Queer Feminisms and the Idea of the Natural: Meditations on Femme Theory, Politics, and Art (aka Femme Independent Study)
In the spring of 2012 I embarked on an exciting collaboration with three students – Katherine Frank (HC), Barbara Morrison (HC), and Lyz Tat (UMass). We convened a semester long independent study to explore shared interests in “femme” as a site for thinking about gender, nature, and feminist politics. Below you’ll find our course description and a photograph of the three of them presenting their work on a panel by the same title as our course at the 3rd Annual Five College Queer Sexuality and Gender Conference on March 31, 2012.
Course Description: This course takes discussions of femme theory/politics/art as a mode of disrupting naturalized gender as its point of departure. Thinking about processes of “naturalization” at the interstices of feminist and queer theory, we will engage science studies and the tools in can offer us to think more deeply about what “intersectionality” is. If, through careful analysis of their histories in biomedicine, we can understand gender and sexuality as always already racialized, how might we think about the projects of feminist and queer theory (particularly where they meet)?
Keeping this larger question in mind, we will ask: What is femininity (in biology, history, culture, etc.)? What does femininity have to do with feminism? What is femme? What is the relationship between femme and feminine? What’s feminist about femme? How has and might femme be theorized as a rich and complex site of resistance to normativity, naturalized femininity, binary gender, sexual dimorphism, and naturalized racial hierarchies? Taking a broad interdisciplinary approach, we will read across disciplines and genres.
Jealousy as a Naturecultural Object: A Queer Feminist Science Studies Research Practicum
This group independent study has three major components: introducing naturecultural theories and approaches, participation a collaborative research effort, and an independent research project. Both collaborative and individual research components will serve as experiments in operationalizing critiques of the nature/culture binary as research methodology. The topic of the collaborative research project, as the course title suggests, is an exploration of the concept of jealousy. First, we will read scholarly treatments of “jealousy” from across a wide range of disciplines including psychology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, history, sociology, legal theory, and feminist critique. We will annotate these readings and meet to discuss them, endeavoring to place disciplinarily incommensurate stories about jealousy in conversation with one another. With a particular interest in cross cultural comparisions and critical feminist analyses of the gendered naturalization of jealousy, we will concern ourselves with theorizing the simultaneously historically and culturally contingent concept of jealousy, alongside a variety of treatments of its embodiedness. In the last 6 weeks of the semester, students will pursue a topic of their choosing in similar fashion: bringing together a wide range of disciplinary knowledges from across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. We will give one another feedback on bibliographies, annotations, and analyses of the materials. Students will actively contribute to the development of an annotated bibliography and a database of quotes on “jealousy” and participate in discussions of the collaborative project. For the independent component, students will write a brief statement of intent regarding their independent research, to be approved by the professor, and will pursue their research plan, manifesting in a naturecultural analysis of their topic, in a format of their choosing (short paper, creative expression, research guide, etc.) and meet to support one another with feedback and suggestions.
Exploring Naturecultural Methodologies
This independent study explores proliferating conceptual resources for thinking “natureculturally” about bodies in/and the worlds with which they have co-evolved. Students will read, discuss, and annotate key texts – including books, interviews, and review essays on important concepts – and write a term paper.
Preliminary Topics/Reading List:
Natureculture (Donna Haraway) – Companion Species Manifesto (+ articles and interviews)
Entanglement (Karen Barad) – Meeting the Universe Halfway (+ articles and interviews)
Psycho-Somatic (Elizabeth Wilson) – Psyochosomatic
Trans-Corporeal (Stacy Alaimo) – Bodily Natures
Animacy (Mel Chen) – Animacies