Women's and Gender Studies

Program Office: 763 Schermerhorn Extension; 212-854-3277; 212-854-7466 (fax)

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Vanessa Agard-Jones, 867 Schermerhorn Extension; vanessa.agard-jones@columbia.edu

Located within the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality and taught in cooperation with Barnard College’s Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the program in women's and gender studies provides students with a culturally and historically situated, theoretically diverse understanding of feminist scholarship and its contributions to the disciplines. The program introduces students to feminist discourse on the cultural and historical representation of nature, power, and the social construction of difference. It encourages students to engage in the debates regarding the ethical and political issues of equality and justice that emerge in such discussion, and links the questions of gender and sexuality to those of racial, ethnic, and other kinds of hierarchical difference.

Through sequentially organized courses in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, as well as required discipline-based courses in the humanities and social sciences, the major provides a thoroughly interdisciplinary framework, methodological training, and substantive guidance in specialized areas of research. Small classes and mentored thesis-writing give students an education that is both comprehensive and tailored to individual needs. The major culminates in a thesis-writing class, in which students undertake original research and produce advanced scholarship.

Graduates leave the program well prepared for future scholarly work in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, as well as for careers and future training in law, public policy, social work, community organizing, journalism, and professions in which there is a need for critical and creative interdisciplinary thought.

Major in Women’s and Gender Studies

The requirements for this program were modified on September 22, 2014. Students who declared this program before this date should contact the director of undergraduate studies for the department in order to confirm their correct course of study.

Students should plan their course of study with the undergraduate director as early in their academic careers as possible. The requirements for the major are:

WMST UN1001Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies
or WMST UN3125 Introduction to Sexuality Studies
WMST UN3514Historical Approaches to Feminist Questions
WMST UN3521Senior Seminar I
WMST UN3915Gender and Power in Transnational Perspective
Six approved Elective Courses on women, gender, and/or sexuality in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies.*

Concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies

The requirements for this program were modified on September 22, 2014. Students who declared this program before this date should contact the director of undergraduate studies for the department in order to confirm their correct course of study.

The same requirements as for the major, with the exception of WMST UN3521 Senior Seminar I.

Special Concentration for Those Majoring in Another Department

The requirements for this program were modified on September 22, 2014. Students who declared this program before this date should contact the director of undergraduate studies for the department in order to confirm their correct course of study.

WMST UN1001 Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies; plus four additional approved elective courses on gender.

Fall 2020

WMST UN3125 Introduction to Sexuality Studies. 3 points.

This course is designed to introduce major theories sexuality, desire and identity. We will be considering the relations between the history of sexuality and the politics of gender. We will read some primary texts in gender theory, and in the study of sexuality, desire, and embodiment. This course also provides an introduction to the interdisciplinary examination of human sexual and erotic desires, orientations, and identities. We will study how desires are constructed, how they vary and remain the same in different places and times, and how they interact with other social and cultural phenomena such as government, family, popular culture, scientific inquiry, and, especially, race and class.   

Fall 2020: WMST UN3125
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 3125 001/10010 M W 2:40pm - 3:55pm
Online Only
Jack Halberstam 3 65/90

WMST UN3450 Topics in Sexuality and Gender Law. 3 points.

As society shifts in its views about sexuality and gender, so too does the law.  Indeed, legal developments in this area have been among the most dynamic of the past couple of decades.  Yet law does not map easily or perfectly onto lived experience, and legal arguments do not necessarily track the arguments made in public debate.

In this seminar, we will explore the evolving jurisprudence of sexuality and gender law in a variety of areas.  Our goal throughout the semester will be to understand and think about these issues as lawyers do - with our primary focus on understanding and evaluating the arguments that can be made on both (or all) sides of any particular case, with some attention to the factors outside of the courtroom that might shape how courts approach their work.  Related to this, we will also seek to understand how and why some of the jurisprudence has changed over time.

Fall 2020: WMST UN3450
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 3450 001/10011 Th 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Online Only
Suzanne Goldberg 3 19/20

WMST UN3521 Senior Seminar I. 4 points.

The Senior Seminar in Women's Studies offers you the opportunity to develop a capstone research paper by the end of the first semester of your senior year. Senior seminar essays take the form of a 25-page paper based on original research and characterized by an interdisciplinary approach to the study of women, sexuality, and/or gender. You must work with an individual advisor who has expertise in the area of your thesis and who can advise you on the specifics of method and content. Your grade for the semester will be determined by the instructor and the advisor. Students receiving a grade of "B+" or higher in Senior Seminar I will be invited to register for Senior Seminar II by the Instructor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies.  Senior Seminar II students will complete a senior thesis of 40-60 pages. Please note, the seminar is restricted to Columbia College and GS senior majors.

Fall 2020: WMST UN3521
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 3521 001/10045 W 12:10pm - 2:00pm
Online Only
Vanessa Agard-Jones 4 4/20

WMST GU4325 Embodiment and Bodily Difference. 4 points.

