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Introduction to Gender Studies: Concepts, Approaches & Issues 2013

Introduction to Gender Studies: Concepts, Approaches & Issues
Second Semester 2013
Graduate Diploma in Social Sciences
Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities


Instructor: Sambriddhi Kharel ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )
This is a foundational level course designed to introduce students to the interdisciplinary study of ‘gender’; cultivate an appreciation for the contributions gender studies has made to the different disciplines within the social sciences; and inculcate in students an ability to analyze contemporary social and development issues through a ‘gender’ lens. The course will bring together theories, approaches and methodologies from feminism, masculinities and queer studies. It aspires to complement, build on and critically re-visit all the other courses taken by students in the first and second semesters such as anthropology, sociology, political science, research methodology and comparative social science.


Course description

The lectures, tutorials and readings will expose the students to the following interrelated topics:

  • The contested history of feminism
  • Multitude of feminist theories
  • Approaches to studying ‘masculinities’, ‘queer’ studies and sexuality
  • Theoretical and methodological contributions of gender studies to the following disciplines: anthropology, sociology and political science
  • Feminist Epistemology & Methods: Feminist approach to the generation of knowledge and the processes of conducting research


Course requirements           

There will be two classes per week with a minimum of 90 minutes per class. Classes will consist of lectures to introduce key concepts and issues followed by seminars to encourage debate and discussion. Students are expected to attend each class and be on top of the required readings; participate in class discussions and debates; write opinion/reflection pieces regularly; make group and individual presentations on assigned readings; and take a final exam.

The readings include introductory, classical and contemporary texts from leading authors in gender studies. The emphasis of each seminar will be to understand, discuss and debate the readings. However, students will also be awarded for going beyond the required readings by, for instance, relating any social and political developments within and outside Nepal to the class discussions.

The final grade for the course will comprise the following:

Class participation (10%): Level of attendance, how often students voice their opinions, how well opinions are articulated, extent to which opinions are informed of/engage with readings and current affairs.

Two student presentations (20%): The student presentations will be carried out in pairs and individually. Students will be expected to present a summary of key arguments in each reading; discuss how the reading relates to the major themes covered during the week; and identify issues for class discussions and debates. Students will be assessed according to how well they understand and articulate the major arguments of the reading(s), work independently and/or with their team member(s), and encourage and engage with their fellow classmates.

Five best summary and reflection papers (40%):  The main purpose of this assessment is to habituate students to reading and writing. Students will be expected to submit reflection papers of between 500-800 words after the end of every two weeks. Students may either decide to submit papers/reflection pieces on the reading questions which will hand out each week or choose to be creative with what they submit or both. They may wish to write about what they learnt during the week; particular issues they find interesting/uninteresting in the required readings or class discussions; discuss the extent to which what they have learnt during the week reinforces or dispels their beliefs and/or value systems; how the readings or class discussions relate to current affairs and past readings or courses etc. The final grade will depend on how regularly students submit these pieces; how well they understand the readings and articulate their opinions; how critically they engage with issues discussed in the readings and/or class discussions; and whether they demonstrate an improvement in reading, writing and critical thinking skills from a gender perspective.

Final exam (30%):  The students will be presented with five essay questions from which they will have to answer two within two hours (one hour per essay question). The questions will be broad and general. Students will be assessed on the basis of the quality of their argument and the breadth of theoretical and methodological readings they consult and critically engage with.

The course lecturers and tutors will hold regular office hours. Students should take advantage of this opportunity to raise their questions, concerns and/or brainstorm ideas on a one-to-one basis.


INTRODUCTION: Concepts, History and Debates

 Week 1: What is Feminism?

This week is designed to introduce students to the history and the underlying features of the feminist movements in the US and the UK. The feminist movement is generally divided into three phases – first, second and third. An example from India will also be used to compare and contrast the feminist movement in the west with those occurring in the Sub-Continent. The assigned readings will provide an overview of the major feminist theories and introduce students to the contested definition of ‘feminism’.

Day One - Required Readings

Tong, Rosemarie (2009) ‘Introduction: The Diversity of Feminist Thinking’ in Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction. Boulder and San Francisco: Westview Press, pp. 1-9.

