Central European University (two-credit course):
Gender and Sexuality
This seminar surveys approaches to gender and sexuality shaping the sociology of sex and gender. While many of the thinkers assigned this semester are not sociologists, we will survey work that has influenced the discipline of sociology. Of central concern will be how theorists have conceptualized the distinction between the body, gender, and sexuality. We will begin with the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud and Simone de Beauvoir. Though both theorists offered groundbreaking accounts of the social construction of gender and sexuality, they left a difficult theoretical legacy for feminists who especially took up the “problem” of the sexed body as of the 1970s. We will examine some French theorists whose work both embraced and rejected Beauvoir and Freud, and a distinct set of developments across the ocean in the United States. We will also examine how the Marxist intellectual zeitgeist of the late 1970s/ early 1980s affected theories of gender and sexuality, and the increasing departure from the Marxist framework as of the late 1980s. The explosion of feminist theorizing in the 1970s and 1980s also led to a realization that “gender” is not a synonym for “women,” and we will read theorists who took up the challenge of conceptualizing masculinity too.
The seemingly stable category of gender was increasingly questioned from the late 1980s. Voices from the Global South and from women of colour began articulating powerful critiques of white, western feminism, and post-‐modern and post-‐structuralist theories of gender and sexuality burst onto the scene shortly thereafter. Yet, while Judith Butler is perhaps one of the most widely read intellectuals alive today, the biological sciences have continued to affirm the determinism of sex hormones and even a “male” and “female” brain. The course thus finishes with two theorists who question the epistemological primacy given today to the natural sciences.
Due to the very limited amount of time we have, this course is not an introductory survey of the wide field of the sociology of sex and gender. We will not, for example, look at sociological approaches to labor, the state, gender and politics, feminist political theory, reproduction and abortion politics, gender and punishment, gender and religion, nationalism, sex work, and feminist epistemology. Rather, the course primarily probes the problématique of the body that continues to preoccupy sociological (and related) theorists of gender and sexuality.
Course syllabus available here.