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Spring 2017

Race and Gender Theory in the Undergraduate Humanities Classroom

Cathy N. Davidson (The Graduate Center, English) and Michael Gillespie (City College, Black Studies and Film Studies)

Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30pm

This course is designed as both an introduction to core concepts of race and gender theory and as a course in the pedagogy of teaching race and gender in the introductory undergraduate humanities classroom. We will be reading a number of key texts, largely in the disciplinary areas of film, literary, and cultural theory, from the perspective of critical race theory, feminist theory, queer theory, visual culture studies, and gender and sexuality theory. We will also be reading constructivist, student-centered, activist, engaged learning theory.

The course begins from the premise that profound work in race and gender theory occurs in introductory courses throughout the humanities. Introductory courses are among the most challenging to teach and our CUNY graduate students, early in their graduate careers, have sole responsibility for teaching them on the CUNY campuses. This course is specifically designed to help prepare them for their crucial role in higher education at CUNY and beyond. In demographic terms, the drop-out rate is highest in introductory undergraduate courses. In disciplinary terms, introductory courses are where students are most likely to determine a later course of study—a major or graduate school. In intellectual terms, introductory courses help create the critical lens through which students view the rest of their learning, in school and out. Yet, very little pedagogical training in graduate school focuses on methods for engaging students who are encountering race and gender theory for the first time, on how to integrate race and gender theory into a general introductory humanities curriculum, on how to connect the core concepts in an introductory course with a graduate student’s own specialized research, and on how race and gender are interconnected and converge in the terms of intersectionality.

This course will be offered to Graduate Center students by permission of the instructors. First priority will be to GC students currently teaching courses on a CUNY campus. We will build upon graduate students’ own experiences as teachers and learners. We will have a site on C-Box/Academic Commons for our course and also sites that will link all the undergraduate courses being taught by the graduate students in the course.

We will focus on such basics as designing syllabi, creating engaged pedagogical exercises, rethinking formative assessment methods, interrogating both the lecture and the standard discussion models used in traditional humanities courses, and in building online portfolios to showcase student work.

Both graduate students and the undergraduates they are teaching will be required to publish some of their work in public online forums and to participate in at least one project that offers a public contribution to knowledge, possibly in partnership with colleagues at LaGuardia Community College as part of our new Mellon-sponsored Humanities Alliance.

Since this course will be a student-led course with graduate students creating some or all of the syllabus together via a Google Doc exercise that models student-centered pedagogy, we will not finalize all the readings and viewings in advance However, it is assumed there will be some combination of DuBois, Dewey, hooks, Fanon, Freire, Lowe, Butler, Lorde, Sedgwick, Berlant, Ahmed, Rich, Moten, Fleetwood, Davidson, and Gillespie.


The Public and Publics

Setha Low (The Graduate Center, Environmental Psychology, Anthropology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Women’s Studies) and Amy Chazkel (The Graduate Center and Queens College, History)

Thursdays, 2-4pm

We propose an interdisciplinary course that examines the concept of the public, and the plural publics, as an analytical construct of particular importance in both scholarship and political life. This course offers a useful way to think about diversity in society, as the concept of “public” implies the question of who is included in and excluded from the collective. Students will master the classic and more recent literature on space and place with respect to the designation of public and private. We will also go beyond the literature on shared resources and social spaces to think broadly about major approaches to the common, the communal, and the ordinary. The course knits together diverse, related themes, including: state versus private jurisdiction in regulating everyday life; feminist and black public spheres; the history and politics of public education; the privatization of urban public space; and political, social, and legal conflicts over copyright, intellectual property and public scholarship and art. We will pay special attention to a dimension of the study of public life of particular concern to us both, and of perennial political relevance as a question of global social justice: the privatization of formerly shared or commonly owned resources—the “enclosure of the commons”—as both a historical process and a present-day phenomenon. Readings will include a combination of theoretical inquiries and case studies drawn primarily, but not exclusively, from the North American, Latin American, and European contexts.

Among the learning goals of such a broad, interdisciplinary course is the theoretical/methodological question concerning the relative merits of different levels of analysis. We will bring the question of scale to bear on our class discussions, which take up the concepts of the public/publics through, in turns, case studies, transnational research, social scientific modeling, and theoretical explorations. Thus, in addition to familiarizing students with a subject of immense importance in the humanities and social sciences, this course aims to impart a significant meta-lesson in how to approach research and learning.

Guest speakers might include Peter Linebaugh (on the commons in historical perspective), David Bollier (on the commons as a broadly applied political concept), and Rebecca Scott, who has done pioneering legal and social history research on slave and post-abolition societies and might conduct a workshop for our students on the concept of public rights.

Full, active, and equitable student participation will be built into the syllabus, first in the form of students’ in-class presentations and then in students’ responsibility to select readings for the last third of the class as an exercise in bibliographic research and radical pedagogy.

The instructors will provide intellectual and logistical support for students to engage in lasting collaborations with each other and with faculty members that would continue beyond the end of the semester. Such collaborations might take the form of jointly authored articles, websites, or public history projects.


