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Gender and Popular Culture
A&S 238
Tuesday and Thursday, 8 – 9:15
Marquis 42

Instructor: Allison Alexy
alexya@lafayette.edu // Marquis 38 // 330-5914
office hours: Tuesdays 9:30 – 12, and by appointment

Course Description
This course examines how gender, gendered identities, and gender norms are represented, experienced, and contested through popular culture. A fundamental premise for the course is that it is impossible to think of "gender" without broad attention to how power and difference are constructed in society. Thus, in our explorations, we will investigate how social difference is constructed through masculinity and femininity, as well as other intersecting characteristics such as race, class, and sexual orientation.

Throughout the course, we will employ an anthropological lens to question the work that popular culture does, and how it shapes people's lives. At first glance, popular culture might seem either obviously normative or powerfully subversive. Challenging this easy binary, we will question how pop cultural spaces reinforce and challenge existing gendered norms, and how pop cultural forms are complicit with or resistant to normative patterns.

Throughout our readings and discussion, cross-cultural examples are of fundamental importance. We will be considering a diversity of spaces and experiences. Key questions and themes include:

Gender: What is gender? How have anthropologists theorized gender?

Difference: How is difference socially constructed? How are characteristics like gender, race, class, and sexual orientation constructed as metaphors for difference?

Popular culture: What is pop culture? Why is it worth anthropological attention? What isn't popular culture? What defines the popular?

Intersectionality: How are gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation intertwined in experience? How have such intersections been obscured or under-emphasized in mainstream American feminist theories, and to what results?

Power: How does gender relate to constructions of power? How should we begin to understand and represent power? How have theories of "power" prompted significant thinking in contemporary anthropology?

Resistance: How is resistance possible? What constitutes resistance? How can we determine it? Can people be resisting social norms without intent?

Social change: How does social change happen? How is social change related to power? Are recent changes in gender norms fundamentally changing society?

Consumption: How is popular culture related to consumption? How can we understand consumption in literal and figurative terms? How is consuming homogenizing and how does it create difference?

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