University at Albany

Courses in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Fall 2018

See Graduate Courses

Undergraduate Courses

A WSS 100X Women Creating Change (3)
Instructor: Wen Liu
TTH 10:15-11:35am PH 123

This course examines some of the key challenges that diverse groups of women face in the 21st century. At the same time, we will consider how legacies from the past shape present conditions for women and their communities. We will pay particular attention to women as change makers. We will explore ways in which women have defied subordinated roles in society (both individually and collectively) as well as participated in broader transformation projects. What kinds of social problems have women confronted in different places and historical moments? What strategies have they used to tackle socially-imposed obstacles? What can we learn from past social change efforts that might be useful to our contemporary world? What is the connection between the “personal” and the “political” in efforts to dismantle unjust power relations and oppressive ideologies? In addressing these questions, we will reflect on the role of identities, bodies, violence, work, families, globalization, state institutions, the environment, and social movements. We will analyze the linkages and inequalities between people in different social locations (e.g., based on gender, class, race-ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, and ability) and between local and global realities.

A WSS 109X Women, Biology and Health (3)
Instructor: Rajani Bhatia
TTH 11:45am-1:05pm ES 139

What constitutes women in relation to biology and health, and who defines it? How and why have advocacy groups, businesses, state or international institutions mobilized in support of women’s health? How do they conceptualize women’s health and women’s bodies? How have women’s health issues both changed and stayed the same over time? What are some of the emerging issues?

This course fulfills the natural science general education category (N), and the informational literacy requirement (X). It further fulfills an elective for the major or minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. In this class we will interrogate what constitutes women in relation to biology and health, and how these terms are deployed for political, professional, and popular purposes. We begin with a look back at the historical movements that constituted a politicized notion of women’s health - their legacies, accomplishments, and controversies. We will explore some of the theoretical constructs, classic critiques of biomedical practice, and values, which stem from these movements such as medicalization, self-help, experiential knowledge, informed consent, and patient’s rights. We will examine how professionalization, popularization, neo-liberal economic globalization and shifting social, cultural and institutional forms of the 21st century have impacted these ideas and given rise not only to new concerns and issues, but also new ways of analyzing them. Throughout the course, we will practice “double vision” by examining topics from both professional and movement or advocacy-oriented material. From menstruation, fertility, childbirth, and breast cancer to egg freezing, the course will grapple with both emerging and contemporary iterations of classic issues related to women, biology, and health.

A WSS 240 Classism, Racism, and Sexism (3)
Instructor: Carolina Diaz
TTH 5:45-7:05pm LC 3A

In this course, we will begin by exploring the concepts of power and oppression. Once we understand what these concepts entail, we will study the ways in which they underlie and constitute race, class, and sex. Some of the questions we will ask in this class are: What is the structure of inequality? How are bodies disciplined and regulated? How are bodies raced, classed, and gendered? The student is expected to read and prepare for each class as well as to consistently participate in class discussions. There will be three tests and one final paper. Readings may include Foucault, Marx, Rubin, Frye, Lorde, Hartsock, Hill Collins, among others.

A WSS 262 Sociology of Gender (3)
Instructor: Stacy Torres
MW 4:15-5:35pm LC 21

Also: MWF 11:30-12:25 LC 22 (Instructor TBA)
cross-listed with A SOC 262

Sociologists study the ways that social structures and interactions shape human life. Gender is a key organizing principle in our society. How do we construct gender in everyday life? What forms does gender inequality take, and how can it best be explained? How can we understand gender as a fluid dimension of human experience that intersects with other dimensions like race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, age, and ability? How and why are the relations between women and men changing? What are the social, political, and economic consequences of this “gender revolution”? The course provides answers to these questions by examining a range of theories about gender in light of empirical findings about women’s and men’s behavior. We will begin with an overview of theories of gender and later examine sites of gender inequality including but not limited to work, the family, the body, healthcare, and media representations.