Treichler, P. and Cheris Kramarae (2005) ‘Feminism’ in Kolmar, W.K. and F. Bartkowski (eds.) Feminist Theory: A Reader. Ohio: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, pp. 7-11.

Day Two - Required Readings

Reger, Jo. (2007) ‘Feminism, First, Second and Third Waves’ in Ritzer, George (ed.) The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Sociology. n/a, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 1672-1681.

Kumar, Radha (1999) ‘From Chipko to Sati: The Contemporary Indian Women's Movement’ in Menon, Nivedita (ed.) Gender and Politics in India. New Delhi: OUP, pp.343-369.

 Week 2: What is Gender?

Many people tend to equate ‘gender’ with women. The major purpose of this week is to demonstrate to students that ‘gender’ must include both masculine and feminine perspectives. By the end of the week, students will acquire a better understanding of how and why ‘gender’ is socially constructed rather than an outcome of biology, and get acquainted to a history of social theory on gender.

Day One - Required Readings

Kimmel, Michael (2008) ‘Introduction’ in The Gendered Society. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-16.

Kimmel, Michael (2008) ‘Ordained by Nature: Biology Constructs the Sexes’ in The Gendered Society. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 19-53.

 Day Two - Required Readings

Ortner, Sherry (1996) ‘The Problem of Women as an Analytical Category’ in Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture. Boston: Beacon Press, Chapter 5, pp. 116-138.
Kimmel, Michael (2008) ‘Inequality and Difference: The Social Construction of Gender’ in The Gendered Society. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 98-123.

Bhasin, Kamla (1997) ‘Gender Workshops with Men: Experiences and Reflections’, Gender and Development, Vol. 5, No. 2, [Masculinity], pp. 55-61.



The first four weeks of this segment of the course will be dedicated to understanding a wide range of feminist theories – from liberal feminism to post-structural feminism. ‘Feminism’ is generally and most popularly understood as one of the following - liberal, radical and Marxist. Each of these strands of feminism offers competing explanations for the causes and consequences of women’s subjugation. Multi-cultural, Post Colonial and Post Modern/Post Structural feminism, instead, shifts the debate from the view of women as marginalized to problematizing who the ‘woman’ is in the first place. Feminists have engaged with and applied different social and political theories (such as liberalism, Marxism, post-colonialism and post-structuralism) to not only debate amongst themselves about what constitutes ‘feminism’ but also infuse a gender perspective to each of these theories.

Week 3: Liberal, Radical, Marxist and Socialist Feminisms

Day One - Required Readings

Tong, Rosemarie (2009) ‘Liberal Feminism’ in Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction. Boulder and San Francisco: Westview Press, pp. 11-47.

Tong, Rosemarie (2009) ‘Radical Feminism: Libertarian and Cultural Perspectives’ in Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction. Boulder and San Francisco: Westview Press, pp. 48-95.

Day Two - Required Readings

Tong, Rosemarie (2009) ‘Marxist and Socialist Feminism: Classical and Contemporary’ in Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction. Boulder and San Francisco, Westview Press: pp. 96-127.

Week 4: Multi-cultural Feminism

Day One - Required Readings

Tong, Rosemarie (2009) ‘Multicultural, Global and Postcolonial Feminism’ in Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction. Boulder and San Francisco: Westview Press, pp. 212-245. (Only do the readings on multi-cultural feminism)
Day 2: Student Presentations

Amos, Valerie and Pratibha Parmar (2001) ‘Challenging Imperialism’ in Bhavnani, Kum-Kum (ed.) Feminism and Race. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.17-31

Lewis, Gail (2001). ‘Black Women's Empowerment and the British Economy’ in Bhavnani, Kum-Kum (ed.) Feminism and Race. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 297-318.

Week 5: Post Colonial Feminism

Day One - Required Readings

Mills, Sara (1998) ‘Post-colonial Feminist Theory’ in Jackson, S. and J. Jones (eds.) Contemporary Feminist Theories. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 98-112.

Day 2: Student Presentations

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade (1988) ‘Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses’, Feminist Review, No. 30, pp. 61-88.

Frankenberg, Ruth and Lata Mani (2001) ‘Cross-Currents, Cross-Talk: Race, Post Colonialty and the Politics of Location’ in Bhavnani, Kum-Kum (ed.) Feminism and Race. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.479-491.

