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.
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 nation.
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, attending especially to the deep history of women of color feminist theory and to the rich and harrowing contradictions between the apparent successes of LGBTQ rights and liberation movements and the ongoing perpetuation of racist, homophobic, transphobic, 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 speculative fiction, many from Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown’s anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements. Reading and writing speculative narrative serves as inspiration for some of the ways that we can think with and draw from the ideas we are discussing 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.
Most of these texts are available in ebook format through the library, and I have placed the others on reserve at McKeldin with a 24-hour loan period. Many are also part of the (non-lending) Women’s Studies library in the conference room where we have class. I encourage you to purchase all that you can, though, both to support the authors and to build your personal library.
• Sara Ahmed, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Duke University Press, 2012.
• Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back. Fourth edition. SUNY Press, 2015.
• adrienne maree brown, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good. AK Press, 2019.
• Andre Cavalcante, Struggling for Ordinary: Media and Transgender Belonging in Everyday Life. NYU Press. 2018.
• Alexis Pauline Gumbs, M Archive: After the End of the World. Duke UP, 2018.
• Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown (eds.), Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. AK Press, 2015.
• Jennifer Nash, Black Feminism Reimagined: After Intersectionality. Duke UP, 2019.
• Leanne Betasomosake Simpson, As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance. U of Minnesota Press, 2017.
• Melanie Yergeau, Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness. Duke UP, 2018.
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 pick up the full texts from the library or bookstore and read the rest if you can––especially if you think these are works that will be important for your developing scholarship.