A WSS 270 Women in East Asian Literature (3)
Instructor: Fan Pen Cheng
TTH 5:45-7:05pm EDU 120
cross-listed with A EAS 270

East Asia is a culturally rich and complex area of the world that includes societies as diverse as China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea. Frequently, the cultures of these societies are presented through discourses that assume the supremacy of patriarchal values. In this course, we will examine one of the most fascinating yet neglected aspects of these societies: the histories and portrayals of women through literary works. The course will focus on China and Japan, two of the most complex and influential societies globally. It will treat questions such as: “What can one deduce from the early literary sources concerning women and their societies?”; “Why do some people perceive gender related issues certain ways?”; and “Why are women depicted certain ways?”

A WSS 281X Women and the Media (3)
Instructor: Janell Hobson
TTH 1:15-2:35pm SS 131
cross-listed with AJRL 281X

This course explores women’s representations in mass media and what they tell us about gender and its impact on the roles women, men, and others existing beyond the gender binary are expected to uphold in society. We will also examine how gender changes meaning in these representations due to race, class, sexuality, disability, nationality, and other social factors. These issues will be explored through engagement with both local and global media, as well as historical and contemporary examples, to fully understand why women (or at least the signs of womanhood) have become so central in selling everything from sex to politics, including feminisms. Pop icons from Beyoncé to Lady Gaga, and different genres – from movies to pop music to video games – will be explored.

A WSS 310 Introduction to Feminist Pedagogy (3)
Instructor: Victoria Melo
Mondays 5:45-8:35pm HU 108
Open only to members of the Teaching Collective

Introduction to Feminist Pedagogy serves as the fall primer course for undergraduate students who have been selected as members of the Teaching Collective. This seminar examines themes central to feminism, feminist movements, and feminist pedagogy in order to help prepare the members of the cohort to peer facilitate the undergraduate sections of Feminisms 101 in the spring. Reading material and assignments require critical analysis and reflection upon pedagogical practices—in course and syllabus design, lesson planning, and teaching methods—in addition to reading and thinking philosophically about the alternative frameworks and evaluative perspectives presented within the pieces assigned for this course (as well as those which will comprise the 101-course pack). You are expected to think with your peers, collectively, about the texts and contexts that articulate our conversations and, if appropriate, to politely disagree with them.

A WSS 360 Feminist Social and Political Thought (3)
Instructor: Carolina Diaz
Thursdays 2:45-5:35pm LC 3A

The fundamental question this class asks is: What is woman’s place within the social and the political? This question will animate all our readings and will guide our class discussions. We will begin with the ways in which woman participate, or not, within the social contract by virtue of her sexuality and the ways in which she has been politically and socially identified with her sexuality in order to exclude her from both the polis and the socius. We will then interrogate Marxism, Karl Marx’s theory of society and economics, and the place that is assigned to women in the production and reproduction of the social. Afterwards, we will move towards the analysis of what is called identity politics, in other words, the ways in which women organize themselves around issues that pertain to their position in society and in politics. We will end this course with what gender, insofar as a social construction, can tell us about race and about issues concerning hybridity and multiplicity thus locating women’s struggle and theoretical thinking within a more complex social and political frame.

A WSS 363 Sociology of Sexualities (3)
Instructor: TBA
TTH 8:45-10:05am LC 004
cross-listed with A SOC 362

This course reviews the core of the sociology of sexuality from a socio-historical perspective. Among the topics to be discussed are the theoretical approaches to sexuality, the making of sexual identities, the relationship between sexuality and social institutions, and sexual politics and ethics. Specific examples include hip-hop sexualities, gay marriage, sexual tourism, transgender identities, and heterosexual intimacy. Only one version of A WSS 362 may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): A SOC 115.

