Spring 2020

Critical Theory and the Politics of Race and Gender

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-375  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-376


Monique Roelofs (Section 01)


(Offered as POSC 375 and SWAG 376) Questions of race, gender, and sexuality have provoked profound shifts in the analytical methods of critical theory. Notwithstanding its subtle views of history, critical theory conceived of the political arena in overly abstract, generalizing terms. Exploring twenty-first-century approaches in social and political thought, this course expands the repertoire of critical strategies through which we can frame our current political landscape. Starting with discussions of intersectionality by Audre Lorde and María Lugones, we will go on to investigate new trajectories: Adriana Cavarero’s rethinking of human plurality (Arendt) in terms of the embodied singularity of voices; Amy Allen’s decolonizing reading of history and normativity in Foucault and Adorno; Sara Ahmed’s exploration of the institutional politics of use; Bonnie Honig’s view of the democratizing powers of public things; Anne Cheng’s revisioning of contemporary orientalism and its figurations of subject and object; Cynthia and Julie Willett’s account of comedy’s communal, gender, and race politics; Sianne Ngai’s deciphering of gender/sexual reversals occasioned through technological devices under late capitalism; and the forever self-updating “when and where” of Blackness that Michelle Wright contrasts to a focus on the “what.” We will explore coloniality, time, and freedom in Lucrecia Martel’s film Zama (Argentina, 2017) and watch a recorded talk by Angela Davis on critical theory, power, freedom, softness, and imagination. We will also attend lectures by Anne Fausto-Sterling and Joy James. Students will complete a research project. In the last segment of the course, we will collaboratively choose several texts geared toward these projects.

Requisite: At least one POSC course (200 level or above). Not open to first year students. Limited to 18 students. 

Spring semester. Karl Loewenstein Fellow and Visiting Professor Roelofs.

If Overenrolled: Preference will be given to Political Science majors.


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Research, Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020