Women's and Gender Studies
The Institute for Research on Women and Gender offers courses in feminist texts, women's literature, women's and gender studies, gay and lesbian studies, women and art and film, and black women in America.
For questions about specific courses, contact the department.
For questions about specific courses, contact the department.
Globalization has both shrunk the world and broadened the impact of cultural meanings. Drawing on women directors from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, this course analyzes emerging aesthetics, trends and debates shaping cinemas of the Global South. The course explores the work of key women filmmakers (from the Global South) as they forge a visual semantics in a celluloid landscape dominated by male directors.
Course NumberWMST 2530
PrerequisiteStudents registering for this course are required to attend the screening and commentary on Tuesdays 6:10-8:55 pm, and lecture and discussion section on Thursdays 9:10-10:50 am. Enrollment limited to 20 students.
WMST BC3117 Film and Feminism is part of the "CCIS Critical Inquiry Lab: Theorizing Diasporic Visuality" with AFRS BC3110 Theorizing Diasporas (Instructors: Tina Campt and May Joseph). "Theorizing Diasporic Visuality," is the first CCIS Critical Inquiry Lab - an innovative series of linked courses sponsored by the Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies (CCIS). This year's lab links Prof. Tina Campt's (Barnard Africana/Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies [WGSS]) Africana Studies colloquium, AFRS BC3110 Theorizing Diasporas, with May Joseph's (Pratt Social Science and Cultural Studies) WGSS course, WMST BC3117 Film and Feminism. Because cinematic visuality is an increasingly powerful tool for influencing public opinion across international borders, this course will train students in essential skills in visual literacy and reading, and provide fluency in the theoretical vocabularies of Diaspora Studies and feminist film theory and analysis. The Lab will use films by and about women in the quotidian conditions of the African Diaspora to teach students how gender and racial formation are lived in diaspora, and to engage the diasporic visual practices women mobilize to represent themselves. The course is structured around a Tuesday evening film series featuring African women filmmakers and presentations by filmmakers, curators, and visual artists and seminar discussion on Thursday mornings. Students may enroll by registering for either AFRS BC3110 or WMST BC3117.
Course NumberWMST 3117
PrerequisiteStudents registering for this course are required to attend the screening on Tuesdays 6:10-9:00 pm, and lecture and discussion section on Thursdays 9:00-10:50 am. Enrollment limited to 25 students.
Examines roles of black women in the U.S. as thinkers, activists and creators during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Focusing on the intellectual work, social activism and cultural expression of African American women, we examine how they understood their lives, resisted oppression and struggled to change society. We will also discuss theoretical frameworks (such as "double jeopardy," or "intersectionality") developed for the study of black women. The seminar will encourage students to pay particular attention to the diversity of black women and critical issues facing Black women today. This course is the same as AFRS BC3121 Black Women in America.
Course NumberWMST 3121
PrerequisiteStudents must attend first day of class and admission will be decided then. Enrollment limited to 20 students.
Explores the international character of the Jewish people through the experiences of Jewish women in various historical periods and contexts. Identifies issues and concerns, past and present, articulated by contemporary Jewish feminists: perspectives of secularists, observant traditional women, heterosexuals, lesbians, feminists, and activists committed to diverse political ideologies.
Course NumberWMST 3122
This introduction to sexuality studies is an examination of the historical origins, social functions, and conceptual limitations of the notion of “sexuality” as a domain of human experience and a field of power relations. Sexuality is often taken to be a natural and unchanging element of individual life. In this course, we seek to examine the ways in which sex is both social and political. We will consider how sexuality has been socially constructed, paying careful attention to the ways these ideas relate to other social forces such as gender, race, and class.
Course NumberWMST 3125
Investigates the significance of contemporary and historical issues of social, political, and cultural conflicts centered on women's bodies. How do such conflicts constitute women, and what do they tell us about societies, cultures, and politics? - D. Ko
Course NumberWMST 3132
Times/LocationTu 2:10p - 4:00p
502 Diana Center
Enrollment16 of 25
InstructorRebecca Young, Janet Jakobsen
How does one talk of women in Africa without thinking of Africa as a ‘mythic unity’? We will consider the political, racial, social and other contexts in which African women write and are written about in the context of their located lives in Africa and in the African Diaspora. This course is the same as AFRS BC3134 Unheard Voices: African Women's Literature.
