Course Descriptions: Selected Graduate Courses - SPRING 2021

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

Course Descriptions

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16:988:510; Technologies and Poetics: Live Thinking

Instructor: Ed Cohen
Course Delivery: Synchronous Remote, W 4pm-7pm

“[I]f thought and knowledge are inscribed within life so as to regulate it—as is the case with man—this very life cannot be the blind and stupid mechanical force that one likes to imagine when one contrasts it to thought.” Georges Canguilhem 


To form concepts is a way of living, not of killing life.

Michel Foucault

Declarative? Imperative? Interrogative? The title of this course gestures towards the complication—if not the confusion—that the conjunction of living and thinking inspire.  In the introduction to the Use of Pleasure, the second volume of the History of Sexuality, Foucault explains the vital implications of thinking:

There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks, and perceive differently than one sees, is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all. . . . In what does [philosophy today] consist if not in the endeavor to know how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently, instead of legitimating what is already known?


Adopting Foucault’s intellectual ethos, we will ask: what relation does life bear to/on thought and thought to/on life? And (how) does thinking differently entail living differently and vice versa?  In order to ruminate on these questions in a lively way, the syllabus will engage some key moments in the philosophical reflections on the relations between life and thought, including the following:

Henri Bergson. Creative Evolution

Georges Canguilhem. The Knowledge of Life

Michel Serres. The Natural Contract

Giorgio Agamben. The Open; Bernard Stiegler, “Take Care”

Nikolas Rose. The Politics of Life Itself

Melinda Cooper. Life as Surplus

Vincenne Despret. What Animals Would Say If We Asked the Right Questions

Francois Jullien. Vital Nourishment

Isabelle Stengers. In the Time of Catastrophes

Samantha Frost. Biocultural Creatures

Julie Livingston. Self-Devouring Growth

Robin Wall Kimmerer. Braiding Sweetgrass

16:988:525; Colloquium in WGSS: Trans and Sex/Gender Nonconforming Lives: A Global Approach

Instructor: Asli Zengin
Course Delivery: Asynchronous Remote

This graduate seminar traces out the terrain of “transgender” and its historical and contemporary articulations across the globe from an interdisciplinary perspective. Social, cultural, political, and historical changes will be our focus to gain a deeper insight into the formation and circulation of “transgender” as a category, as well as into trans and sex/gender transgressive lives, deaths, identities, and politics. A range of topics that we will cover includes racialization and racism, neoliberal capitalism, incarceration, ecology and environment, medicine and health, law and violence, security and surveillance, mobility and migration, arts and imagination, and futurity as they relate to transness and sex/gender nonconformity.

16:988:535 (cross-listed as 01:988:405); Gender and Human Rights

Instructor: Charlotte Bunch
Course Delivery: Synchronous Remote Th 2:15pm-5:15pm

This course offers students an opportunity to learn the basic history and discourse of women’s human rights. It will cover United Nations instruments of human rights law, the reframing of women’s rights as human rights as an example of feminist theory in action, and the application of human rights to issues of gender-based violence, health, and sexuality.

It is grounded in the experience of the global movement for women's human rights and the diverse voices from around the world that have shaped it over the past two decades.

16:988:582; Feminist Genealogies: Decolonial Thinking and Indigenous

Instructor: Evelyn Autry
Course Delivery: Synchronous Remote M 11am- 2pm

The course begins by contextualizing the recent feminist turn towards decoloniality in Latin America. In the first part of the course, we begin to make sense of what decoloniality entails by learning more about coloniality, as articulated by exponents of the Modernity/Coloniality Research Program. As we will see, coloniality has repercussions that exceed theory and academia. Coloniality structures all aspects of people’s lives, from their ways of thinking and being to how they organize labor and reproduction. In the second part of the course, we will engage thinkers like María Lugones and Julieta Paredes who, while theorizing the oppressive structures of coloniality, situate their thinking in what Gloria Anzaldúa calls the borderlands to theorize practices of resistance. In the last portion of the course, we will focus on Indigenous Latin American women who explore new epistemologies and practice decolonial feminism.

16:988:603; Feminist Knowledge

Instructor: Kyla Schuller
Course Delivery: Synchronous Remote T 2:15pm-5:15pm

Feminist and Gender studies as an academic field is primarily characterized by its orientation, rather than its objects. While gender is a key area of study, the most fundamental intervention Gender Studies makes concerns the act of producing knowledge itself. It challenges the biopolitical worldview that sees secular rationality as the only reliable method of discovering truth and overturns the hierarchical relationships between subject and object, observer and observed, culture and nature. Learning to think with the core accomplishments of feminist epistemologies will be a key theme of the seminar. We explore how feminist knowledge production interrogates the relationship of the ways of knowing to power, truth, and the material world. Can feminist scholarship be at once attentive to the social construction of all knowledge while still holding onto a notion of truth and reality? These are pressing concerns in light of climate crisis and the Disinformation Age.

We will look at feminist interventions into epistemology from a variety of genres and perspectives: decolonial, spiritual, fictional, creative nonfiction, artistic, and activist. Weekly 1-page response papers will be required. Due to the demands of the pandemic, the schedule will include 1-week breaks every 3-4 weeks. Final projects will include the opportunity to write a research paper or produce a form of public knowledge.