting, needs assessment, harnessing free media, group facilitation, grant writing, networking, and community organizing.

16:988:561 Black Feminist Theory (3 credits)

Instructor: Brittney Cooper
Course Delivery: H 45 0200 P - 0500
Black women’s relationship to the politics of gender identity has a been a subject of both interrogation and theorization since the 19thcentury when Black women began widely publishing on matters of both race and gender. Beginning here, this graduate seminar traces the long history of Black feminist thought, arguing primarily for Black women as theorists of their own experience. We will approach Black feminisms, as a plurality, as a site of contestation, and as what Hazel Carby once called “a locus of contradiction,” which is to say there is no one-size fits all approach to Black women’s experience of or thinking about gender. After grounding ourselves in the 19thcentury, we will move forward to focus more specifically on the last fifty years of Black feminist knowledge production considering how Black women have theorized intersectionality, epistemology, affect, sexuality, hip hop, social movements, queer and trans theory, and abolition.

16:988:603 Feminist Knowledge Production (3 credits)

Instructor: Jasbir Puar
Course Delivery: W 34 1210 P - 0310
We are in the midst of political upheaval and struggles that will dominate our lifetimes and lifetimes to come: the rise of authoritarian governments under the guise of democracy; engulfing forms of disaster capitalism, climate change, and ecocide; refugee, immigration, and crises of abandoned populations; unprecedented levels of mass incarceration, policing, and counter terrorism surveillance; the consolidation of post-1971 speculative financial markets and the sustaining of US empire through privatized debt and deficit economies; repression of political protest, freedom of speech rights, and the right to assembly; the failure of human rights to stem state violence; and local, regional, transnational and global modes of resistance, refusal, and revolt.  This class focuses on theoretical texts that resonate with our contemporary political struggles and those on the horizon. Reading these works from feminist, queer, postcolonial, settler colonial, critical disability and critical race studies, we will trace the debates, dialogues and interventions pivotal to the production of feminist knowledge production over the last several decades. While only some of these books are explicitly feminist projects and/or gender studies, each is situated in a critical nexus of different inter/disciplines, field formations, intertextual debates, and genealogies of thought. Furthermore, they have been selected in part because rather than foregrounding subjectivity, subject formation, identity, or national location, they develop alternative analytics for systems and structures that span international scales--legal apparatuses, maiming as global governance, debt as spatial enclosure, the biopolitics of settler colonialism, racial capitalism, the commodification of violence--that critically engage and impact relations of gender, race, class, disability, nationhood.  In addition, we will highlight the pragmatics and materiality of the production aspect of knowledge, looking very specifically at how knowledge is dialectically and dialogically created and implicate numerous actors despite authorial attribution. We will focus on intertextual exchange, citational practices, convergences and departures from disciplinary and field norms and expectations, and the repurposing of canonical work for critical race feminist interventions, postcolonial feminist theory, and transnational feminist analysis. We will pay special attention to the literal production of knowledge, highlighting the relationships to capitalist production embedded in the elements constructing a book: the acknowledgements, the chapter structures, the marketing and circulation, the citational strategy, the form and use of footnotes, the use of primary and secondary texts and archives, the choice of press, the process of research involved in creating the text, the institutional conditions within which the project came about, the politics of tenure, recognition, and reception.