Course NumberWMST 3134
PrerequisiteEnrollment limited to 14 students.
"What is a 'normal' childhood under a dictatorship? Focusing on the last Argentine military dictatorship (1976 – 83), the seminar examines the memory of childhood experience in sociocultural, historiographic and cinematographic approaches. Topics include childhood as political subject, public policy aimed at children, children of the disappeared and everyday life.
Course NumberWMST 3506
PrerequisiteLimited to 20 students.
Develops historical strategies for uncovering the significance of gender for the cultures and contents of Western science. We will consider how knowledge is produced by particular bodies in particular spaces and times.
Course NumberWMST 3509
This course examines how the body functions as an analytic model and a process of embodiment by focusing on the black female body in particular. Looking at feminist theorizing of the black body, it explores how the black female body has been marked in particular ways and with profound effects.
Course NumberWMST 3510
PrerequisiteStudents must attend first day of class and admission will be decided then. Enrollment limited to 20 students.
This course explores the history, politics, and social meaning of sex work. Focusing particularly but not exclusively upon prostitution, we will pay careful attention to the diverse range of social experiences which form sex work, as well as the way in which prostitution is utilized as a governing metaphor within sexual relations more generally. Some questions the course will consider: How has sex work changed over time, and what do these changes tell us about both the nature of sex work and about the broader society? In what ways is sex work similar to or different from other forms of service labor or other types of intimate relationship? How do questions of race, class, sexuality and gender alter the meaning and experience of sex work? What sorts of desires and expectations do clients bring to interactions with sex workers, and in what ways have these shifted over time? Recent controversies concerning sex trafficking and underage prostitution will also be addressed, as will the effects of various regulatory schemes which have been developed around the world.
Course NumberWMST 3519
PrerequisiteEnrollment limited to 15 students.
The integration of contemporary media and social practices of all types is intensifying. This seminar examines media theory and various media platforms including Language, Photography, Film, Television, Radio, Digital Video, and Computing as treated by feminists, critical race and queer theorists, and other scholars and artists working from the margins.
Course NumberWMST 3530
Times/LocationW 4:10p - 6:00p
308 Diana Center
Enrollment15 of 18
The course will examine how masculinities and femininities are produced, remade, expressed and negotiated through theories of materiality and affect and relate them to relevant ethnographic examples of such processes (for example masculine soundscapes and edible portraits of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on chocolate pralines). We will explore gender in relation to the multifaceted dynamic processes unfolding in North Africa in the aftermath of earlier political fluxes, as well as today’s instabilities and unrest and tomorrow’s politics. Materiality and non-discursive forces, what can be called affective politics, impact our sense of belonging and desire for comfort in times of chaos, religious and political instability. Specifically we will focus on forces of affect and the material aspects of its public manifestation—the materiality of affect—through tangible manifestations of affects of passion: hate and love: two opposed but interlinked “emotions of revolution”, as well as their sibling, fear. The same material experiences can produce materialized emotions such as love or hate depending on specific political and social positioning within the larger polity. Passion is at once a phenomenological state and an extremely fluid currency of social, political and economic transaction. The experience of passion morphs continuously, changing valence while passing from hand to hand, body to body, circumstance to circumstance.
Course NumberWMST 4440
This seminar examines contemporary issues of sex work and trafficking into forced prostitution, with emphasis on implications for human rights and health. The class explores the use of ethnographic and social research methods in producing complex and culturally grounded descriptions of diverse combinations of work, sexuality, migration, and exploitation, globally and in the US. The seminar also considers the relationship between social research and the development of policy and interventions. Historical background, gender theory, and current legal frameworks are also examined. Prerequisite: introductory class in gender or sexuality studies, or introduction to human rights. *Enrollment by permission of the instructor, email instructor directly firstname.lastname@example.org
Course NumberWMST 6001
Prerequisiteintroductory class in gender or sexuality studies, or introduction to human rights. Instructors permission.