Ang, I (2001) ‘I’m a feminist but… “other”’ women and postnational feminism’ in Bhavnani, Kum-Kum (ed) Feminism and ‘Race’: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 394-409.  

Week 6: Post-Modern/Post-Structural Feminism

Day One - Required Readings

Beasley, Chris. (1999). ‘More on the Menu: Postmodernist/Poststructuralist Influences’ in What is Feminism? New Delhi & London: Sage Publications, pp. 81-100.

Benhabib, Seyla (1994) ‘Feminism and the Question of Post-Modernism’ in Polity Press (ed.) Polity Reader in Gender Studies. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp.77-92.

Day 2: Student Presentations

Fraser, Nancy and Linda Nicholson. (2006) ‘Social Criticism without Philosophy: An Encounter between Feminism and Postmodernism’ in Hackett, Elizabeth and Sally Haslanger (eds.) Theorising Feminism: A Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 340-352.

Parpart, Jane L. and Marianne H. Marchand (2001) ‘Exploding the Cannon’ in Bhavnani, Kum-Kum (ed.) Feminism and Race. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.515-534.


Week 7: Theorizing Masculinities

Masculinity studies are generally divided into three phases. As Edwards (2006, pp.2) argues “it is no coincidence that there is a slight pun on the terminology used often used to describe the first, second and potential third waves of feminism, given the immense gratitude that studies of masculinity owe to feminist study”. The first phase was developed in the 1970s and refers to sex role paradigm applied directly to masculinity studies. The emphasis was on understanding how ‘masculinity’ was socially constructed and the harmful effects this had on men’s health and psychological well-being. The second phase emerged in the 1980s as a criticism of the first phase and was concerned with the meaning and operations of power. In particular, the sex role paradigm was criticized for homogenizing ‘masculinity’ and ignoring the fact that dominant/hegemonic forms of masculinities exerted considerable power and influence over oppressed masculinities on the basis of race, class and sexuality.  The ‘third wave’ of masculinity studies is influenced by post-structuralism and is primarily interested in exploring issues of representation in the context of wider continuities and changes taking place in contemporary and historical masculinities. Students will be exposed to second and third waves of masculinity studies in this week’s readings. We will begin discussion with R.W. Connell’s understanding of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ and how conceptualisation of masculinity has been complicated through critical dialogue, debate and revisions.

Required Readings

Connell, RW and James W. Messerschmidt (2005) ‘Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept’, Gender and Society, Vol. 19, No. 6, pp. 829-859.

Reeser, Todd W. (2010) ‘Theorizing Masculinities’ in Reeser, Todd (ed.) Masculinities in Theory: An Introduction. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, pp.17-54.

Day Two - Student presentations

Morrell, Robert and Sandra Swart (2005) ‘Men in the Third World: Postcolonial Perspectives on Masculinities’ in Kimmel, Michael S., Jeff Hearn and R.W. Connell (eds.) Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities. Thousand Oaks, London and New Delhi: Sage Publications, pp. 90-113.

Peteet, Julie (2002) ‘Male Gender and Rituals of Resistance in the Palestinian Intifada: A Cultural Politics of Violence’ in Adams, Rachel and David Savran (eds.) The Masculinity Studies Reader. Malden, Mass.; Oxford: Blackwell, pp.318-335.

Kulick, Don (2002) ‘The Gender of the Brazilian Transgendered Prostitute’ in Adams, Rachel and David Savran (ed.) The Masculinity Studies Reader. Malden, Mass.; Oxford: Blackwell, pp.389-407.

Sharma, Jeevan (2008) ‘Practices of Male Labour Migration from the Hills of Nepal to India in Development Discourses -- Which Pathology?’, Gender, Development and Technology, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 303-323.

Week 8: Queer Theory

What is ‘queer’ theory? How and why was the term coined in the first place and with what implications for gender studies? How does it differ from lesbian and gay studies? How have post-structuralism influenced queer theories? Is queer theory practical and helpful for those struggling for sexual equality and rights? These will be some of the issues to be explored in the class discussions and readings this week. The presentations will allow students to better understand how queer theories have been applied to understand the nexus between gender and sexuality in different contexts.

