Political Science | The Politics of Gender and Sexuality
Y353 | 30242 | Sissenich
Meets with G302
Second 8 weeks
In political science, the body tends to be considered a private
matter, except for contentious issues such as abortion and birth
control, which serve as windows onto the politics of religion.
Beyond that, the embodiment and performance of reproduction are
considered personal and thus apolitical. This course aims to
challenge our categories of “public” and “private,” of “political”
and “personal,” by investigating a range of issues around
reproduction and health and how they are handled by the state, or
rather, by a variety of different governments and political actors.
Two fundamental puzzles will motivate our inquiry: First, what is
political about reproduction? Second, why do countries and societies
solve similar policy challenges in sometimes radically different
ways? Topics such as pregnancy and childbirth, breastfeeding, sex
education, marriage, population control, pronatalism, assisted
reproductive technologies, adoption, and prostitution will offer
empirical case studies that help us explore the governance of bodies
and the economics of reproduction. Readings will be drawn from the
history of science and medicine, medical anthropology, comparative
public policy, gender theory, and normative political theory. While
the bulk of the literature focuses on North America, we will
deliberately engage comparisons with other advanced industrialized
countries in Europe and beyond.
There will be a course pack, but no textbooks. Most readings can
also be obtained from the library’s online journals. Students will
be responsible for reading 60-80 pages of social science research
each week and writing response papers; keeping up with current news
on our topic; completing two take-home exams; and producing a 10-
page research paper.