This is a course for graduate students who are thinking about issues in teaching in the near and distant future and want to explore issues of pedagogy. The course will ask what it means to teach “as a feminist,” as well as to create a classroom receptive to issues of feminist method and theory regardless of course theme/content. It will discuss issues of feminist pedagogy including the role of political engagement, the gender dynamics of the classroom, and modes of critical thought and disagreement. Discussions can be oriented around student interest.
Course NumberWMST 8001
Investigates socially and historically informed critiques of theoretical methods and practices of the sciences. It asks if/how feminist theoretical and political concerns make a critical contribution to science studies.
Course NumberWMST 4311
PrerequisiteFeminist Theory or permission of instructor.
Times/LocationTu 10:10a - 12:00p
117 BARNARD HALL
Enrollment6 of 20
An interdisciplinary introduction to key concepts and analytical categories in women's and gender studies. This course grapples with gender in its complex intersection with other systems of power and inequality, including: sexuality, race and ethnicity, class and nation. Topics include: feminisms, feminist and queer theory, commodity culture, violence, science and technology, visual cultures, work, and family.
Course NumberWMST 1001
Sexuality is often taken to be a natural and unchanging element of individual life. In this course, we seek to examine ways in which sex is both social and political. That is to say, sexuality has different meanings in different contexts, and it has different effects in terms of power relations within the social order. To this end, we will examine how sexuality has been socially constructed, paying careful attention to the ways these ideas relate to other social forces such as gender, race, and class. We begin with a historical examination as to how sexuality has been defined as a natural component of self by early sexologists and eugenicists, paying careful attention to their contemporary legacies. We continue this historical overview through an examination of early scholars who increasingly argued that sexuality has a social basis, culminating in the theoretical analyses of Foucault. The first part of this course thus seeks to historically situate and denaturalize some of the basic concepts we tend to take for granted, including that of “sexuality” itself. In the second part of the course, we will consider the state of sexual politics within the contemporary United States, focusing upon key arenas of political struggle including sex education, prostitution, and homosexuality.
Course NumberWMST 3125
Why, and in what ways, has sex been a central issue for feminism throughout its history? How have feminist attitudes towards sex changed over time, and how did attitudes vary amongst feminists themselves? What connections did feminists make between sexual reform, women’s rights, and broader social, political, and economic change? And what are the legacies of past feminist sexual politics for the present day? This course addresses these questions by exploring the history of feminist sexual politics in Europe over the course of the “long nineteenth century,” that is, between the years 1789 and 1918, and will focus on developments in Britain, France, and Germany. From the French Revolution to the achievement of women’s suffrage, we will examine feminists’ writings on and activism surrounding sex and sexuality to understand how definitions of “sex,” “feminism,” and “sexual politics” changed over time, and how issues of class and race shaped feminist sexual politics. We will also analyze contradictions, tensions and continuities within diverse feminist approaches to sexuality, and assess similarities and differences amongst feminists from different national backgrounds. Furthermore, by adopting a focus on feminism and sexuality, this course offers a unique lens on the major “world historical” events of modern European history.
Course NumberWMST 3137
How have development and globalization impacted (and attempted to impact) gender and sexuality around the world? How do gender and sexuality circulate across national, political, and technological borders in the contemporary era of neoliberal globalization? How has feminism itself become part of these increasingly complex cultural circulations, to women’s benefit as well as detriment? In addition to linking together what Chandra Mohanty has described as the “One Third” and “Two Thirds” worlds, this discussionbased seminar seeks to reconnect the disparately gendered intimate and global spheres, situating the feminized “private” domains of love, sex, and caring within fields of action such as geopolitics and global political economy. How do formations of gender and sexuality shift when intimate relations are transnationalized? Does the globalization of intimacy exacerbate inequalities of gender, race, class, and nation, or might it also and simultaneously create unexpected opportunities to alleviate these? Under what circumstances does feminism itself get intertwined in circuits of gendered power? In the first part of this class, we will carefully examine issues of gender, sexuality, and development. In the latter, we turn increasingly toward issues of emotion and transnational intimate exchange and emotional labor while situating these encounters within the economic context we discussed in the first section.
