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Sex & Culture

Course Description:

This course explores gender and human sexuality in their various and multifaceted manifestations. Through an examination of the complex and complicated gendered roles of men and women in different cultures, we will examine how societies determine what is ‘normal’, ‘natural’ and ‘right’ about sexual practices. As we study sexuality and sexual practices in different regions of the world, we will ask: Who decides what is right and wrong about sexual activity? What do people say about sex? Who gets to talk about sex? How do people learn about sexuality? How or when do a society’s ideas about sexuality change? What does an investigation of another culture’s sexual beliefs and practices mean for our own society? And finally, what benefits to society might be brought about through a study of human sexuality.


Objectives and Goals: Students will learn how to approach the themes of sex and culture through the discipline of anthropology. They should come away with a firm understanding of the social science concepts of:  “the social construction of gender and sexuality,” “historical and cross-cultural variation”, and “power and inequality.”


The technical focus of the course is on “observation and representation/documentation of real life,” “data gathering/data organization” and “evidence-based analysis as presentation and argument.” Students will learn how to do ethnographic research through the hands-on practice of conducting their own ethnographic investigations. Through learning about and doing sociolinguistic analysis and material object analysis, students will gain the necessary tools to collect data, analyze that data and write about it to draw conclusions based on evidence and argument.


 The course will also provide students with opportunities to hone skills of information literacy: “reading different genres,” “using J-Stor Database,” and “deconstructing texts”.


Additionally, students will have ample opportunities to practice and advance their writing skills through journal entries, material, sociolinguistic, art, film and ritual analyses and summarizing scholarly texts.

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