SOCS 628
Women Writing Culture

Gina Ulysse       

Course Schedule

This course considers the persistent impact of the interpretive turn in anthropology, which began with Clifford Geertz's claim, in The Interpretation of Culture, that culture is but a "web of meaning" and the ethnographer's research findings are but mere interpretations. This eventually spurred a moment in the theoretical trajectory of the discipline referred to as a "crisis of representation."  How did this turn affect ethnographic writing and what it means to write culture? To explore this question, we will focus on how feminist interpretations of culture have reconsidered the ethnographer’s role in/and the making of ethnography. By reading various ethnographic works in depth, we will explore the broader academic context of such issues as the gendered division of labor and the politics of knowledge production, relevance of Donna Haraway's assertion that all knowledge is situated, Catherine Lutz's discussion of theory as gendered within the context of Faye Harrison's analysis of academic relations of production. We will deconstruct feminist textual strategies that unpack issues of positionality, ethical dilemmas, and the politics of representation. Our emphasis will be on ethnographic writing that blurs genres, troubling the boundaries between humanities and social science. Some attention will be paid to scholars who turn to the arts to express  a fuller range of their perceptions and interpretations. Our ultimate aim is to seriously question what it means to choose to write from a feminist perspective.

Required Texts

Lila Abu-Lughod, Writing Women’s Worlds
Ruth Behar and Deborah Gordon, Women Writing Culture
Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola
Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse
Belinda Straight, Women on the Verge of Home

Course Requirements and Evaluation

Your overall performance will be based on participation in the seminar and the writing assignments. As this is an intensive course, you are required to attend all classes thoroughly prepared to actively engage in discussion. As you know productive discussions will only come from conscious efforts that reflect dynamic, constructive and critical engagement by all present. As entire books are assigned and given that this is an intensive course, you are encouraged to read ahead prior to the beginning of the session.

The writing assignments include three short weekly response papers (3-5 pages) and a final paper (10-15 pages). Note the first response is due on June 24 before classes start. Responses should consider the main argument of the author, your responses to it as well as any questions you might have concerning the text. All responses may be sent to me via email. Final paper guidelines will be given the first day.

Course Calendar
Pre-Assignment
Due June 24

Pedagogies & Trangressions
Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (pp. 52-76)
Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (pp 3-30)
hooks, Teaching to Transgress (pp 59-76)
 Marcus and Fischer, A Crisis of Representation in the Human Sciences (pp. 445-451) 

PAPER I
(June 24)

Week 1

Women Writing Culture

June 26
Clifford, Partial Truths (pp 1-26)
Behar and Gordon, Women Writing Culture (pp 1-48)
Rabinow, Representations are Social Facts (pp. 234-261)                   

June 27   
Hurston, Tell My Horse

June 28                       
Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman (pp 3-25)
Wisweswaran, Fictions of Feminist Ethnography (pp.1-17)
Behar and Gordon, Women Writing Culture (pp. 249-339) Select

June 29                       
Behar and Gordon, Women Writing Culture (pp.104-233) Select                                   

PAPER II
(TBA)

Week 2

Feminist  Dialogues

July 3             
Abu-Lughod, Writing Women’s Worlds                                                                                   

July 5              
McCarthy-Brown, Mama Lola            

July 6              
McCarthy-Brown, Mama Lola                        

July 7              
Behar and Gordon, Women Writing Culture (pp 339-442)                                                           

PAPER III
(TBA)

Week 3

Misfits: Rewriting the Grain

July 10            
Goldstein, Laughter out of Place (pp. 1-18, 259-275)                          
Ulysse, Conquering Duppies in Kingston  (pp. 189-203)

July 11            
Graeber, The Auto-ethnography That Can Never Be (pp. 189-203)
Olson, Life in Progress  (pp.1-40)

July 12            
Anzaldua, This Bridge We Call Home  (pp. 1-26)
Alexander, Pedagogies of Crossing  (pp. 287-333)                       
Young, Writing Against the Native Point of View (pp. 203-216)

July 13            
Straight, Women on the Verge of Home 

PAPER IV
(Due July 20)

Bibliography of Readings

Lila Abu-Lughod, 1993 Writing Women’s Words: Bedouin Stories. Berkeley: University of California Press.     Gloria E. Anzaldúa and  Analouise Keating,  2002 This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions  for Transformation. New York: Routledge. 

M. Jacqui Alexander, 2005 Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred. Durham: Duke University Press.

Paulo Friere, 1993 (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Ruth Behar and Deborah A. Gordon, 1995 Women Writing Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.

James Clifford, 1986 “Partial Truths,” Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Ed. James Clifford and George E. Marcus. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Clifford Geertz, 2000 (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books.  

Donna Goldstein, 2003 Laughter out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown. Berkeley: University of California Press.

David Graeber, 2005 “The Auto-ethnography That Can Never Be and the Activist’s Ethnography that Might Be,” Auto-Ethnographies: the Anthropology of Academic Practices. Ed. Anne Meneley and Donna J. Young. Orchard Park: Broadview Press.

bell hooks, 1994 Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.

Zora Neale Hurston, 1990 (1938) Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. New York: Perennial Library.

George E. Marcus and Michael M. J. Fischer, 1999 (1986)  “A Crisis of Representation in the Human Sciences.” Readings for a History of Anthropological Theory. Ed. Paul A. Erickson and Liam D. Murphy, 2006. Orchard Park: Broadview Press.

Karen McCarthy-Brown, 2001 (1991) Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Berkeley: University of California Press.  

Kristen L. Olson, Life in Progress. Forthcoming.   

Paul Rabinow, 1986 “Representations are Social Facts,” Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Ed. James Clifford and George E. Marcus. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Carolyn Kay Steedman, 1997 (1986) Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

Bilinda Straight, 2005 Women on the Verge of Home. New York: State University of New York Press

Gina Ulysse, 2002 “Conquering Duppies in Kingston: Miss Tiny and Me, Fieldwork Conflicts and Being Loved and Rescued,” Anthropology and Humanism, Vol 27 no.1. 10-26.)

Kamala  Visweswaran, 1994, Fictions of Feminist Ethnography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Donna J. Young, 2005 “Writing Against the Native Point of View,” Auto-Ethnographies: The Anthropology of Academic Practices. Ed. Anne Meneley and Donna J. Young. Orchard Park: Broadview Press. 

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