Course Description

Catalogue description:

Examines two fundamental concepts in women’s studies: intersectionality and interdisciplinarity. Looks at how feminisms have shaped and been shaped by knowledge-production within and across disciplinary boundaries, cultures, and paradigms. Develops an appreciation of intersectional theory as a critical research tool and as a set of responses to issues of power, domination, oppression and other loci of difference.

More details:

This class engages feminist theory as world building. It aims to open a space where we can wrestle, and explore how others have wrestled, with what it means to become producers of feminist and queer knowledge in a place and time in which nationalist, racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic violence is both ubiquitous and frequently disavowed.

It is not possible for a genealogy of feminist knowledge production to be meaningfully separated from critical race analysis, from queer and trans thought, from radical left analysis of political and economic structures, or from the languages and histories most actively claimed by contemporary social justice activism. Yet nor do we want to erase the differences and disagreements between different perspectives and strains of thought. Acknowledging from the beginning the impossibility of adequately accounting for all perspectives and histories within a one-semester course, this course aims to provide a grounding in key concepts in feminist and queer thought about the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, class, and disability.

The class is organized as a sustained encounter with the intellectual history and contemporary practice of what is often called “identity politics,” a framework we will engage and complicate as we think through questions of embodiment, politics, labor, agency, and selfhood that have structured feminist and queer inquiry. We will explore foundational texts and contexts in gender, race, queer, trans, and disability studies both within and outwith the academy, attending especially to the rich and harrowing contradictions between the apparent successes of social movements and the ongoing perpetuation of racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and misogynist violence in forms both spectacular and mundane. We will reflect as we go on our own positionality as representatives and practitioners of “diversity” in the US academy and the problems this entails, even as we focus on the myriad ways that knowledge production inside and outside of institutions can contribute to movements for personal and collective liberation.

We will pair our readings in feminist theory with works of speculative fiction that engage the ideas we are discussing. Reading and writing speculative narrative serves as inspiration for some of the ways that feminist theory and praxis can function in the various contexts where we are engaged in the practice of building real and imagined worlds. Overall, our goal for the semester will be to read work that asks and answers questions about what it means to produce radical, feminist, queer knowledge in the face of violent oppression, and to do so while making space for pleasure, connection, and joy along with critique.

Required Texts

Several of these texts are available in ebook format through the library; I have placed everything I can on digital reserve through UMD and will share additional digital access as I can. All editions are fine. I encourage you to purchase (from independent bookstores or publishers when you can) when possible, though, both to support the authors and presses and to build your personal library.

In addition to these assigned books, we will be reading excerpts of many books, as shown in the schedule. Our assigned readings will be available in PDF, but I encourage you to browse ahead of time and to acquire and/or explore the full texts if you can––especially if you think these are works that will be important for your developing scholarship.

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