Gender and Nationalism

Course Description: 

This course examines some of the major theoretical approaches to and empirically grounded analyses of the ways in which national/ist discourses and practices are gendered and sexualized. The course approaches the concept of nation and its close variants – ethnic and cultural identities, nation-states, citizenship and notions of belonging – as historically contingent and continuously reproduced through discourse and practice on a variety of levels of power. In keeping with anthropological approaches, we concentrate on both conceptual/discursive frameworks and material effects in the everyday lives of people belonging to various socially defined groups. We approach differently gendered subjectivities, men and women, masculinities and femininities, as well as sexuality as they intersect with national, ethno-national, and nation-state formations. Particular areas of focus include reproduction, kinship, ethnicity, war violence, sexuality and notions of modernity and culture. Geographically and historically the course takes a broad, comparative view, even as we pay particular attention to certain contexts such as the former Yugoslavia where the professor has particular expertise.

Learning Outcomes: 

Through lectures, assigned readings, small and large group discussions, student presentations, written critiques, and the group media project, students should come out of this course able to:

-       identify and discuss the main theoretical issues involved in studying nations and nationalisms as discursive, cultural, and material phenomena

-       recognize and analyze the ways in which notions of gender, sex and sexuality are implicated in national/ist discourses and practices

-       critically assess and compare class readings according to the theoretical arguments put forward and the methods used to construct those arguments

-       identify and research a topic of theoretical relevance to the themes of the course through primary sources found on the internet or other available resources

-       present critical written analysis that is backed up by arguments and evidence from class readings and/or primary research materials

-       demonstrate abilities to analyze, assess and compare class materials through oral participation in class


Course Requirements and Grading

Your grade will be based on:

            Class participation and attendance                                    20%

            Reaction paper                                                                       30%

                        (2 reaction papers will be 10% and 20%)*

            Group media project                                                              50%

                        Oral presentation                                                        20%

                        Final essay                              30%

Participation: This course depends on active participation from all students. This means you must come to class having read the assigned readings and that you share your critical evaluation of the readings in class and participate in small group and class discussions. If it becomes necessary, I may require in-class written assessments on the readings as part of your participation grade.

You must have a GOOD EXCUSE to miss class. Each absence without documentation will negatively affect your grade by 0.5% (and correspondingly also your participation grade). Whether it is excused or not, you are responsible for the material you missed (check with a classmate first).

Critical evaluation does not mean negative only: the aim is to first assess each text’s positive contributions before delving into its shortcomings. For each reading you should consider and take notes on:

  • What is the main argument?
  • To whom is the analysis speaking? (who is the author, how are they situated geographically, disciplinarily, in terms of seniority; where did the publication appear, in what debates is the text intervening whether implicitly or explicitly?)
  • What evidence does the author present to back up this argument and how was it gathered?
  • Is the argument convincing? Why or why not?
  • How does this reading relate to the rest of the literature we have covered in class (or other things you have read)? To your own knowledge and experiences? Does it further or complicate our understanding of nationalist processes?

 Reaction paper: 3-5 pages (800-1200 words), due at the beginning of class on the day of the readings you are writing about. The paper should cover the readings for one class period (in most cases, two articles), on any date between January 26 and March 9. Follow the guidelines above for discussion preparation but concentrate mostly on your own critique and relating these readings to the other literature from the course (in other words, do not summarize!). There is only one required paper but if it does not critically engage with our readings or has other serious shortcomings, I may ask you to do another one on a different set of readings. Or, if you want to improve your grade, you may choose to write a second reaction paper, but this is only a possibility if you submit your first paper by February 23. If you submit two reaction papers,* the one with the higher grade will be worth 20% of your final grade and the other will be worth 10%.

Group media project: this is a two-part project that aims at testing and pushing forward the empirical findings and theoretical approaches found in our class readings. In groups of 3-4 (depending on the size of the class), choose a public spectacle, state initiative, citizen group, media debate, or other phenomenon that illustrates the intersection of gender and/or sexuality with national or state discourses or practices. Your example must be accessible visually: an illustrated newspaper or magazine article, website, YouTube video, film, Facebook group, blog, etc. or through your own documentation (“field” notes, pictures, video, flyers) if you are able to attend an event. Your example can be from any country or setting but it must be recent – not more than 2-3 years old unless I give you special permission – and something that has NOT been analyzed in the scholarly literature (as far as you can reasonably ascertain). I must approve your topic before you proceed: a one-paragraph topic proposal with group names is due in class on February 23.

You will present your analysis in two stages, as a group and individually:

1. Group presentation: 30 minute in-class presentations of media projects (see schedule below). Your group has 15 minutes to present the topic and a critical analysis of it using our class readings. Show your visual materials using the classroom laptop (PowerPoint, YouTube, internet sites, etc.). Keep any video clips short. Text presented should also be brief and focus on key conclusions and arguments or basic identifying information. Your analysis should illustrate points from and comparisons with class readings, preferably showing how your example may challenge and/or expand on any of the texts’ main arguments. In the remaining time, your classmates will have a chance to offer feedback and ask questions. Time allotment and schedule will be adjusted according to the number of students in the class.

2. Final essay: 8-10 pages (up to 3,000 words), due April 5. This is a concise write-up of your group’s visual presentation. Each member of the group must turn in their own paper in their own words based on the work of the group (but you can use a common introduction/description of the topic if you choose to). The paper should briefly describe your example and the materials upon which you base your analysis. Then, analyze it against the themes and theoretical and methodological approaches of our class readings. You must meaningfully discuss a minimum of four class readings (just mentioning them is not enough), comparing your example to those in the readings, although the more class readings you can tie into your analysis, the better. Top marks will only go to papers that critically engage with our class readings. Consider, for example, whether your material supports or negates some of the theories we have reviewed or suggests some ways in which we might modify those theories. Which approaches do you find useful for making sense of your material? Which arguments are persuasive?

PhD student requirements: in addition to the above, PhD students must submit two reaction papers and engage with at least six class readings in their final paper (for which they can take up to 15 pages). Grading standards are also higher for PhD students.