Social Inequality & Health Disparities: Sex, Gender and Reproduction

Diana Romero (Hunter College and the CUNY School of Public Health, Community, Society and Health, Public Health Program) and Ananya Mukherjea (College of Staten Island, Sociology/Anthropology)

Thursdays, 6:30-8:30pm

This course brings an interdisciplinary public health (social ecological/multilevel) and sociological (critical cultural studies) lens to examine the social, historical, political and other contexts in which sex, gender and reproductive health are situated. There will be a particular focus on the role of social inequality with regard to imposition and effects of policies on diverse groups and their associated, disparate sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes. Because of the cross-cutting nature of this subject, we seek to bring together a diverse group of graduate students (eg, from sociology, public health , anthropology, political science, social welfare, gender studies, law), in order to deepen the analysis of the selected issues and provide a more valuable experience than the typical discipline-specific course. We will employ an innovative pedagogical case-study approach to conduct in-depth analyses of select SRH issues (1) as a group in class (selected by the instructors), and (2) in student pairs (selected by the students). The student-led, case-study analyses will involve their assuming the role of ‘co-instructors’ for individual class sessions, wherein they will lead the class in a discussion of the topic and their specific analysis. Toward this end, web-based and other materials on pedagogy will be included among the course materials (e.g., Pedagogy in Action: Connecting Theory to Classroom PracticeMerlot Pedagogy).

Possible instructor-led case-study topics may include:

  • Family planning/contraception and abortion in women of color past and present: population control, reproductive rights, choice, economic equality, or something else?
  • The culture and politics of male circumcision, PrEP, and condom usage as differing approaches to reducing rates of HIV transmission
  • Sexual health education and teen pregnancy: cross-national trends and policy comparison
  • The ongoing controversy regarding HPV vaccine availability to teens and young adults in the US
  • Pregnancy and childbearing — ‘intended’ or not? Interrogation of rational-based theory via quantitative measures to measure pregnancy/childbearing intentions
  • Two scenarios ‘beyond ‘choice’: conscientious objection and sex selection

For the student-led, case-study analyses, students may select from a range of possible topics, as well as propose their own, including but not limited to: LGBTQ health and rights issues; sterilization of marginalized groups and constrained choice; abstinence­-only education vis-à-vis risk of pregnancy and STIs; emergency contraception knowledge, access, and policies; US poverty policy, reproduction (family cap/child exclusion), and heteronormativity (two-parent families/paternity identification).

Our interdisciplinary analytic approach will utilize diverse primary and secondary data sources, domestic and international, as relevant, bringing both qualitative and quantitative research expertise to this co-teaching endeavor. We will engage with methods and theories from the social sciences, public health, and law (human rights) to understand how various forms of social inequality along the lines of race/ethnicity, gender, and class shape not only sexual and reproductive health experiences and outcomes but also the very meaning of reproduction and ‘reproductive illness.’ This course will equip students with the analytical tools to engage in contemporary debates and policy analyses of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and policies, that recognize the inherent diversity of experiences in this field.


Seminar and Practicum on the Teaching of Psychology

Patricia Brooks (The Graduate Center and College of Staten Island, Psychology) and Jill Grose-Fifer (The Graduate Center and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Psychology)

Wednesdays, 4-6pm

An important goal of the PhD program in Psychology is to prepare graduate students to teach psychology in university settings. This team-taught course will focus on professional development and the use of innovative student-centered pedagogical methods for undergraduate teaching that focus on active learning. You will read and discuss research on the science of teaching and learning, and the advantages and disadvantages of various technologies for instruction (e.g., hybrid/on-line teaching, YouTube, Blackboard, PowerPoint). You will use a collaborative model of teacher preparation in which you will share your knowledge and resources with peers.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Design and teach a course using a student-centered teaching approach based on the five APA learning outcomes for undergraduate education: Content knowledge; Scientific inquiry and critical thinking; Ethical and social responsibility in a diverse world; Communication; and Professional development.
  • Design active learning exercises and strategies that build crucial skills in students, such as their oral and written communication skills, critical thinking, the ability to work with others, etc.
  • Produce a preliminary teaching portfolio, which will include a draft statement of teaching philosophy and a course syllabus.
  • Effectively use universal design in your activities and course design to meet the diverse needs of students in today’s college classrooms.
  • Demonstrate the ways in which educators can fulfill their responsibility to stay current in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and use effective pedagogy as determined by evidence-based studies.


The Social Construction of Childhood: Perspectives on Self, Others, Society and Human Rights

Martin Ruck (The Graduate Center, Psychology) and Erika Niwa (Brooklyn College, Psychology)

Tuesdays, 2-4pm

This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to examine how the social construction of
childhood, both across time and context, shapes children’s perceptions of self, others, and
society. This team-taught course will utilize multiple disciplinary lenses, from developmental psychology, sociology, child studies, and anthropology, as well as critical theory and international policy. Using the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, United Nations General Assembly, 1989) as our overarching conceptual framework, we are grounded by our fundamental belief that the perceptions and lived experiences of children and youth are inextricable from the complex worlds that they inhabit, extending from the most proximal contexts (including families and schools) to the most distal contexts (including policy, institutions, and cultural beliefs). Furthermore, inequality and oppression play a key role in these processes. Specific attention will be paid to examining the complex intersections of individual development and multi-level ecological systems as they shape a range of developmental domains – including perceptions of children’s rights, civic engagement, and identity development – in the face of continuing inequality and oppression.

This seminar-based course is grounded in student participation. Students will play an active role in the course via class dialogues, in-class presentations, and being lead facilitators of class discussions. Thus, the collaboration of the students with each other and with the instructors will build the framework for the course.