Gender, Medicine and Science

Term: 
Fall
Credits: 
2.0
Status: 
Elective
Course Description: 

This course offers an introduction to a vast field of historical and sociological research at the intersection of gender, medicine, and science in the modern world. We explore the gendered nature of the three interrelated realms of medical and scientific knowledge production, practices, and technologies, together with the personal experience of health and illness.

 

This course offers an introduction to a vast field of historical and sociological research at the intersection of gender, medicine, and science in the modern world. We explore the gendered nature of the three interrelated realms of medical and scientific knowledge production, practices, and technologies, together with the personal experience of health and illness.

After an introduction to the core concepts of the historiography of the field and a discussion of central tenets of feminist epistemologies of science, the course covers a wide range of selected topics through fascinating case studies. These focus on themes including: interpretations of women’s nature (sexuality, fertility and reproduction); the construction of sexual difference (in areas of reproductive biology and anatomy in the 18th -20th centuries); the gendered and value-laden medical practices of surgery and gynaecology; the gendered forms of madness (hysteria, puerperal insanity, and shell shock); the invasion of the female body through modern reproductive technologies; the assumed fragile connection between the female body and the mind; bodily and sexual transformation (reconstructive and aesthetic surgery) and bodily enhancement. We will explore the gendered patient’s shifting position in 20th century medical encounters through the study of modern health social movements (breast cancer and the HIV/AIDS movements). Finally, the personal experience of health/illness and medical intervention will be captured through sensitive microhistorical studies (focussing on childbirth, breast cancer and abortion), while the culturally embedded nature of certain gendered pathologies (such as anorexia and bulimia) will be demonstrated by careful sociological analysis and with the means of cultural studies.

 

Learning Outcomes: 

The course aims at developing a critical understanding of apparently obvious/natural concepts (such as biological and sexual difference, different bodily functions and processes), and the extent to which seemingly pre-social biological entities/ concepts are in fact socially framed, mediated, experienced and regulated.

As evident from the Course Description, the studied field proves to be exceptionally interdisciplinary. The course therefore provides a unique possibility for students to engage with different research methodologies and analytical tools that characterize the diverse disciplinary fields of women’s and gender studies, science studies, feminist epistemology, history of science, sociology of scientific knowledge, etc., and to compare the distinct characteristics of microhistorical analysis, intellectual history, and sociological, cultural, anthropological/ ethnographic approaches. Readings also provide insights into the critical use of diverse sources, ranging from social historical through literary and scientific to personal ones.

Assessment: 

Course requirements and assessment:

The course combines lectures (which introduce the intellectual and historical context, together with a wide range of material and methodological approaches) with seminars. Seminars include the discussion of key issues based on the mandatory readings and student presentations of ‘position papers.’

Students are expected to attend the seminars, read the assigned readings and prepare to actively participate in seminar discussions. Each student will be required to give at least one “position paper” (a c. 15 minute statement proposing issues to be discussed in the particular class meeting as gathered from the weekly readings), and to write a maximum 4000-word seminar paper (including footnotes and bibliography). The topic for the seminar paper must be developed, in consultation with the instructors, by Week 10, and submitted two weeks after the end of the term at the latest. The grade will emerge from the combination of the position paper (10%), class activity (40%) and the seminar paper (50%).

Class Attendance:

Regular attendance is mandatory in all classes. A student who misses more than two units (two 100 min sessions) in any 2 or 4 credit class without a verified reason beyond the student's control must submit an 8-10 page paper assigned by the Professor which as a rule should cover the material in the missed class. The paper is due no later than 3 weeks after the missed class.