Introduction to the Study of Sexuality and Gender in the Context of Amsterdam

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Course Information
Social Studies
Gender Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 

This course introduces students to the study of gender and sexuality. The Netherlands, and especially Amsterdam as a relative small scale city, is a particularly appropriate location for such a course. While the Netherlands lives up to its liberal reputation that allows students to explore sexuality and gender as multi-facetted academic venues, current political and social tensions in Holland and in Europe demonstrate how those very subjects can be turned into contested areas and can have exclusionary effects.

The following themes will be covered in the course: transgender issues, sex education, sex work, sexual nationalism, histories of sexuality, and sexual and gender identities. In studying these themes, the course takes an interdisciplinary approach in which students learn to critically compare perspectives on sexuality, in which they understand historical and current shaping of knowledge concerning sexuality and gender. Attention will be paid to historical processes in which popular and scientific knowledge reinforced one another and created common sense knowledge on sexuality and gender. The course will raise awareness about hierarchies of knowledge in these matters and the consequences thereof, such as giving rise to homosexual and transgender identities, but also to medical and psychiatric interventions. Next to fieldtrips, guest lectures, and readings, class discussions that stimulate critical exchange, will prepare students for further academic pursuits.

The study of sexuality and gender offers a fascinating cross-section of Amsterdam/Dutch culture and this program gives the participants ample opportunity to explore some specific aspects of that culture. Yet, while sensitizing them to the topics as well as to local peculiarities and differences with other locations, the course is especially meant to learn more generally to question common sense knowledge concerning sexuality. The course will start with assignments vis-à-vis observations and reflexivity that will challenge students’ pre-conceived notions as well as their own subjectivities in these matters.

Students will be taught interview techniques that especially focus on dealing with sensitive issues that generally are considered to be private. Attention will be paid to ethical issues of this kind of interviews and to protecting interviewees' privacy. Students will conduct interviews related to the topic of this class, present them in class and will critically discuss interviews of fellow students, according to instructions given by the tutor. Students are also required to write a research paper on a topic related to the course, with a special focus on the Netherlands, which at the end of the course will also be presented and discussed in class. Throughout the course in class, in tutorials and if necessary in individual meetings  with the tutor, selecting proper and feasible topics, contacts with individuals or institutions, as well as finding and selecting relevant literature or other materials will be closely supervised.