BA MA Track
Women in Leadership
Naomi Klein
Women in Leadership
Naomi Klein
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Welcome to the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Undergraduate Spring 2014 Courses

Click here to view the undergraduate Spring 2014 schedule.

Course Descriptions:

01:988:201:01 Feminist Practices

MW4 (2:15-3:35 pm) RAB-207 C/D

Professor: Mary Hawkesworth

The 2011 “Slutwalk” in major cities around the world, the creation of a thrift shop in the poorest neighborhood in Hong Kong, activism against biopiracy, the rural reconstruction movement, the slow food movement, the creation of gender quotas for public office in more than 100 nations, a demand for inclusion at the World Social Forum, the prison abolition movement, the annual 16 Days Campaign against Violence Against Women, Riot Grrrls, the creation of women’s police stations in Brazil, Code Pink, Women in Black, Take-Back-the-Night rallies, the mobilization to preserve Douglass College (the women’s college at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey), transnational campaigns against femicide in Central America, the global campaign for sexual democracy, Sister Namibia’s campaign against political homophobia, the three-year GEAR campaign to establish UN Women, V-Day performances of Vagina Monologues, DIY ‘zines, the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court—all are examples of recent and continuing feminist practices. What do these practices have in common? What exactly makes them “feminist?” What is their relation to Women’s and Gender Studies or to knowledge production more generally? This course is designed to explore such questions.

Feminism is a vibrant tradition that has contributed to intellectual ferment, cultural enrichment, and social transformation in all regions of the world for at least five centuries. Feminism is also a highly contested term—meaning very different things to those who caricature and repudiate it and to those who embrace the label. Some define feminism as a network of practices designed to eliminate women’s economic, political, and social subordination. But many men and women endorse those goals while rejecting the feminist label. How do women and men who identify as feminist differ from those who do not?  What is at stake in claiming the feminist label?

Feminist practices involve social change projects inside and beyond the academy. Whether within the university or in larger national and global contexts, feminist projects entail challenging established relations of power (critique), envisioning alternative possibilities (theory), and activism to change social relations. Women’s and Gender Studies is often called the “academic arm” of feminism for it challenges what is believed to be “known” about women,  men, and gender non-conformers, demonstrating that established “knowledge” is often shaped by research that takes men’s lives as the unquestioned standard, omitting or distorting women’s and transgender experiences. As an interdisciplinary field, Women’s and Gender Studies seeks to correct distortions created when women are omitted from the study of the world. Taking diverse forms of feminist practice as its focal point, the course investigates how to study the complexity of women’s and men’s lives in ways that take race, gender-power, ethnicity, class, and nationality seriously. The course will also show how such feminist knowledge production challenges long-established beliefs about the world.


01:988:202:02 Gender, Culture, Representation: Cinema

M7&8 (6:10-9:00pm) SC-101 CAC

Instructor: Kathe Sandler

This course will explore race, gender, and sexuality in cinema from the 1980s to the present with a focus on the work of Black women independent filmmakers. Films by Julie Dash, Cheryl Dunye, Aishah Simmons, Michele Parkerson, Dee Rees, Mickalene Thomas, and Zina Saro-Wiwa among others will be explored. We will consider these works through a range of cultural critics and scholars including bell hooks, Michele Wallace, Jacqueline Bobo, Janell Hobson, Moya Bailey, Salimishah Tillet, and a range of online writers at The Crunk Feminist Collective, Racialicious, The Root, Ms. and Colorlines.


01:988:255 Gender, Art, and Society - ONLINE

Professors: Katherine Griefen (2 sections) and Yelena Kalinsky (1 section)
45 cap/minimum 30

Have you realized that when you walk through a museum, most of the artists whose work you are viewing are men? Yet women have played a major role in shaping art past and present, both as artists, patrons and models. This course will introduce you to women artists, their achievements, and impact. It will also introduce you to the social and cultural reasons for the neglect of women in the visual arts and how that neglect is being remedied today. In addition, this course will introduce you to more general concepts involved in gender representation throughout history, developing a global perspective. Course work will involve online assignments and discussions as well as a final assignment.


01:988:257 Gender and the Body: Representation and Pornography -­ ONLINE

Professor: Tara Burk (2 sections)
45 cap/minimum 30

This course will examine how the body has been represented in art and visual culture, as well as in pornography and consider the range of ways the nude body and pornography exist in contemporary art. We will explore the ways theories, such as feminism, critical race theory, queer theory, have shaped our cultural perspectives on what has been imaged. Artistic intention in relation to representing the body and the ways ideas about gender have shaped the depictions and portrayals will be discussed, as well as understanding the divisions between anti-porn and sex-positive theorists. We will learn about the key players in feminist art history, women’s and gender studies, sexuality studies, film theory, and cultural history who had a role in defining and expanding the categories we use to discuss these images. Course work will involve online assignments and discussions as well as a final assignment.

