AMST 369
Gender, Sexuality & Disability Spring 2023
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed AMST 369 / WGSS 332

Class Details

From classical mythology to reality TV, bodies and minds that depart from the ordinary have long been sources of popular fascination. In recent history, people marked as “disabled” have been subject to medical scrutiny, labeled deficient or defective, and often barred from full participation in society. And yet, what counts as “disability”–and who counts as disabled–varies greatly depending on cultural and historical context. Arguably, disability has more to do with social conditions than with any innate characteristics of disabled people themselves. This class introduces disability studies, situating disability within its historical, political, and cultural contexts. As a GWSS course, we’ll center queer and feminist perspectives; this class also emphasizes recent work. Echoing arguments in gender and sexuality studies, scholars have insisted that disability is not a natural or biological fact, but a socially constructed category. As such, scholars and activists have challenged medical models that conceptualize disability as an individual defect in need of elimination. They have also questioned the idea that disability is simply a minority identity — to the contrary, disability is a condition that most humans will experience at some point in our lives. This class frames “disability” broadly–encompassing not just conditions of physical impairment, but a wide range of bodily, sensory, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral differences and capacities. This class also centers how disability is produced intersectionally through regimes like race, capitalism, and empire. Topics include: theories of embodiment, eugenics, institutionalization and incarceration, neurodivergence, mad studies, the politics of health, storytelling and narrative, disability justice activism, neoliberalism, biopolitics, and crip theory. Along with scholarly writings, we’ll consider activist texts, popular press, fiction, memoir, and a variety of other media.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 10
Class#: 3991
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students will submit three short reading response papers (2-3 pgs), ongoing brief/informal forum posts, and a longer final research paper (10-12 pgs); students will also work in small groups to facilitate a section of class twice per term.
Prerequisites: WGSS 101-level familiarity would be very helpful, but is not required.
Enrollment Preferences: Preference to majors, 3rd and 4th year students.
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
AMST 369 Division II WGSS 332 Division II
DPE Notes: This class surveys the politics of disability in recent U.S. history, illustrating axes of difference and privilege based on ability as it intersects with various racial, gender, and other identities.

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