AWSS 368 Women Writers of the Middle Ages (3)
Instructor: Helene Scheck
MW 4:15-5:35 HU 129
cross-listed with A ENG 368

Female experience and potential in the Middle Ages was shaped by various cultural forces that sought to limit female personal, political, and social activity. And yet, women writers did flourish throughout that period. This course surveys women’s contributions to the rich literary traditions of Middle Ages, from early to late (ca. 500-1500 CE), east to west, and explores the ways in which women worked in, through, and against the limitations imposed by masculinist social structures. We will encounter storytellers, scholars, spiritual leaders, historians, playwrights, court poets, and mystics, including Radegund of Poitiers (ca. 520-587); Rabia al-Basri (717-801); Xue Tao (768-831); Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (ca. 930-1000); Murasaki Shikibu (978-1014); Anna Comnena (1083-1153); Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179); Marie de France (fl. 1160-80); Julian of Norwich (1342-1416); Christine de Pizan (1364-ca. 1430); and the infamous and indefatigable Margery Kempe (ca. 1373-1438). Situating their work within the various cultural milieux in which they wrote, we will grapple with notions of authority, authorship, literacy, and canonicity in relation to class, gender, power in both secular and spiritual realms. Drawing on current critical, historical, and theoretical work, we will consider motivations of women writers (political, social, spiritual, etc.); reception of their work by contemporaries as well as by modern audiences; and issues of selection and preservation of texts to further our understanding of women’s participation in literary and intellectual culture. We will also trace the ways in which women negotiate male-dominated discourses and genres, alternately promoting and challenging perceptions of womanly weakness (intellectual, spiritual, and physical), appropriating and revising historical and literary traditions, and advancing literary devices of their own. Students will be expected to demonstrate historical/social awareness as they interpret on an abstract level writings by women in close connection to the conditions of the lived experience of these women and the reception of their work. Students will also consider the role of women writers and their place in the literary and historical canon. Assignments include active participation, a midterm project, a final exam, and a final paper.

A WSS 399 Music and Interactive Media (3)
Instructor: Kyra Gaunt
MW 2:45-4:05pm BB 217
cross-listed with AMUS 398

This is an ethnomusicological course on music, technology, and interactivity as a frame for examining oppression and inclusion. Its materials, practices, and interactivity are all designed to help students learn to think like ethnomusicologists while questioning the costs and benefits of user-generated videos now that YouTube is currency for platinum records and Billboard charts. The music video will be our main focus. What role does race, gender, and sexuality play in what scales musically, what goes viral in video, or what’s trending on YouTube? What gets eclipsed in the process? To examine these questions, we will explore the history of interactivity -- musical sound, gendered embodiment, racial performativity, etc. – in audiovisual communication during the transition from radio to television through the rise of MTV to user-generated/corporate-controlled YouTube videos. Papers and exams will be replaced with new forms of intellectual media and creative content. The final project will be to study the most-watched videos over time and collaborate on a music or fan video that is inclusive--anti-sexist and anti-racist based on our previous analysis. It might be an anime video (AMV), employ the process of vidding, could be a remix, a Bad Lip Reading (BLR) video, or an Epic Rap Battle (ERB). The video production will be group work.

A WSS 490 Research Seminar in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (3)
Instructor: Barbara Sutton
Tuesdays 2:45-5:35pm HU 108

What kinds of questions do researchers in the field of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies ask? How do they go about pursuing those questions and creating new knowledge? How have feminist perspectives influenced research in various fields? How is feminist research connected to policy changes and activist goals? What kinds of research methods can be used to create rigorous scholarly work, advance social justice agendas, and contribute to the empowerment of marginalized groups?

This course explores key features of feminist research and engages critical debates on methodology, epistemology, and the relationship between research and social change. We will interrogate dominant assumptions about how knowledge is produced and what counts as valuable knowledge. We will study a variety of ways of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data and consider the ethical dilemmas and political implications embedded in research projects. We will reflect on how the positionality of researchers affects scholarly work as well as on issues of voice and representation. Finally, we will evaluate different possibilities for the dissemination of research findings and analyze the political and social uses of research. Prerequisites: This course is open to Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies majors and minors who are seniors.