Day One - Required Readings

Jagose, Annamarie (1996) ‘Queer’ in Jagose, Annamarie (ed.) Queer Theory: An Introduction. Carlton South Victoria: Melbourne University Press, pp.72-100.

Green, Adam Isaih (2002) ‘Gay but Not Queer: Toward Post-Queer Theory of Sexuality’, Theory and Society, Vol.31, No.4, pp.521-545.

Day Two - Student Presentations

Ault, Amber (1996) ‘The Dilemma of identity: Bi-Women's Negotiations’ in Seidman, Steven (ed.) Queer Theory/Sociology. Oxford and Mass: Blackwell Publishers, pp.311-330.

Tucker, Andrew (2009) ‘Framing Exclusion in Cape Town’s Gay Village: the discursive and material penetration of queer subjects’, Area, Vol.41, No.2, pp.186-197.

Week 9: Sexuality

Students will have an opportunity to re-visit and apply their theoretical and methodological training in gender studies to some of the leading debates taking place within the field. Students will have to draw on feminism, masculinity and queer theories to understand the ongoing debates between how to theorize sexuality. In particular, we will be looking at two classical texts on gender and sexuality – Michel Foucault’s view of sexuality as central to modern subjectivity and Adrienne Rich’s argument that heterosexually is socially produced.

Day One - Required Readings

Michel Foucault (1981) ‘We Other Victorians’ in The History of Sexuality  Vol. 1. New York: Vintage Books, pp. 3-13.

Rich, A (1980) ‘Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence’ in Stimpson and Person (eds.) Women --- Sex and Sexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 62-91.

Day Two - Student Presentations

MacKinnon, Catherine A. (2002) ‘Pressure under Patriarchy’ in Williams, Christine L. and Arlene Stein (eds.) Sexuality and Gender (Blackwell Readers in Sociology). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, pp. 33-43.

Davidson, Julia O’Connell and Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor (2002) ‘Fantasy Islands: Exploring the Demand for Sex Tourism’ in Williams, Christine L. and Arlene Stein (eds.) Sexuality and Gender (Blackwell Readers in Sociology). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, pp. 354-367.

Jackson, P.A (2001) ‘Pre-Gay, Post-Queer: Thai Perspectives on Proliferating Gender/Sex Diversity in Asia’, Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 40, No. 3-4, pp. 1-25.



By the end of the following three weeks, students will have a better appreciation for how feminism and gender studies have both questioned and broadened the horizon of specific disciplines within the social sciences. In what ways can the evolution of these disciplines and their areas of comparative advantage enrich gender studies? The issue of reinforcement of boundaries and that of cross-boundary exchange will be the focus of the following three weeks. Each week will offer students a slightly nuanced approach to interpreting gendered contributions to the following disciplines within the social sciences: anthropology, political science and sociology. The week on anthropology will highlight how feminist and gender studies have influenced the anthropological literature on Nepal. Sociology will highlight the ongoing tensions between the merits of a gendered and a feminist approach to the discipline. Finally, the week on political science will focus on how mainstream political science’s preoccupation with issues of representation and formal politics can enrich gender studies, on the one hand, and expose students to attempts at conceptualizing a ‘feminist political theory’, on the other hand.

Week 10: Anthropology

Day One - Required Readings

Johnson, Helen (2007) ‘Feminist Anthropology’ in Ritzer, George (ed.) The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. n/a, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 1689-1693.

Moore, Henrietta (1994) ‘The Cultural Construction of Gender’ in The Polity Press (ed.) The Polity Reader in Gender Studies. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp.15-21.

Kimmel, Michael (2008) ‘Spanning the World: Cross Cultural Constructs of Gender’, in Kimmel, Michael (ed.) The Gendered Society. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 47-65.

Day Two - Student Presentations

Thompson, Julia J. (2005) ‘There are Many Words to Describe Their Anger: Ritual and Resistance among High-Caste Hindu Women in Kathmandu’ in Allen, M. (ed.) Anthropology of Nepal: Peoples, Problems and Process. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, pp. 358-371.

Kunreuther, Laura (2009) ‘Between Love and Property: Voice, Sentiment, and Subjectivity in the Reform of Daughter’s Inheritance in Nepal’, American Ethnologist, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 545-562.
Leve, Lauren (2007) ‘Failed Development and Rural Revolution in Nepal: Rethinking Subaltern Consciousness and Women’s Empowerment’, Anthropological Quarterly, Vol.  81, No. 2, pp. 127-172.

