Desire Across Boundaries: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Postcolonial World

Sophomore and above—Year

A common feature of both colonial and postcolonial societies has been the enforcement of rules, both cultural and legal, that determine with whom one may be sexual and whom one may marry. Laws in the European colonies focused most intensively on regulating intimate connections among people of different races; but the nature of those regulations varied over time and by location, depending on the underlying political goals and gendered logics of local governments. For example, subaltern white men were encouraged to form households with colonized women in 19th century Dutch Indonesia and prohibited from doing so in the 20th century. And in the post-independence era, indigenous same-sex intimacies, which were of little concern to colonial governments, have now come under fierce government scrutiny and persecution in countries such as Uganda and Zimbabwe. In this yearlong seminar, we will examine articulations among race, gender, and sexuality in the period from the European scramble for colonies to the present era of post-independence (the postcolonial.) For this exploration, we will mine the works of 19th-century sexologists Freud and Foucault and their feminist critics, the writings of colonizers and anticolonial activists, and ethnographic and historical accounts of race and sex in particular colonial and post-independence settings. We will study the writings and images of anthropologists, filmmakers, historians, novelists, and activists in many parts of the globe.