A WSS 498 Intimate Partner Violence and Health (3)
Instructor: Louise-Anne McNutt
Thursdays 5:45-8:35pm HU 19

This course examines the multiple forms of intimate partner violence and associated health consequences. Intimate partner violence is a general term that encompasses psychological, physical, and sexual harm perpetrated by a current or former partner. The course will address the following questions: What are the contributing factors that lead to, and sustain, intimate partner violence? How does intimate partner violence impact physical and mental health? What prevention and intervention programs exist, and do they work? How do we move forward as a society to improve safety when dating and at home?

For a complete list of WGSS courses, go to Undergraduate Bulletin

Graduate Courses

WSS 510 Graduate Orientation in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Instructor: Barbara Sutton
Tuesdays 11:45-1:05pm HU 122

This course is open to and required for all incoming students to the M.A. program. It introduces students to the department’s community as well as provides an overview of key issues in the field. We will discuss historical and contemporary developments in this area of study and its linkages to social justice activism and advocacy. We will address feminist pedagogy and research, learn about opportunities to disseminate students' work, and explore connections between academic projects and life beyond the university.

This orientation is intended to assist new graduate students in planning their program of study, navigating the degree requirements, and offering some basic tools to engage in the broader debates in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. It will also provide some professional development resources that can be used later in students' careers. The course is structured around the discussion of readings, interactions with guest speakers, hands-on sessions, and reflective writing. This class also constitutes an important venue for new students to get to know their cohort and to start building relationships with other members of the department.

A WSS 565 Feminist Theory (4)
Instructor: Rajani Bhatia
Wednesdays 2:45-5:35pm HU 116

This course tours bodies of feminist thought including specific theorizations on identity, experience, power, agency, language, performance, science, technology, bodies, and work. Students will engage feminist perspectives on ways of framing, being, knowing, and interacting. The course will further center feminist contributions to critical race, disability, postcolonial, poststructural, queer and affect theory. Students will consider the meanings and utility of theory; and epistemological questions about what counts as feminist theory and by whom. Feminism is a conversation—a dynamic set of ideas and practices that both imagines and responds to various realities. Our goal this semester will be to engage with these ongoing conversations. It is important to understand, though, that these conversations are often contentious. Our goal is not to resolve these controversies but, rather, to understand their stakes as well as how different actors have taken positions in relation to feminist thought.

A WSS 599: Race, Rape Culture, and the Law (2)
Course in development, to be co-taught by Donna Young and Janell Hobson
Mondays 1:15-3:05pm HS 12 (Downtown Campus)

Race, Rape Culture, and the Law is a new course co-taught and cross-listed between the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Albany Law School. It peruses the history of rape and its impact on various laws, as well as how the concept of race is often embedded in both rape laws and rape cultures. Utilizing case studies and historical examples through the lens of intersectionality, this seminar course will address the difficult questions of how to move toward an anti-racist and anti-rape society while also examining the social and cultural conditions preventing this progression.

We will examine the extent to which law and social attitudes contribute to normalizing and/or trivializing sexual harassment and assault against women. The changing social landscape in which rape law in the United States has been defined and enforced exposes both hostility towards women’s dignity and physical integrity, and fear and misunderstanding of black sexuality in general. This seminar is designed to familiarize students with the fundamentals of sexual harassment and sexual assault law and the ways in which race, gender, and identity are implicated in the legal treatment of these issues. The seminar will explore the following questions: What is “rape culture?” Does the phrase have legal significance? Does it contribute or detract from understandings of the social roles of men and women and how these roles might be reflected in law? How does American slavery inform understandings of race and gender? How did slavery, Jim Crow, and white supremacy inform the legal regulation of sexuality and prohibitions against sexual harassment and sexual assault? What are some of the promises of contemporary protest movements for changing legal norms? This seminar is decidedly multidisciplinary, approaching the subject matter through slave narratives, novels, autobiographies, film, music, law review articles, legislation and case law.

