Is the difference in men’s and women’s behavior the result of the human species’ long evolutionary struggle for survival, or is it due to society’s child-rearing practices, family structure, and cultural mythologies? Is the exclusion of women from the highest positions of power and authority a universal trait of human societies, or does women’s access to such positions depend on how a society is organized? Ranging from work in the 19th century to contemporary anthropological studies, this course analyzes evolutionary, psychological, materialist, structuralist, sociolinguistic, and reflexive approaches to understanding gender behavior and gender stratification.
The course explores how anthropological data from around the world is crucial for questioning widely held assumptions about men and women in contemporary societies. Therefore, it examines the processes and practices of the construction of the categories of “woman” and “man” in different cultural and historical contexts. By presenting ethnographic and historical accounts of gender variations and how they are currently understood and displayed, the course reveals the social and cultural forces that have created changes in sex/gender systems. It pays particular attention to the ways in which categories of gender/sexuality are deployed in various discursive regimes such as nationalism, modernism, colonialism, and globalization.
After completing this course students are able to:
- identify anthropological analysis of gender as a system of classification,
- appreciate the productive tensions between the search for a universal perspective on men and women and the specifics of their lives,
- explain the constructed nature of gender and sexuality, and how people act as social agents in relation to those constructions,
- describe the history of women’s emancipation, feminism, and feminist theory in different cultural contexts,
- apply rhetoric skills (communication, argumentation, directing a group discussion) on a higher level,
There are two hours of lecture per week supplemented by documentaries, and two hours of group discussion. Students are required to prepare a discussion session in teamwork with colleagues.