Central European University (two-credit course):

Gender and Sexuality

Course description

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.