Queer Bodies: A Cultural History of Medical and Scientific Knowledge

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses
Open—Spring

How have physicians and scientists studied and understood differences in sex, gender, and sexuality? What categories have they used, and how have these categories and the assumptions underlying them changed over time? How have popular conceptions of gender and sexuality influenced science and vice versa? What has been at stake in viewing social differences as located in the body? How can we understand the medicalization and pathologization of queer bodies, genders, and sexualities in relation to broader cultural, moral, and political agendas? In this seminar, we will examine the history of scientific and medical study of sexual behavior, hormonal systems, the brain, and genetics. We will consider the varying relationships of gay, transgender, and intersex communities with science and medicine and tensions within those communities over whether scientific and medical knowledge is empowering or alienating. The books we read will introduce students to the variety of methods and approaches used in the historical and sociological study of science and medicine, from close evaluation of the scientific evidence itself to analysis of the production of knowledge as a social activity and to broad analysis of science and medicine within politics, popular culture, and social movements. Conference work could hew closely to the topic of the seminar through the study of a particular debate, historical period, or area of scientific or medical research; or it could extend outwards to a broader set of topics, such as hormones and transgender health, the role of science in religious debates over sex and sexuality, or representations of queer bodies in art or popular culture.