Curriculum Transformation Project Sample Syllabus

Syllabus --1993 Summer Institute
University of Maryland

Week I: The Social Construction of Gender, Race, Sexuality, and National Identity

June 8-10

Our readings for our first week examine from a number of disciplinary perspectives the ways in which gender, race, and sexuality are culturally, linguistically, and socially constructed, and the ways in which they are implicated even in the formation of national identity. These readings cumulatively also represent three central debates or dynamic tensions that will run through the institute as a whole: that is, the issue of "nature" versus "nurture," of biological identity versus social construction, as the origin of sexual asymmetry; the tension between an acknowledgment of difference (between genders, or among women of different races, ethnicities, classes, sexualities, abilities) and the struggle for equality; and the dynamic between oppression and resistance, victimhood and agency, as a central theme in women’s studies and ethnic studies scholarship.

On Tuesday we look especially at the construction of gender and sexuality. Psychologist Sandra Bem lays out and critiques arguments for "biological essentialism" in determining gender differences. (Other feminists would critique Bem’s statements about the universality of male dominance and the sexual division of labor.) Ellen Kaschak, also a pyschologist, observes the ways in which adherence to polarized gender identities is maintained in western culture through codes that we learn literally to embody. Susan Gal analyzes as a sociolinguist the complex intersections of gender, language, and power, exploring language as a site where differences in gender and power are both constructed and opposed. Rich’s classic but controversial essay asks that we view heterosexuality not as "natural" but as socially constructed and patriarchally imposed. A number of responses to her essay critique its historicity and its assumptions that an "essential" lesbianism underlies an imposed heterosexuality. Carol Robertson, writing as an ethnomusicologist, calls attention to the inadequacy of binary categories like male-female and homosexual-heterosexual to describe the range of human experience and behavior.

For Thursday, we begin with Stephen Jay Gould’s study of the construction of racial difference and racial inferiority in the 18th and 19th century scientific discourse. (Feminist historians of science have produced similar analyses of the representation of female bodies in scientific discourse.) Historian Ronald Takaki asks that we distinguish "race" from "ethnicity" in this country, a distinction based on the different historical experiences and legal statuses of people of color, and Michael Omi and Howard Winant illustrate how "race" has been constituted in the modern U.S. by a set of changing social relations especially between blacks and whites. Anthropologist Ann Stoler looks at how intersections of gender and race and the relations of power between colonizer and colonized in colonial Asia help to constitute one another, while Enloe argues that nationalist, anti-colonialist movements produce their own constructions of masculinity and femininity.

Questions for Discussion:

What does it mean to say that race, gender, and sexuality are socially constructed? What is the evidence for this position? What social functions do biological explanations for gender, racial, and sexual differences serve? Are racial, gender, and sexual identities innate or "achieved"? If socially constructed, to what extent can or should they be deconstructed?

June 8: Social Constructions of Gender and Sexuality

Bem, Sandra Lipsitz. Preface, Introduction, 1 and Ch. 2, Biological Essentialism, The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

Kaschak, Ellyn. Ch.2, Gender Embodied, Engendered Lives: A New Psychology of Women's Experience. New York: Basic Books, 1992.

Gal, Susan. Between Speech and Silence: The Problematics of Research on Language and Gender. In Micaela di Leonardo, Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist Anthropology in the Postmodern Era. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Rich, Adrienne. Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 5,4 (1980): 631-660.

Ferguson, Ann et al. On Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence: Defining the Issues. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 7,11 (1981): 158-199.

June 10: Social Constructions of Race, Gender and National Identity

Robertson, Carol E. The Ethnomusicologist as Midwife.? In Ruth Solie, ed. Musicology and Difference. University of California Press, forthcoming 1992. [Recommended]

Gould, Stephen Jay. American Polygeny and Craniometry Before Dawn: Blacks and Indians as Seperate, Inferior Species. In Sandra Harding, ed. The ?Racial? Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, Forthcoming.

Takaki, Ronald. Reflections on Racial Patterns in America: An Historical Perspective. Ethnicity and Public Policy 1 (1982): 1-23.

Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. Chs. 4 and 5 from Racial Formation in the United States from the 1960's to the 1980's. New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986.

Stoler, Ann. Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Gender, Race, and Morality in Colonial Asia. In Micaela di Leonardo, ed. Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist Anthropology in the Postmodern Era. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. [Recommended]

Enloe, Cynthia. Nationalism and Masculinity.? From Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

FILMS: Ethnic Notions (excerpts), Choosing Children.

WEEK II: Critiquing the Disciplines, Revising the Canons

For this session, each of you should read at least four of the essays below. These essays examine how thinking about gender and/or race has challenged (and been challenged by) paradigms, canons, or practices in a variety of disciplines, from English to National Security Studies (Cohn). Some of these essays are ?classics?; others are new. We have not attempted to represent all the disciplines, nor could we illustrate the range of issues, approaches, and problems within disciplinary frameworks.