At once material and symbolic, our bodies exist at the intersection of multiple competing discourses, including the juridical, the techno-scientific, and the biopolitical. In this course, we will draw upon a variety of critical interdisciplinary literatures—including feminist and queer studies, science and technology studies, and disability studies—to consider some of the ways in which the body is constituted by such discourses, and itself serves as the substratum for social relations. Among the key questions we will consider are the following: What is natural about the body? How are distinctions made between presumptively normal and pathological bodies, and between psychic and somatic experiences?  How do historical and political-economic forces shape the perception and meaning of bodily difference? And most crucially: how do bodies that are multiply constituted by competing logics of gender, race, nation, and ability offer up resistance to these and other categorizations?

WMST GU4350 Performing feminist activisms in Contemporary Latin America. 4 points.

This course explores different ways in which feminist artists and activists use performance to spark social change in Latin America. Using feminism and performance studies as critical lenses, this course addresses how performative actions can challenge patriarchal systems in neoliberal times. We begin the course by reviewing key texts to discuss the key terms “feminisms”, “performance” and “activisms” Then, the course turns to an examination of contemporary feminist activisms in Latin America, including the #niunamenos movement in Argentina, the 2018 feminist tsunami in Chile and the work of Mujeres Creando in Bolivia. In each session, we will discuss the performative strategies activists use to denounce, protest and resist dominant discourses of power, neoliberalism and gender violence, searching to trace connectivities and fractures among different contemporary feminist activist movements across Latin America.

Fall 2020: WMST GU4350
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 4350 001/10047 W 10:10am - 12:00pm
Online Only
Maria Jose Contreras 4 10/25

Spring 2020

WMST UN3522 Senior Seminar II. 4 points.

Individual research in Women's Studies conducted in consultation with the instructor. The result of each research project is submitted in the form of the senior essay and presented to the seminar.

WMST UN3311 FEMINIST THEORY. 4.00 points.

Understanding gender as produced by the relations of domination of colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade, and indigenous genocide

Fall 2020: WMST UN3311
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 3311 001/00293 W 4:10pm - 6:00pm
Room TBA
Marisa Solomon 4.00 18/18

WMST UN3335 Gender and Wars: Perspectives from the Global South. 3 points.

Wars are salient features of globalization. But, how can we understand the relationship between gender and war? How do notions of masculinities and femininities operate in the organizing, waging, protesting, and commemorating war? Starting from the premise that gender is crucial to explaining what happens in national revolutionary wars, postcolonial conflicts and civil wars, peacekeeping and humanitarian interventions, and the social and personal aspects when wars come to an end; this course considers a transnational feminist analysis to reflect on the relationship between gender and militarism. It pulls together literature from different disciplinary fields to explore the gendered dimensions of wars of national liberation, armed conflicts, wartime gender based/sexual violence, politics of victimhood, anti-war activism, resistance and agency. We will pay particular attention to case studies from the global South.

The gendered analyses of war will be explored from a multi-disciplinary framework including history, anthropology, sociology, political science, international relations, philosophy, literature and film. We will utilize film, journalistic accounts, ethnographic narratives and other resources to explore the complex ways in which people, especially men and women experience and respond to wars differently. 

WMST GU4506 Gender Justice. 3 points.

This course will provide an introduction to the concrete legal contexts in which issues of gender and justice have been articulated, disputed and hesitatingly, if not provisionally, resolved. Readings will cover issues such as Workplace Equality, Sexual Harassment, Sex Role Stereotyping, Work/Family Conflict, Marriage and Alternatives to Marriage, Compulsory Masculinity, Parenting, Domestic Violence, Reproduction and Pregnancy, Rape, Sex Work & Trafficking. Through these readings we will explore the multiple ways in which the law has contended with sexual difference, gender-based stereotypes, and the meaning of equality in domestic, transnational and international contexts. So too, we will discuss how feminist theorists have thought about sex, gender and sexuality in understanding and critiquing our legal system and its norms.


This course consists of in-depth engagements with recent works by leading feminist theorists and artists committed to anti-racist, anti-imperialist, activist ways of seeing, knowing, thinking and doing. Forging a participatory practice of “seeing with companions,” we will respond to the provocations posed by the course materials to go beyond critique, to reconceive feminist and queer epistemologies and pedagogies, and to imagine different ways of being in the world. We will study recent works by Ariella Azoulay, Judith Butler, Saidiya Hartman and Diana Taylor, as well as visual art works, performances, and films by Regina José Galindo, Arthur Jafa, Simone Leigh, Doris Salcedo, and Kara Walker, among others. Students will write substantial responses to the required seminar reading and other materials each week, and share the responsibility of presenting and responding to the seminar discussions. For the final assignment, initially presented in workshop form as “Introduction to Other Companions,” members of the seminar, working singly or collaboratively, will introduce the rest of us to one or more of their own “companions,” including a substantial account of a feminist theorist of visuality, embodiment or performance, and a practice of “seeing with companions.” Catalogue contribution to online exhibition, on the topic of “Seeing With Companions,” will be due on the final day of the exam period