Saturday, August 23, 2014

Constructing Race and Gender Syllabus. A Junior-Senior elective

This came up on twitter the other day.  So here' s my syllabus for Constructing Race and Gender which was a spring elective for Juniors and Seniors.  It's not really complete because I don't have the specific article names on here because they are at school and I'm working somewhat from memory and somewhat from shorthand calendar notes. 

Social Constructions of Race and Gender
Spring 2014
Course Description

The Social Constructions of Race and Gender is a course designed to explore race and gender as social constructs.  We will begin the semster by exploring definitions of these social constructs.  Perceptions and mandates of gender and race have informed the political, economic, and social ordering of human societies.  We will examine these societies to understand how they used race and gender to construct power relations and impose social order.  Throughout the year, students will investigate how gender and racial identities and relations become daily realities.  We will explore these ideas throughout the course of history, across time and place.  We also look at the concept of intersectionality (how race and gender intersect with each other and other identities such as sexuality).

This course will be conducted as a seminar.  This means that most classes will be organized around the articles you will be assigned to read.  I will expect you to be ready to interpret and analyze the material, to ask questions of it, and to draw conclusions about how it fits into the larger picture of race and/or gender construction.  These discussions are vital to your understanding and ownership of the ideas of the course.  Often the assigned articles will be longer than a one-night reading assignment.  When this is the case, we will have classes designated as “reading sessions.”  This means you will sign in and read in the classroom, unless otherwise directed.  Other types of classes will be designated as “project sessions.”  These will occur quite frequently when you are pursing information for a research assignment or when you are looking for data in response to specific questions.  At other times for project sessions you will need to collaborate with teammates.  Sometimes you will work independently and may sign out of class. 

In this course, as in all history courses, reading, writing, note-taking, thinking, and discussions are essentials.  Therefore, reading assignments are to be done carefully and closely; this means taking notes and thinking.  Writing assignments must demonstrate your thoughtful reflection and must follow the expository format you have learned.  Discussions are valued because each voice is important; they are valuable because they help you to formulate your understanding of an issue.  Evaluation of each of these skills will help to determine your grade.  This means that every written assignment will be graded and will count toward your quarter grade.  Open class discussions will constitute a part of your quarter grades and be evaluated every two weeks, as will more specifically designated graded discussions, research assignments, and reading quizzes.  I will give you the points for each graded exercise as well as a rubric to explain the criteria used to determine grades on major graded assignments.  Our most important work will be group projects that are designed to teach the concepts of the class beyond the classroom. 

I expect each of you to be committed to the duties of studentship.  This means that you will:
  • Read all assignments carefully and employ active reading techniques to help you learn relevant information and to be able to relate the story accurately.  This means attention to annotation as you read text and source materials and taking notes to help you anticipate in the discussion about the material. 
  • Remain on top of assignments; be punctual and prepared for class.  If something  interferes with you completing an assignment, let me know and realize that you will have to double your efforts the next night to catch up.
  • Participate in class dialogues by asking questions, offering ideas and/or confusions, defending your positions, and exploring ideas of history.
  • Work on your writing for legibility, clarity, cohesion, and sound conclusions (making sure you provide supportive data for positions).
  • Work to determine points of view when reading documents, articles, etc.
  • Memorize facts to help you own the material, understand cause and effect, see connections, and draw your own conclusions.
  • Take effective notes in class during discussions and from reading assignments.
  • Remain current about what is happening in our world – 10 minutes regularly listening to or reading news.
  • Hand in all written assignment on time.
  • Open your thinking to see all sides of a situation to help you better understand the past and the present.

Initial Discussion:


                                                                                                            Orlando Patterson, Freedom, pages 41-42

Course outline

The Social Construction of Race and Gender:  What is it?

Possible readings and activities include:
Identity Activity
                  "Sex and Race"  William Chafe (Rothenberg)
                                   [The Male Privilege Checklist by B. Deutsch]
                                 PBS Identifying Races Activity
                  “Race the Power of an Illusion”

The Origins of Race in the United States  (Note for all readings below not everybody will read everything.  We will sometimes jigsaw readings).

                  King Phillip’s War, Bacon’s rebellion, and the ideas of race-making. (Lepore article)
                  American Slavery, American Freedom excerpt
                  Gosset, Race the History of an Idea

Project:   How did people make race in the colonial era?  Which people did it and why?  Was race different in different places?  New England, New France, Virginia as examples. 

The Market Revolution or Why Men are or are not White but Women can become White (sometimes).
Research Project. 

Project:  How did race or gender change in the antebellum period?  How did people resist these categories?

Jim Crow, Gender, Resistance and Assimilation North and South (and West)

                  Ida B. Wells and the Anti-Lynching Campaign (two readings). 
                  Sanchez Go After the Women
                  Vicky Ruiz Star Struck

Culminating Project: Race and Gender in Our Own Time.