Course NumberWMST 3915
Recent decades have witnessed a flood of life writing about the body, much of it by women and much of it about experiences of illness and disability. This development represents a significant change, as autobiography has historically been reserved for the most accomplished and able-bodied among us. Our course will study the rise of what G’ Thomas Couser calls “the some body memoir,” asking how it revises traditional autobiography as it attempts to carve out literary space for voices and bodies that have not historically been represented in public. We will consider how these new memoirs talk back to doctors and other health care professionals who medicalize the disabled body, as well as social environments that stigmatize and exclude the ill and disabled. We will also ask how race and gender inform stories of illness and disability, as well as investigating differences between physical and mental illness and/or disability. Each week we will read one memoir, paired with other writings meant to prompt discuss and critical examination. In addition to more traditional academic writing, students will also have opportunities to experiment with their own life writing.
Course NumberWMST 3625
This course explores the importance of sexuality to modern histories of North America and Western Europe, with particular emphasis on the U.S. and U.K., and secondarily Canada, Germany and France. We will examine changing sexual cultures and their relationship to new gender norms from the late seventeenth century through the mid twentieth century. The emergence and ascendance of concepts of gender, the self, heterosexuality and homosexuality will be examined through political, intellectual, cultural, and social history. The course begins when new attitudes about individual privacy, equality, and freedom first took hold in ways that helped to define the “West” and “modern” attitudes about gender and sex. We will track the continual revisions to, and contestations over, this first sexual revolution through the 1960s, when celebrations and concerns about sexual liberation, hedonism, and the “decline of virtue” came to occupy the center of cultural debates. We will examine the ways in which the study of sexuality intersects with, and offers opportunities to re-think, other major topics in the histories of the ‘West,’ including the role of state regulation, and ideas about reproduction, racial categories, violence, pleasure and love.
Course NumberWMST 3880
For much of the 20th century, the American political system excluded lesbians and gay men from full citizenship. This course seeks to understand the political and social forces shaping the transformation of these sex nonconformists from a pariah group into a viable social movement and eventually into a powerful constituency within the Democratic Party. Special emphasis will be placed on the state’s role in defining lesbian and gay identities, the ways in which gender and racial diversity have shaped the LGB movement, and the role that partisan electoral strategies played in ushering sexuality to the center of American political conflict.
Course NumberWMST 3890
Historical Approaches to Feminist Questions” examines issues of gender and sexuality across time and space. We explore how feminist analyses may reorient how we think about the past. We also ask how historical perspectives can bring the contingent and contextual nature of ideas about gender and sexuality into relief. We will consult both primary and secondary historical sources as well as key theoretical texts on the politics of women’s history and the history of sexuality in intersection with other forms of identity and inequality.
Course NumberWMST 3916
The “Roaring 20s” evokes images of jazz, the flapper, cabarets, Harlem, the bohemian life of Greenwich Village, and a time of greater freedoms for women in the US. All of these images are associated with urban life and have clear racial, class, gender, and sexual connotations. In this course, we will be examining classic Jazz-Age Jewish-American and African-American fiction that presents "New Woman" female protagonists. We will be tracing the differences between the representation of the Jewish-American "New Woman" and the "New Negro Woman," while discussing what these differences might signify with respect to the positionality of Jewish and black women in the US.
Course NumberWMST 3922
This course examines a genealogy of contemporary debates in queer theory beginning with feminist debates on sexuality and power in the 1970s and moving through critical race theory, the rise of antinormativity, affect theory, and posthumanism. Will fulfill Feminist Theory requirement.
Course NumberWMST 3940
Covers significant pre-Holocaust texts (including Yiddish fiction in translation) by U.S. Ashkenazi women and analyzes the tensions between upholding Jewish identity and the necessity and/or inevitability of integration and assimilation. It also examines women's quests to realize their full potential in Jewish and non-Jewish communities on both sides of the Atlantic.
Course NumberWMST 4301
Prerequisitestudents must attend first day of class and admission will be decided then.