Week 11: Sociology

Day One - Required Readings

Abbott, Pamela et al. (1990) ‘Introduction: Feminism and the Sociological Imagination’ in Abbot, Pamela et al. (eds.) An Introduction to Sociology: Feminist Perspectives. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 1-15.

Franklin, Sarah (1996) ‘Introduction’ in Franklin, S. (ed.) The Sociology of Gender. n/a, Edward Elgar, pp. ix-xli.

Day Two - Student Presentations
Beechey, Veronica (1979) ‘On Patriarchy’, Feminist Review, No. 3, pp. 66-82.

West, Candace and Don H. Zimmerman (1987) ‘Doing Gender’, Gender and Society, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 125-151.

Week 12: Political Science

Day One - Required Readings

Held, Virginia (2002) ‘Feminism and Political Theory’ in Simon, Robert L. (ed.) The Blackwell Guide to Social and Political Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell Publications, pp. 154-176.

Sapiro, Virginia (1998) ‘Feminist Studies and Political Science – and Vice Versa’ in Phillips, Anne (ed.) Feminism and Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 67-89.

Day Two - Student Presentations

Phillips, Anne. (1998) ‘Democracy and Representation: Or, Why Should It Matter Who Our Representatives Are’ in Phillips, Anne (ed.) Feminism and Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 224-240.

Tamang, Siera (2009) ‘The Politics of Conflict and Difference or the Difference of Conflict in Politics: The Women’s Movement in Nepal’, Feminist Review, Vol. 91,  pp.61-80.

Week 13:Feminist Epistemology & Methods

This week aims to make students better understand how feminist approach to the generation of knowledge and the processes of conducting research is a critique of and distinct from mainstream, positivist epistemology and methods. Through introductory texts as well as empirical examples from various disciplines and contexts, students will be exposed to how and why feminists are concerned with the politics of research process, and the emancipation of both the researcher and the subject as an important outcome of research. Students will also have to re-examine the major arguments of post-colonial, post-structural/post-modern feminism to grasp the concept of ‘intersectionality’ and the different ways of researching it.

Day One - Required Readings

Naples, Nancy A. (2007) ‘Feminist Methodology’ in Ritzer, George (ed.) The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. n/a, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 1701-1706.

Harding, Sandra and Kathryn Norberg (2005) ‘New Feminist Approaches to Social Science Methodology: An Introduction’, Signs, Vol.30, No.4, pp.2009-2015.

Ackerly, Brooke and Jacqui True (2010) ‘Feminist Research Ethic Explained’ in Doing Feminist Research in Political and Social Science. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.21-39.

Day Two - Student Presentations

Taylor, Verta and Leila J. Rupp (2005) ‘When the Girls are Men: Negotiating Gender and Sexual Dynamics in a Study of Drag Queens’, Signs, Vol.30, No.4, pp.2115-2139.

Lamphere, Louise (2004) ‘Unofficial Histories: A Vision of Anthropology from the Margins’, American Anthropologist, Vol. 106, No. 1, pp. 126-135.
 Collins, Patricia Hill (1986) ‘Learning from the Outsider Within – The Sociological Significance of Black Feminist Thought’, Social Problems, Vol. 33, No. 6, pp. 35-59.

Week 14: Intersectionality

Day One - Required Readings

McCall, Leslie (2005) ‘The Complexity of Intersectionality’,  Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 1771-1800.

Day Two - Student Presentations

Nagar, Richa (2004) ‘Mapping Feminisms and Difference’ in Staeheli, Lynn A. et al. (eds.) Mapping Women, Making Politics: Feminist Perspectives on Political Geography. New York: Routledge, pp. 31-48.

Cameron, Mary (1995) ‘Transformations of Gender and Caste Divisions of Labor in Rural Nepal: Land, Hierarchy and the Case of Untouchable Women', Journal of Anthropological Research. Vol.51, No.3, pp.215-246.

Nightingale, Andrea J. (2011) ‘Bounding difference: Intersectionality and the Material Production of Gender, Caste, Class and Environment in Nepal’, Geoforum. Vol 42, pp.153–162.

Week 15: Review