01:988:258 Gender, Race and Contemporary Art -­ ONLINE

Professor: Katherine Griefen (1 section)
45 cap/minimum 30

UPDATED MATERIALS! This course explores how contemporary American artists use their works to investigate issues relating to the intersection of gender and race through cultural production. In examining these issues, we will explore various art historical and critical approaches to the interpretation of works by artists such as Frida Kahlo, Adrian Piper, Deborah Grant, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Elia Alba, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems and many others. The course considers a number of issues in analyzing the relationship between artistic production and race such as: the racial dynamics that influenced the history of art and visual culture; lack of representation in visual and popular culture; how ethnic self-­definition differs from racial identity and how it converges with class and race; how and when have images function to problematize, deconstruct, or interpret race. Course work will involve online assignments and discussions as well as a final assignment.

01:988:259 Homosexuality and Visual Culture - ONLINE

Professor: Katherine Griefen (2 sections)
45 cap/minimum 30

How has history been changed by queer artists? This course will introduce you to the central role of homosexuality and homoeroticism in visual culture in the distant and recent past as well as the present day. You’ll learn about the marginalization of GLBTI artists and how, even when seemingly secret or invisible, they continued to participate directly in cultural production. You’ll also learn about the ways artists, critics, and patrons remedy censorship. Through this course you’ll develop the skills to discuss critical theory about queerness. Course work will involve online assignments and discussions as well as a final assignment.

01:988:305:01 Women and Art
[Same as: 01:082:305:01]

TTH4 (1:10-2:30) ZAM-MPR CAC

Professor: Joan Marter

This course focuses on women artists of the modern and contemporary period, and begins with the study of paintings by women from the 16th to the 19th centuries. We will consider how gender issues are encoded in images of women. Readings explore the socio-political context for the creation of women's art. The course will include two quizzes, a midterm, and final exam.

Students will also write a short paper as a review of a current exhibition. Visits to galleries in Chelsea and museums will feature works by contemporary women artists. The gallery visits include transportation and are considered “extra credit.”

There are no prerequisites in art history necessary for this course.


01:988:341:01 Gender & Popular Culture
[Pre-req: 988:101, 201, 202, 235 or permission]
Professor: Annie Fukushima

TTH4 (2:15-3:35) ARH-100 C/D

What would a feminist, queer critique of the 1% look like? What are the gender, race, and sexual politics of mass culture, or in other words, the entertainment of the 99%? We will take up these questions by looking at race, gender, and sexuality in contemporary popular culture, especially television and film.

Our contemporary era is characterized by extreme wealth inequality, the rise of global finance capital, free trade, the deregulation of the private sphere, the growth of the prison industrial complex, and the erosion of support for public services such as education. This stage of capitalism, which we entered in the late 1970s, is called neoliberalism. We will examine contemporary popular culture in order to understand how we experience neoliberalism not only as a distant economic structure, but also as an aspect of our intimate, daily lives. As Lisa Duggan explains in the course’s one required book, The Twilight of Equality, neoliberalism functions in part through reinforcing race and gender inequality. In other words, we won't take race, gender, and sexual difference for granted as stable identity categories, but rather, will examine how these notions of difference are processes that produced in Hollywood films, best-selling teen novels, and television shows. We will attend to the ways that ideas of race, gender, and sexuality are used in ways that both reinforce and destabilize the accumulation of wealth among the 1% and upper classes.

Analyzing films and TV shows such as The Kids are Alright, Gossip Girl, Avatar, and The Hunger Games, we will explore how popular culture has engaged with major features of neoliberalism, such as the proliferation of prisons, the war on terror, and the mainstreaming of gay marriage. Taking our cue from the British Cultural Studies tradition, we will look at culture as political ideology and commodity, investigating the story each text tells as well as its conditions of production, distribution, and reception. For example, when looking at reality TV, we will also learn about how Mexican women are organizing for better labor conditions in the Tijuana factories that produce most of the world’s television sets. Students will gain practice in analyzing visual texts, making connections between culture and the wider historical context, and analyzing how race, gender, and sexuality function as manifestations of contemporary capitalism. Students will write one or two papers and prepare a final presentation on a film or TV show of their choosing. Students will be required to screen films, at times of their own choice, at the Douglass Media Center.


01:988:366:01 Black Women Writers: The Making of Tradition
[Same as: 01:350:371:01]

M7,8 (7:15-10:05) HCK-211 C/D

Professor: Abena Busia

The objective of this course is to introduce the ways in which Black women writers in the USA, through the course of the twentieth century, negotiated being "Africans" in the New World. Whether as "Negroes," "Colored People," "Blacks" or "African Americans," these women developed strategies of resistance and survival that are reflected in their works and arguably create a tradition of writing that survives. With origins in spirituals and sacred writing, folk tales and the spoken word, their writings teach us the ways in which women writers as cultural workers respond to the circumstances of being Black in the US through the course of the twentieth century. By looking at the continuing legacy of different forms of writing including long and short fiction, sacred and secular life writings, drama, poetry and song we will trace how they answered the question posed by Countee Cullen at the beginning of the twentieth century on what it means "to make a poet black, and bid [her] sing."