The essays are loosely grouped in three areas: sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The first two essays are, respectively, classic and very recent critiques of western science by two influential writers, biologist/physicist Evelyn Fox Keller and philosopher Sandra Harding. Keller offers a pyschoanalytically-based critique of science's masculinism, while Harding extends her earlier work on its masculinist biases to a critique of the Eurocentrism of western science. In the introduction to her new book Ellen Kaschak speaks about what might characterize a feminist psychology, a feminist pyschotherapy. As for Keller and Harding, epistemological concerns (how do we know? How do we make meaning? How do our particular gender, culture, and social context affect that process?) are central to her inquiry.

Historian Joan Scott's essay argues that "gender" is a more useful category for historical analysis than "women," and offers helpful and influential definitions of gender, while Johnson-Odim and Strobel attempt, in their introduction to a series of packets on women in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, to find common threads in the diversity of women's historical experiences in the third world. Paul Lauter, looking at American literary history, asks that we redefine the study of American literature as a comparative study of American literatures by women, by peoples of color, and by working class authors as well as by white men of the middle and upper classes.

Just as Lauter wants to redefine (the study of) American literature, so Ackelsberg wants to redefine (the study of) American politics; both seek to include practices--textual and social--traditionally excluded from mainstream definitions, and find that the old paradigms need recasting. Weisman's work represents a relatively new arena of feminist inquiry: the analysis of the "built environment" to reveal how space itself is organized to reflect and reinforce social hierarchies of race, class, and gender. Finally, Carol Cohn analyzes as an insider the language and discourse of national security studies and in so doing, challenges the ostensible objectivity of the field.

One or two of you will be asked to report on each essay to the group by summarizing and evaluating its central argument. Then we'll look for common threads, and for contradictions among different analytic tendencies.

Page Keller, Evelyn Fox. Chapter 4. Gender and Science. From Reflections on Gender and Science. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

Harding, Sandra. Introduction: Eurocentric Scientific Illiteracy-A Challenge for the World Community. The Racial Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, Forthcoming.

Kaschak, Ellen. Making Meaning. In Engendered Lives: A New Psychology of Women's Experience. Basic Books, 1992.

Scott, Joan W. Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis. Journal of the American Historical Society (December 1986): 1053-1075.

Johnson-Odim, Cheryl and Margaret Strobel. General Introduction to Restoring Women to History: Teaching Packets for Integrating Women's History into Courses on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Carribean, and the Middle East. Bloomington, IN: Organization of American Historians, 1988.

Lauter, Paul. The Literatures of America: A Comparative Discipline. From Canons and Contexts. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Ackelsberg, Martha A. Communities, Resistance, and Women?s Activism: Some Implications for a Democratic Polity. In Ann Bookman and Sandra Morgen, eds. Women and the Politics of Empowerment. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.

Weisman, Leslie. The Home as Metaphor for Society. Discrimination by Design: A Feminist Critique of the Man-Made Environment. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992.

Cohn, Carol. Clean Bombs and Clean Language. In Jean Elshtain and Sheila Tobias, eds. Women, Militarism, and War: Essays in History, Politics and Social Theory. Savage, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 1990.

WEEK III: Classroom Climate and Pedagogy


Will Liu, Psychology; Co-Advisor, Asian American Student AssociationFrancine Catterton, Special Education, President's Commission on Disability Erin Lane, Women's Studies; Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Alliance

Rebekah Funk, RTVF and Women's Studies

Commentators on curriculum transformation agree that changes in the curriculum to integrate issues of diversity must--and inevitably do--involve changes in classroom practice as well. We will have a student panel discussion about classroom climate issues from 9:30-11:00, and our own discussion and workshop session after that, facilitated by Debby Rosenfelt and Sandi Patton. In the afternoon, there will be a faculty panel on teaching strategies for the inclusive classroom. We will not be able to discuss all the readings for today; we urge you to read according to your own interests and needs.


University of Maryland Statement on Classroom Climate (1989).

Thorne, Barrie. "Rethinking the Ways We Teach." In Carol S. Pearson et al. Educating the Majority: Women Challenge Tradition in Higher Education. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1989.

Overcoming Bias, Creative Inclusiveness

Hall's classic essay on the chilly classroom climate for women was one of the first to document differential treatment of women and men in classrooms in higher education, and to suggest strategies for change. Jenkins looks at the experiences of students of color in the university as well as those of women and provides concrete suggestions for more culturally-inclusive classrooms. Locust's piece elaborates in detail the nature of the deep differences between American Indian belief systems and those of the dominant culture as they might affect school performance in elementary and secondary education. It would help to keep her essay in mind in reading Anderson and Adams on differences in learning styles and on the necessity of drawing on a variety of teaching strategies to accomodate those differences. UMCP has developed a set of guidelines for inclusive language use intended for all university publications. They are useful for our own teaching materials and classroom practices as well.

Hall, Roberta M., with Bernice Sandler. The Classroom Climate: A Chilly One for Women. Project on the Status and Education of Women, 1982.

Jenkins, Mercilee M. Teaching the New Majority: Guidelines for Cross-Cultural Communications Between Students and Faculty. Feminist Teacher 5,1.

