What are the lived experiences, cultures and historical context of war? This course will allow students to grasp the complex national, racial, sexual and gendered mappings of war and to grapple with reconfigurations of gendered, raced, classed, sexual and national subjectivities linked to war. The global focus of this course will cover topics ranging from genocide and gang membership to transnational labor organizing, where nation-building, urban gender practices, labor regimes and production practices are often dependent on legacies of war, terror and state terror, informing everything from shopfloor relations to economic development strategies, labor migration and neighborhood geographies to anti-labor management practices in export-oriented factory production. We will compare post-September-11 migration trajectories of South Asians to earlier trajectories of Central Americans during the civil war, genocide, and state terror of the 1980s.
Traditional academic investigations of war seldom link armed conflict to practices of racialization or gendering. Construed as “organized violence between groups of people” (Osterud 2004, 1028), war has been studied in manifold and complex ways – but ways that offer little scope for concerns with race, gender, or sexuality. Engaging mainstream studies of war, feminist scholars have challenged constructions of war as gender-neutral or as “men’s business.” Illuminating the complex interplay of gender, race, nation, culture, and religion in the context of two dozen armed struggles, this course explores the raced-gendered logics, practices, and effects of war. Highlighting women’s agency even under conditions of dire constraint, the course challenges traditional stereotypes of women as perennial victims, perpetual peace makers, or embodiments of nation that men seek to protect and defend. We will examine how women negotiate their survival, enact resistance to oppressive and supposedly liberating forces, mobilize to protest war and counter its effects, participate in redefining war, and appropriate war discourses to advance their own political agendas. Incorporating cutting-edge research, the course will offer new ways of understanding war. By shifting the analytic frame from a focus on war as an instrument of statecraft and a means of destruction to war as a mode of production and reproduction, it will consider how nations are produced, contested, reproduced, and transformed through war in ways that involve racialization and gendering. Indeed, it will demonstrate that practices of racing and gendering are integral both to statecraft and to insurrection.