A study of Jewish women’s fiction, memoirs, art and film in response to the feminist/gender issues raised by the Second Wave. The seminar includes analysis of the writings and artwork of Jo Sinclair, Tillie Olsen, Judy Chicago, Helene Aylon, Elana Dykewomon, Rebecca Goldstein, E.M. Broner and others.
Course NumberWMST 4302
PrerequisitePermission of instructor. Enrollment limited to 13 students.
Study of the role of gender in economic structures and social processes comprising globalization and in political practices of contemporary U.S. empire. This seminar focuses on the ways in which transformations in global political and economic structures over the last few decades including recent political developments in the U.S. have been shaped by gender, race, sexuality, religion and social movements.
Course NumberWMST 4303
PrerequisiteEnrollment limited to 20 students.
An interdisciplinary exploration of feminist approaches to HIV/AIDS with emphasis on the nexus of science and social justice.
Course NumberWMST 4304
PrerequisitePermission of instructor. Enrollment limited to 15 students.
Examines important concerns, concepts and methodological approaches of postcolonial theory, with a focus on feminist perspectives on and strategies for the decolonization of Eurocentric knowledge-formations and practices of Western colonialism. Topics for discussion and study include orientalism, colonialism, nationalism and gender, the politics of cultural representations, subjectivity and subalternity, history, religion, and contemporary global relations of domination.
Course NumberWMST 4305
PrerequisiteCritical Approaches and/or permission of instructor. Enrollment limited to 20 students.
Explores how sexuality is defined and contested in various domains of law (Constitutional, Federal, State), how scientific theories intersect with legal discourse, and takes up considerations of these issues in family law, the military, questions of speech, citizenship rights, and at the workplace.
Course NumberWMST 4307
PrerequisiteBecause this seminar emphasizes weekly discussion and examination of the readings, enrollment is strictly limited to 20 students. Please read and follow the updated instructions: 1) Interested students must write a 50-100 word essay answering the following question: "What background, experience or expertise do you bring to the discussion of Sexuality and the Law that will help inform and challenge the other 19 students in the class?"; 2) Include the following: your name, institution you are graduating from, year of graduation, declared major, and whether you are working towards a Women's Studies major or minor; 3) Send your information and essay through email with the subject line "Barnard Sexuality & the Law"; 4) Send your email to Riya Ortiz, WS Department Assistant, at email@example.com no later than Wednesday, September 1, 2010. The final list of students who are registered for the course will be announced on Friday, September 3, 12 pm. Classes start on Monday, September 13. (Note: Students who have registered for the course must also submit the essay to guarantee their registration).
Sex, sexual identity, and the body are produced in and through time. “Trans” – as an identity, a set of practices, a question, a site, or as a verb of change and connection – is a relatively new term which this course will situate in theory, time, discipline, and through the study of representation.
Course NumberWMST 4309
PrerequisiteEnrollment limited to 20 students.
The field of human rights, and the adjacent field of international women's rights, have tended to be dominated by activists, lawyers, and policy-makers, many of whom leave unquestioned the underlying assumptions of the discourse of rights and leave unexamined the structural and institutional circuits of rights policy and practice. Those concerned with gender equity have been eager to extend the discourse of human rights to encompass women's rights and sexual rights. Yet they too have only begun to think critically about the conceptual pitfalls and global circuitry of this form of politics. As some social thinkers note, both sides of the term "human rights" are ripe for critical rethinking: the universality implied by the "human" - and by extension "women" or "sexuality" - and the liberalism that makes "rights" the language of choice today in the search for justice. Although feminists and others working in multicultural settings or the international arena often invoke notions of culture, especially in framing dilemmas of intervention in terms of a clash between cultures and universal rights, it is important first to have the theoretical tools to develop adequate understandings of the dynamics of culture and the relationship between culture, social systems, and historical change. This course will explore what theories of culture and ethnographies of particular communities, as well as other forms of regional knowledges, including the historical, can contribute to our thinking about the relationship between gender rights and culture. While appreciating the instrumental power and emancipatory possibilities of rights discourses in the sphere of gender and sexuality, whether around inequality or violence, it is also crucial to reflect on the recent challenges to this paradigm, especially those that question concepts of culture.