An Introduction to Gender, Class, and Race

Gender, class and race are three of the major categories that scholars in the humanities and social sciences use to structure their analyses.  It is easy to see why: these categories represent important axes along which societies structure themselves and through which people develop a sense of identity.  Broadly speaking, gender refers to social distinctions formed on the basis of sex; class refers to social distinctions formed on the basis of socioeconomic status; and race refers to social distinctions formed on the basis of factors such as culture, nationality, or physical characteristics.


Yet while in popular discourse gender, class and race can seem straightforward and self-explanatory, all three are social constructs—artificial frameworks that only appear natural when we use them unreflectively.   None of them have stable, fixed definitions.  This course focuses a critical lens on these three categories.  We will ask: How do societies construct categories of identity like gender, class, and race?  How have these constructions varied across cultures and across time? And how do these categories intersect and shape one another?  Examining the history of and relationships between these important categories of analysis will help prepare students to exercise responsible citizenship in a diverse, interconnected world.  We will look at important theories scholars use to understand these categories and test those theories by applying them to real-life situations.


Interactive learning activities for this course include group discussions, project presentations, in-class simulations and experiential learning exercises, and an enrichment activity.


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