Locust, Carol. Wounding the Spirit: Discrimination and Traditional American Indian Belief Systems. Harvard Educational Review 58, 3 (August 1988): 315-330. Anderson, James A. and Maurianne Adams. Acknowledging the Learning Styles of Diverse Student Populations. In Laura L.B. Border and Nancy Chism, eds. Teaching for Diversity. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No.49. Jossey-Bass, Spring 1992.

Guidelines for Using Inclusive Language and Illustrations in University Publications. University of Maryland.

Power and Authority in the Classroom: Pedagogy and Politics

This group of essays debates issues of power and authority in the classroom, especially the classroom where ?libeation pedagogies? are being attempted. The first two essays assume the desirability for women of a nonhierarchical, student-centered classroom. Hooks agrees--to a point, but she argues that students need not always enjoy a class to learn from it, and that confrontation in classes over issues like racism and sexism is not only inevitable but desirable. Friedman asks women?s studies teachers to take back some of the authority that much feminist pedagogy has advised them to relinquish.

Kramarae, Chris and Paula A. Treichler. Power Relationships in the Classroom. In Susan L. Gabriel and Isaiah Smithson, eds. Gender in the Classroom: Power and Pedagogy. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990.

Schilb, John. Pedagogy of the Oppressors, In Margo Culley and Catherine Portuges, eds. The Dynamics of Feminist Teaching. Boston: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1985.

Hooks, Bell. Toward a Revolutionary Feminist Pedagogy,and Pedagogy and Political Commitment: A Comment. Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black. Boston: South End Press, 1989.

Friedman, Susan. Authority in the Feminist Classroom: A Contradiction in Terms, In Margo Culley and Catherine Portuges, eds. The Dynamics of Feminist Teaching. Boston: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1985.

Afternoon: 1:30 p.m., Dean's Conference Room, Francis Scott Key.

Faculty Panel on Strategies for Inclusive Teaching:

Susan Leonardi, English (lesbian and gay issues) John Schilb, English (class issues) Elaine Upton, English (racial issues)

WEEK IV: The Politics of Reading and Representation

The essays today suggest a range of practices for decoding gender and racial ideologies. All address the processes and forms of "representation"--the cultural production of linguistic artifacts, in the broad sense of language as a system of meaning. Such strategies of analysis, originating in literature, anthropology, and film, have extended in the University today to a wide-ranging interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary field of cultural studies, which can include the sciences and social sciences as well.

The first two essays represent two relatively simple but still powerful modes of analysis: attention to damaging stereotypes in language, and the quest for positive role models in literature and culture. Moore focuses on racism in the English language--a case less frequently made than the case against linguistic sexism, and Kent extends the early images of women in literature approach to women with disabilities. The McClary excerpt on Carmen draws on an important body of work on colonialism, language, and narrative, extending its insights and methods to the language of classical music, ostensibly the least representational of forms. These approaches emphasize the hegemonic power of dominant cultural representations. Other strategies of analysis emphasize resistance against those dominant modes. One site of potential resistance is the female and/or minority reader or spectator, a focus represented here by Zimmerman and Hooks. Oppositional practices exist in writing as well, including science writing. In a complex and nuanced piece, Haraway extends the analysis of representation to the domains of science, comparing the narratives of contemporary Japanese primatology with those of the West, particular with regard to their representations of gender. Haraway carefully avoids romanticizing or exoticizing Japanese scientific practice; rather, she insists that we acknowledge the difference that cultural and natural difference make in the way a field of knowledge is constituted. Stepan and Gilman locate more explicit discourses of resistance in the little-known responses of African Americans and Jews to scientific racism between 1870-1920.

Finally, Walker's short story, "Advancing Luna--and Ida B. Wells" represents not only the incredible complexity of interracial friendship, desire, and power in modern America, but also the extraordinary difficulty for the black woman writer of writing with integrity in a society so imbued with racism and sexism.


Moore, Robert. Racism in the English Language. In Virginia Cyrus, ed. Experiencing Race, Class, and Gender in the United States. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1993.

Kent, Deborah. In Search of a Heroine: Images of Women with Disabilties in Fiction and Drama. In Michelle Fine and Adrienne Asch, eds. Women with Disabilities: Essays in Pyschology, Culture, and Politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.

McClary, Susan. Sexual Politics in Classical Music. Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

Zimmerman, Bonnie. Seeing, Reading, Knowing: The Lesbian Appropriation of Literature. In Joan Hartman and Ellen Messer-Davidow, eds. (En) Gendering Knowledge: Feminists in Academe. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991.

Hooks, Bell. The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators. Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End Press, 1992.

Haraway, Donna. The Bio-Politics of a Multi-cultural Field. In Sandra Harding, ed. The Racial Economy of Science Toward a Democratic Future. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Stepan, Nancy and Sander Gilman. Appropriating the Idioms of Science. Ibid.

Walker, Alice. Advancing Luna-and Ida B. Wells. You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.

If you have read this far, you know how beautifully this syllabus is constructed. Unfortunately, limitations on file size mean that we could not include all of the readings. For a complete copy of this syllabus please contact:

Professor Deborah S. Rosenfelt
Curriculum Transformation Project
Women's Studies
2101 Woods Hall University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

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