Introduction to Feminist Theory: Gender, Sexuality, and the Body
This course will introduce key concepts in feminist theory. Guided by formative thinkers like bell hooks, Judith Butler, Patricia Hill Collins, Audre Lorde, Gayle Rubin, J. Halberstam, and Chandra Mohanty, our focus will be on how feminist thinkers have dramatically redefined concepts related to the body, race, sexuality, and gender. Situating contemporary feminist thought alongside foundational texts from the past 50 years, we will examine how feminists have constituted these concepts historically, and explore how they’ve been revitalized amid political, economic, and social changes. That is, we will consider how feminist theory itself has often been cast as a terrain of contested meanings over the relationship between “woman” and “gender” as social categories and “feminist” as a political designation. In addition, we’ll consider the ways we become theorists of our lived experiences.
The questions we’ll explore include: How have bodies been understood as “sexed” in various ways and how do these designations align with social categories such as gender, race, and health? What is the relationship between theory and experience, and how does feminism account for the dissimilar experiences among women? How has Black feminist thought challenged white feminist work precisely around the question of what counts as “theory”? How has US-based feminist theory been complicit with imperialist projects, and how has it sought to oppose them? Is “woman” the subject of feminism (as Judith Butler wonders), and, if not, how can a feminist praxis articulate a commitment to a range of interlocking political projects? What are the promises and pitfalls of various feminist dreams—the “dream of a common language” (in Adrienne Rich’s and Donna Haraway’s terms), the imperatives of intersexuality (to use Kimberlé Crenshaw’s term), the detachment from kinship rooted in reproduction (or “full surrogacy now,” to borrow Sophie Lewis’s words), the promise of “feminism for everybody” (as bell hooks proposes), or the pivot away from rights-based struggles (as Dean Spade suggests)—and what role does feminist theorizing have for such disparate movements today? Readings will draw from works by bell hooks, Judith Butler, Patricia Williams, Donna Haraway, Audre Lorde, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Adrienne Rich, Gayle Rubin, J. Haberstam, Chandra Mohanty, Anne McClintock.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
September 14 — October 05, 2020