The writings to be studied will span the twentieth century and will include such works as short stories and essays by Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Cade Bambara, novels by Nella Larson, Paule Marshall and Toni Morrison, plays by Lorraine Hansberry and Ntozake Shange and selected poems and songs from throughout the century.

The class will make use of documentary film, audio and video recordings of the writers, and a range of cultural forms from recipes and quilts to music, dance and sculpture to place the writers in the contexts of their times, and to illuminate the cultural contexts of their lives.


01:988:396:02 Topics in W&GS: Feminist Art & Politics

[Same as 01:351:361:01]

TTH5 (3:55-5:15) RAB-206 C/D

Professor: Harriet Davidson

The great feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich who passed away in 2012 had an immense impact on both feminist art and ideas. In this class we will look at her long career reading both her poetry and prose and will think about the role of art in a political movement. We will look at some of the artists around Richother poets such as Audre Lorde, as well as visual artists, performance artists and musicians trying to change the way gender and sexuality and finally the human and non-human are understood. 

Some of the topics we will cover will include affect theory and the use of emotion in art, the expansion of feminism into issues of race and class, and the growth of a new kind of ecopoetics out of feminist concerns with the body and a new way of thinking about the human. Always central will be the examination of how different kinds of representation, different kinds of media give us different understandings of the world.

Part of the work for this course will be creative: that is, in addition to some writing projects, students will develop their own political art  project.


01:088:413:90 Health Consequences of Global Trade in Pharmaceuticals - ONLINE

Professor: C. Moutsatsos

Multinational pharmaceutical companies remain the primary developers of new drug regimens. The health effects of drug research and development, however, vary markedly from one region of the world to another. This course explores the political economy of the global pharmaceutical industry, analyzing the geopolitical distribution of burdens and benefits.It examines ethical issues such as clinical trials on populations in the Global South, continuing sales of drugs across the Global South after they have been banned in the North, disproportionate investment in drugs for minor health problems while serious diseases affecting the poor remain insufficiently studied; inadequate vaccine development and manufacture; restrictions on the distribution of life-saving generic drugs in third world countries; overuse of antibiotics and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the role of pharmaceutical lobby in influencing healthcare within particular nations.


01:988:414:90 Gendered Professions and the Transnational Care Economy - ONLINE

Professor: K. Coogan Gehr

Nursing and teaching—two women-dominated professions—lie at the heart of the “care economy.” Involving work that requires intensive physical labor, person-to-person communication, and spatial proximity, the intimate nature of care work resists mechanization. In contrast to the production of commodities, the highly personalized labor of care is driven by human need rather than profit maximization. This course provides an overview of distinctive gendered professions whose object of labor is the human subject. In nursing and teaching, skill entails the effective exercise of professional judgment. Focused on the cultivation and preservation of human capacities, this professional labor resists routinization and automation. In addition to examining the distinctive nature of these caring professions, the course explores recent efforts to heighten the profit-making potential of the care economy, and it considers the long-term implications of efforts to deskill and outsource care work.


01:988:485:01 Motherhood: Nature and Culture, Policy and Politics

T2&3 (10:55-1:55) RAB-204 C/D

Professor: Mary Trigg

This class will draw on novels, photography, film, magazines and journals, and sociological and historical literature to investigate the representations and realities of diverse mothers in the United States. We will consider historical contexts as well as contemporary policy and politics that shape the experiences of mothers and the ways we interpret and judge their lives and needs. Special attention will be paid to immigrant mothers, African American mothers, and low-income mothers in the twentieth-century and contemporary US. Students will write two short papers or one longer paper, the choice will be theirs. 


988:490:01 Seminar in Women's and Contemporary Issues: Gender, Race, and Performance During the Harlem Renaissance
[Pre-req: 988:301 or 302, or 303]

T5&6 (3:55-6:55) HCK-123 C/D

Professor: Cheryl Wall

This multidisciplinary course analyzes the fabled cultural awakening among African Americans during the 1920s and 1930s. It focuses on the performance of gender and race identity in literature, popular culture, and the visual arts. As often as not, this performance subverted the rhetoric of uplift adopted by the leaders of the New Negro movement. The course examines the ways that blues singers such as Alberta Hunter, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith, as well as jazz performers including Josephine Baker, Gladys Bentley and Bricktop redefined gender and race identity in the United States and abroad; it also analyzes their influence on the content and form of African American literary production. In addition to a rich selection of poems, short stories and essays from the period, the class will read novels by Jessie Fauset (Plum Bun), Langston Hughes (Not Without Laughter), and Nella Larsen (Quicksand) that fictionalize the experiences of artists and entertainers.

Students will write a critical paper (5-7 pp.) on a literary text and create a project combining music, slides, and video, along with critical commentary, that responds to the themes of the course.







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