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International Perspectives on Gender

What do the voices of black women domestic workers in South Africa tell us about apartheid? What roles are there for men in the ongoing struggle for gender equality in post-apartheid South Africa? How did Chairman Mao’s idea that ‘women hold up half the sky’ impact on Chinese gender relations after the Communist Party came to power in 1949? Was China’s recently rescinded one-child policy an abuse of reproductive rights or an unanticipated way to further gender equality?

Why did both the Indian nationalist movement and the British colonial authorities mobilise the concept of gender equality in the struggle for Indian independence? What do recent demonstrations by women in India, such as SlutWalks, tell us about the prospects for Indian feminism today? Are all contemporary Iranian women passive victims of Islamic fundamentalism, and what did the Revolution in Iran mean for men and masculinities? Does the ‘veil’ liberate or oppress Muslim women and what does it mean to those who wear it?

These are all questions you’ll be exploring on this module, which introduces some of the diverse manifestations of gender around the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. Using case studies from China, South Africa, India and Iran, International Perspectives on Gender highlights the symbolic importance of gender at the centre of religious and political ideologies that have dominated the last 100 years, including: colonialism, nationalism, socialism, religious fundamentalism and, of course, feminism. You’ll follow themes of resistance, work, sexuality, reproduction, family and religion through the case studies, in order to help make connections between them.

Your teaching will be through a weekly 1 hour interactive lecture and weekly 1 hour participatory seminar. (Activities include mind-mapping, short presentations, video analysis and debates/role plays, as well as discussing your core readings.) You’ll be assessed by a 2 hour, 2 question exam in the summer term, supported by a dedicated revision workshop and seminar and the chance to practice your exam technique in formative work and get feedback before it ‘counts’.

Module Director

Caroline Wright