Gender and the Ancient World: Archaeology and Feminist Theory
Archaeology aims to uncover and reconstruct the human past, but it does so from the vantage point of the present and its often unstated assumptions about human social norms, political life, and gender roles. For instance, a funerary excavation is commonly assumed to be of a male or female body based on little else but the presence of weapons or jewels—projecting Western cultural norms upon archaeological data. So too, the archetypal picture of prehistoric society consisting of men hunters and women gatherers has come under increasing scrutiny for projecting contemporary assumptions about normative behavior onto a past that was in fact quite varied. Using a different set of methodologies to counteract these biases, scholars have begun to re-assess the question of gender in the ancient world—opening up critical space to see examine a wildly diverse field of gendered identities and sexual practices. How does studying the distant past enrich our understanding of gender as a fluid and socially constructed category? And what tools do archeologists have at their disposal when revisiting the historical record?
In this course, we will explore attempts over the last several decades to give women a voice in the archeological record and to move to recognize the variety of gendered identities that circulated in the ancient world. Examining household sites, the division of labor, and mortuary practices, students will use the tools of bio-archaeology and physical anthropology to counteract dominant narratives that center the heterosexual, Western, male gaze. In addition to archaeological methods, this course draws on queer, feminist, post-colonial, and critical race theories to establish an alternate framework for studying gender and sexuality in the human past. In addition to examining records of archeological sites and material culture, students will read works by Judith Butler, Barbara Voss, Elizabeth M. Brumfiel, Margaret W. Conkey, Joan M. Gero, Roberta Gilchrist, and Rosemary A. Joyce.
Course ScheduleWednesday, 12:00-3:00pm EST (8:00-11:00pm TRT)
March 09 — March 30, 2022