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Sex and the US Military: from Cold War to “War on Terror” (HI2C6-15)

Module Convenor: Professor Susan Carruthers

Lecture: Thurs 9-10, FAB 2.43

Seminars: Thurs 10-11, FAB1.05; Thurs 11-12, FAB1.05; Thurs 2-3, JX2.02 [NB: seminars begin in week 1]

Office hours [FAB 3.76]: Tues 12-1; Thurs 12.30-1.30, and at other times by appointment. Please email to book a slot.

Module overview

Since World War II, the military has loomed large in the United States: significant not only for its war-waging functions and budgetary claims but as a parallel welfare state. The site of intense political contestation, the US armed forces have also formed a battleground in contests over sex, sexual violence, and sexuality: the focus of this 15 CAT module. Organized into three parts, this 15 CATS second-year option module will explore different facets of sex - as a problem and resource - for the US military over the decades from World War II to the Biden presidency.

Students will first consider the ways in which (heterosexual) sex has been construed, implicitly or more explicitly, as a "reward" for men's military service, and the consequences of this sexual prerogative for militarized communities in the United States as well as overseas. The second section of the module assesses how women have been recruited into and deployed by the US military since 1945, examining debates over women's inclusion in combat roles and how gender has been "weaponized" in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The module concludes by analyzing questions of sexual violence, homosexuality and transgender inclusion (or exclusion) in the military. The goal is to historicize present-day struggles over who is permitted to serve - in which capacities, and under what terms - in various branches of the US military.

For full details of each week's lectures and seminar content/preparation, click on the "Syllabus" link below.