Some of the assignments.                

Unit 1
Chafe “Sex and Race:  The Analogy of Social Control”
Graded Homework 50 points

                  William  Chafe’s article is a discussion of how and why hierarchies of race and gender  operate.   Your assignment consists of two parts.

Part 1.  Define what Chafe means by social control.    You should write a short paragraph that, in your own words, explains what Chafe means when he uses the term social control. (10 points)

Part 2.  Explain how Chafe believes social control operates in societies.  To do this you can write a long paragraph, draw a diagram, make an idea map or create another form of description.  Remember this is a graded assignment; appearance counts!  (40 points)

Due date:  At the beginning of class, Monday. 

Follow up:  On Monday, you will be expected to critique (explain the extent of your agreement or disagreement) with Chafe’s model and provide evidence to support your views.   You will have to do this without your model on hand, so make sure you have good notes.  Feel free to note key points before hand on and be prepared to use them in class.

Race in Early America Project

For this project you will read either the chapter from American Slavery, American Freedom on the after effects of Bacon’s Rebellion or the article by Jill Lepore on King Phillip’s War  Then, working with a partner, you will make a project that will show the similarities and differences between the events in regards to the history of race in Ameria.  This representation will be in a form of your choosing (chart, prezi, powerpoint, imovie etc.)  However, it should meet the following criteria:

·          It should contain an overarching thesis that explains the similarities and differences of the two events.
·          It should show similarities
·          It should show differences
·          It should do this in a way that makes the argument clear
·          It should be interesting and the format should match the argument and evidence.


Group work: (25 points total)
·          Thesis 10 points
·          Appropriateness of format to thesis, argument and evidence 10 points
·          Aesthetic appeal and design 5 points (If a visual is it readable?  Is writing clear and easy to read?)
Individual work (75 points total)
·          Your section thesis (identifies author’s thesis for your section) 10 points
·          Evidence that proves the section thesis 20 points
·          Connection of evidence to  thesis 10 points
·          Meets minimum criteria for similarity and differences and overall complexity (multi-causal explanations, ability to take in and process layers of evidence) 25 points
·          Originality and overall excellence 10 points  How much does your work stand out from what others do?  Does it successfully take risks?  What insights are new and or original to you?

Due Date:  Monday, February 23rd.

Mothers and Fathers in History
American Culture
Due Date:  Monday March 3rd at the beginning of class

The purpose of this assignment is to help illuminate the gender ideals for mothers and fathers at a key point in US History.

You will be working on this assignment individually.

Your end product will be a presentation in a format of your choice that has both audio and video components.   (Prezi, Powerpoint, i-movie, photobooth etc.)

You will research either men or women in the 1830s-1850s (separate spheres era).

Research Questions
You should ask:    

What were the gender ideals for mothers and fathers?
What was the historical context that made these seem like the right ideals at the time?

The better projects will ask:

How did racial ideology play into ideals about separate spheres

The best projects will ask:

In what ways were these ideals contested by people at the time?  Did they apply to some people or all people? 

Resources:  I have a number of history textbooks in the classroom available.  In addition, you might find resources available in JSTOR via our library subscription.  I will also show you how to find appropriate sources online via other search engines using both the library subscription services and larger (but targeted) google searches. 

Things to keep in mind: 

Gender is a social construction.  It is not biological (that’s sex ie: male, female, hermaphrodite, intersexed, etc.).  

Your presentation should include a mix of visual and written sources as evidence. 

Time period matters.  You can’t just pull random images off the internet and think they will work. 
A thesis that holds your presentation together.  10 points
Style and format of presentation.  Does the format fit your argument?  Is it well-executed?  10points
Bibliography 5 points (feel free to use Noodletools or Easybib).

Individual Grade
Quality of research (Did you use a wide variety of primary and secondary resources?) 20 points
Depth and clarity of findings (Did you find out a lot about gender ideals and translate those findings into language we can all understand?  Does your evidence prove your thesis?  Are those connections made explicitly?).    25 points
Grammar, spelling of your piece of the presentation.  5 points

Total 75 points.      

 Final Project Instructions

Your Final Project

Your final project is an analysis of a current event or cultural product using the analytical tools you have learned in this class. 

You can focus on artist intent, self-presentation, audience reception, intersectionality, or any of the other theoretical tools we have used over the course of the semester. 

Your project must take no longer than five minutes to present and can either be a stand-alone, or involve you as an active presenter. 

There will be a q and a period in which you answer questions from the audience.  This will be part of your grade. 

The format is of your choosing. 

Presentations will begin April 21st and be determined by lot.  If you are not ready to go you will be considered late.