A WSS 599 Situated Sexualities and Transnational Activism (4)
Instructor: Wen Liu
Thursdays 2:45-5:35pm PH 1236

This course serves as both an introduction to LGBTQ studies and its transnational turn. The aim is to understand how notions of gender and sexuality create analytical categories such as gay, lesbian, transgender, heterosexual and homosexual, as well as how the transnational framework across national and cultural boundaries complicate the often Euro-American centrist interpretations of these categories. In the first half of the course, we will explore the feminist and queer theories that have coined and complicated the categories. In the second half of the course, we will turn to the transnational, which emphasizes the flow and mobility of ideas, people, capital, and activism. We will examine how feminist and queer theories teach us about the current phase of globalization, neoliberal capitalism, and imperialism. The class will encourage students to understand sexuality as a critical concept and a potential site of theoretical and activist bridging across the issues of feminism, racial justice, labor rights, disability, indigeneity, and anti-war movements globally.

A WSS 599 Intimate Partner Violence and Health (3-4)
Instructor: Louise-Anne McNutt
Thursdays 5:45-8:35pm HU 19

This course examines the multiple forms of intimate partner violence and associated health consequences. Intimate partner violence is a general term that encompasses psychological, physical, and sexual harm perpetrated by a current or former partner. The course will address the following questions: What are the contributing factors that lead to, and sustain, intimate partner violence? How does intimate partner violence impact physical and mental health? What prevention and intervention programs exist, and do they work? How do we move forward as a society to improve safety when dating and at home?

AWSS 670 Anthropology of Gender (4)
Instructor: Elise Andaya
Thursdays 2:45-5:35pm AS 104
Cross-listed with A ANT 670

Feminist anthropologists have long argued that gender is a key lens through which to view larger social struggles. Putting into conversation both classic and recent work by leading feminists and feminist anthropologists, this course investigates the centrality of gender and sexuality to contemporary processes around the world. Through attention to theory, ethnography, and methodology, we examine the cultural production of gender and sexuality, as well as the way that ideologies and practices around gender/sexuality inform the reproduction and transformation of social hierarchies within families, communities, the nation-state, and in larger global flows.

We begin with an overview of the central historical debates in the anthropology of gender and feminist anthropology. Informed by these discussions, we then explore how gender articulates with other forms of difference such as race, class and nation, discuss what a gendered lens lends to the study of topics such as reproduction, globalization and sexual economies, religiosity and nonliberal femininities, and transgendered identities, and end by exploring some of the dilemmas of (transnational) activism. We will also consider how the primarily qualitative methods of ethnographic research can inform and further these debates.

A WSS 698 Black Feminist Rhetorics (4)
Instructor: Tamika Carey
Mondays 4:15-7:05 BBB003
cross-listed with A ENG 641

This seminar examines Black feminist writings as an intellectual tradition replete with critical and rhetorical frameworks. Using an interdisciplinary lens grounded in scholarship within Rhetoric and Composition, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Literary Criticism, we will identify the techne, the praxis, and the implications inherent in how Black feminists undertake writing as art, craft, and criticism to shape and reshape themselves and their worlds. Rejecting a monolithic construction of feminism, we will grapple with questions such as: what is “Black feminist criticism?” “Does a Black feminist have to be Black and a woman?” “What do we make of the womanist/Africana womanist/Black feminist debate?” and “What counts as thought/theory/criticism?” “How do we make sense of the rhetorics that attempt to shape Black women’s lives?” In taking up these questions, we’ll pursue the broad goal of the course, which is to discover what Black feminist rhetoric(s) are and how they can be utilized as an interpretive and interventionist resource. Texts under consideration include: Beverly Guy Sheftall’s Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought; Patricia Hill Collins’ Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice; Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches; Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, as well as critical scholarship from Jacqueline Jones Royster, Gwendolyn Pough, Elaine Richardson, Carmen Kynard, T.L. Carey, and others. Assignments may include: a course presentation; weekly writing assignments; and a seminar-length essay.

For a complete list of WGSS courses, go to Graduate Bulletin

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