Summer 2021 Courses

MA Program in Women’s and Gender Studies
Women’s Studies Certificate Program



WSCP 81000 – American Icons (ONLINE COURSE)
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, 3 credits, Prof. David Humphries (
First Class Starts: 5/27/2021
Last Class: 7/1/2021
Cross-listed with MALS 78500.

This course will focus on a series of American icons as a way to explore broader issues in American Studies.  As a starting point, we will look at what defines American icons, juxtaposing the “Accidental Napalm” photograph with the late 1960s image of Jackie Onassis to compare icons that were formed spontaneously in a particular historical and political moment with those formed intentionally through the lens of celebrity and the circulation of cultural representations.  We will use these icons as touchstones to consider more recent permutations of American Icons, such as the ways in which images of George Floyd have been used in struggles for racial justice and the ways in which social influencers have used social media to sustain different kinds of attention and fame.  We will also consider why the term “American,” which is typically questioned in an American Studies context, seems to go largely unremarked when coupled with “icons,” using the particular case of James Baldwin and his questioning of foundational national narratives to consider why this might be so.  To broaden our discussion, we will also examine how American icons have recently been canonized, in a sense, in mainstream venues like PBS’s American Experience and the American Icon series presented by the radio program Studio 360.  Using these examples to understand the popular appeal and critical possibilities of American icons, we will recast American icons in wider and more pointed critical and conceptual frameworks, including a questioning of any methodology that takes as its starting point a singular artifact.  Along the way, we will incorporate current permutations of American Icons in popular culture and public discourse, and students will have the opportunity to incorporate their own research interests into our discussions by identifying generally recognized American icons that are worth reexamining and by proposing new icons that may be emerging from our uniquely digital and disruptive age.  This will allow us to address a wide-range of American Icons, drawn from monuments, photographs, fashion, literature, film, television, music, and staged and spontaneous events, while developing a shared vocabulary of critical keywords relevant to current scholarship in American Studies.

WSCP 81000 – Introduction to Race and Ethnicity (ONLINE COURSE)
Mondays & Wednesdays, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM, 3 credits, Prof. Nathalie Etoke (
First Class Starts: 6/2/2021
Last Class: 7/7/2021
Cross-listed with MALS 78500.

Coming together in opposition to police brutality and the killing of George Floyd, protesters stood side by side in the streets of America and across the globe. The powerful impact of the 2020 summer social uprisings marks a turning point in the struggle against anti-black racism. In order to make sense of the current racial reckoning, this course provides an overview of the politics of race and racism in the U.S. Focusing on the longue durée of imperialism since 1492 and accounting for the consequences of the Native American genocide, racial slavery, settler colonialism, historical violence and the reactionary opposition to ongoing struggles for social justice and freedom, we will unearth the roots of white supremacy and systemic racism in the U.S. The course explores the relationship between race and power while analyzing how it shapes American citizenship and identity.  We will draw from a variety of disciplines, spanning the Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts, in order to think critically about race, racism, identity formation, everyday experience and American history.

We will address the following questions:
What does it mean to study race and ethnicity?
How have conversations about race changed over the last few years?
How are racial hierarchy and racism woven into the fabric of The United States of America?
How does race shape our daily life and our sense of self?
How does it structure inequality in our society?
What are the sociohistorical processes that have shaped our understandings of race and ethnicity?

Learning Outcomes
By the end of this course, students should be able to:
1.     Explain the difference between race and ethnicity.
2.     Describe and explain key ideas and concepts concerning the social construction of race and ethnicity.
3.     Think critically about their own racial position, recognize and appreciate human experiences that differ from their own, and explain the significance of racism in today’s world.
4.     Describe how issues of race and ethnicity have shaped American institutions, laws, and practices over time.
5.     Identify and evaluate the strategies a variety of scholars use to make their argument as well as the theoretical claims that they present.
6.     Have a holistic and complex understanding of what it means to be racialized in the U.S.

WSCP 81000 – Unruly Bodies (ONLINE COURSE)
Mondays & Wednesdays, 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM, 3 credits, Prof. Elizabeth Wissinger (
Start Date: 6/2/2021
End Date: 6/23/2021
Cross-listed with MALS 78500.

This course will explore how scholarly interpretations of the body and the technologies within which we live. Our exploration of the body’s unruliness will take students from classic understandings of technological embodiment through an interdisciplinary trajectory encompassing media, feminist, cultural, and sociological studies of how the body is understood and iterated through evolving technological frames. Gender, productivity, knowledge, and power are ineluctably negotiated through the body’s technological entanglements. As such, waves of technological development affect philosophical, sociological, scientific, and political implications for bodies, as this course will explore. These implications are urgently in need of interrogation as digital culture has pushed the primacy of the image in social life to the extreme, made the body’s data almost as valuable as the body itself, and created conditions in which the body’s biological mutability is coming to be seen as a productive resource in and of itself.

Employing concepts derived from the readings, we will explore how the body is constructed and framed by technology, touching on ideas from the Marx, Heidegger, Benjamin, Butler, Hayles, as well as Roxane Gay, Kimberly Crenshaw, and Simone Brown to explore feminist and critical race theory’s takes on the body’s data, posthumanity, and materiality. We will use these various conceptualizations of the body to examine the vibrant visual culture of online and social media’s politics of style, the digital body in relation to wearable technology, AI, and algorithmic fairness, and explore the possibilities offered by new technologies of biodesign, design that incorporates living organisms into its function in ways that threaten to upend existing structures of production and consumption, in ways that have potential to save the planet (and us).

Students will become familiar with methodologies, debates, and issues common to different aspects of liberal studies; explore critical scholarly issues; and consider a range of subjects, from a range of disciplinary boundaries and interdisciplinary perspectives.

Scholars new to graduate studies should come away from the course with a sense of possible subjects and avenues for further scholarship; scholars further along in their own research ideas should come away with a sense of how to frame them within a deepened academic vocabulary and practice.

Students will have the opportunity to present course material to their peers, write a series of short reflection papers, and write a culminating seminar paper that will illustrate a deeper grasp of one of the course themes as it relates to their area of interest in the program.

This will be an asynchronous and synchronous class.

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