Women's and Gender Studies

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

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Christia Mercer, 707 Philosophy Hall; 212-854-3190; cm50@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 UN3311Colloquium in Feminist Theory
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.*

Electives will be selected in coordination with the director of undergraduate studies to best suit students' specific interests and to provide them with the appropriate range of courses, whether their focus is ethnic studies, pre-med, pre-law, sociology, public healthy, queer studies, visual culture, literature, or another area of interest. Students are encouraged to take a broad interdisciplinary approach. The director of undergraduate studies will help students fine-tune their academic program in conjunction with IRWGS courses, cross-listed courses, and other courses offered at Columbia.

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 2017

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 2018: WMST UN3125
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 3125 001/21138 M W 2:40pm - 3:55pm
Room TBA
Jack Halberstam 3 0/60

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 with be determined by IRWGS's Director of Undergraduate Studies in consultation with your advisor. Students receiving a grade of "B+" of higher in Senior Seminar I will be invited to complete Senior Seminar II. Senior Seminar II students will complete a senior thesis of 40-60 pages in a course facilitated by the IRWGS Director.

Fall 2018: WMST UN3521
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 3521 001/01329 T 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Room TBA
Rebecca Young 4 0/25

WMST UN3785 Narrating Rape: Literature, Gender and Violence. 4 points.

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission.

(Seminar).  Despite the fact that gender-based violence destroys the frameworks of identity and community, testimony and truth, memory and justice, rape has been a fundamental and globally pervasive literary and artistic theme and trope, often the very act that engenders representation, narrative and plot.  This seminar will explore how rape has been imaged, written and told in the face of its unspeakability and the silences surrounding it, and how the act of bearing witness can become an act of resistance, rebuilding voice, subjectivity and community.  Literary texts will be read alongside feminist theoretical work on gender-violence, embodiment, trauma, testimony and law.

Requirements: class attendance and participation, weekly one-page postings on the readings, two 8-10 page papers. 

Application instructions:E-mail Professor Marianne Hirsch (mh2349@columbia.edu) with the subject heading "Narrating Rape seminar." In your message, include basic information: your name, school, major, year of study, and relevant courses taken, along with a brief statement about why you are interested in taking the course. Admitted students should register for the course; they will automatically be placed on a wait list from which the instructor will in due course admit them as spaces become available.

WMST GR6001 Theoretical Paradigms: Feminist Practice. 4 points.

Feminist Practice examines theories of practice and experiments in writing, doing, feeling, and thinking that endeavor to create alternate forms of knowledge, new idioms of relation, and other modes of inhabiting the world.  The forms of practice considered include care, failure, hacking, improvisation, refusal, willfulness, performance, and survival. These experiments in living, thinking and writing endeavor to produce means of apprehending the world and modes of description and forms of sociality that exceed the normative terms of the subject, defy the general will, endure in the space of social death, persist in daily suffering, and refuse the devaluation and dispossession of racism, global capitalism and neoliberalism. 

The class is a workshop, a laboratory for collaborative thinking and writing the social otherwise. It is not a survey course of theories of practice, nor is it an introduction to the top ten of gender and sexuality theory.  It is a collective endeavor in thinking rigorously and passionately about how we make, describe and represent social life and practice.

WMST GR8010 Advanced Topics: EcoFeminism. 4 points.

The course will reconstruct the major arguments formulated by ecofeminist theorists by reading some of the major ecological treatises of the 19th and 20th centuries, and by introducing some of the questions that have preoccupied feminist philosophers in the last couple of decades. We will thus begin by inquiring into how philosophers, and later ecologists, from Schelling, Hegel and Nietzsche to Jakob von Uexküll, Simone Weil, and Gilles Deleuze, understood the earth, matter, and life on earth, before moving to discuss questions of gendered subjectivity and embodied personhood as formulated in the works of Simone de Beauvoir (selections from The Ethics of Ambiguity), Luce Irigaray (selections from The Forgetting of Air, Marine Lover) and Julia Kristeva (selections from Black Sun and Tales of Love). In this introductory part of the course we will pay special attention to how feminist thinkers developed a philosophy of elements and vegetal life in order to articulate aspects of the feminine, or what some of them also called “woman’s” subjectivity. 

Spring 2018

WMST UN1001 Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies. 3 points.

An interdisciplinary introduction to key concepts and analytical categories in women's and gender studies. This course grapples with gender in its complex intersection with other systems of power and inequality, including: sexuality, race and ethnicity, class and nation. Topics include: feminisms, feminist and queer theory, commodity culture, violence, science and technology, visual cultures, work, and family.

Spring 2018: WMST UN1001
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 1001 001/67958 T Th 11:40am - 12:55pm
310 Fayerweather
Deborah Valenze, Laura Ciolkowski 3 55/90

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. 

Spring 2018: WMST UN3335
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 3335 001/92397 W 10:10am - 12:00pm
754 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Selina Makana 3 22/25

WMST UN3514 Historical Approaches to Feminist Questions. 4 points.

This class is an introduction to the debates on women that played a dominant role in both the philosophical and literary traditions of the European/Atlantic world from the classical period through the seventeenth-century. Beginning with the works of ancient political theory that actively debated women’s political, social, and ethical position in society (chiefly Aristotle, Plato, and Plutarch), the course will address the pan-European books of “Good Women” that served as exemplary case studies, the querelle des femmes (or debate on women) that dominated political and humanist discourse of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the crucial importance of the political analogies between the household and the state and the marital and social contracts in the premodern world (and, indeed, in our own).  We will study works from ancient Greece and Rome and medieval and early modern Italy, Spain, France, England, Ethiopia and Mexico, and topics ranging from domestic violence and political resistance theory to transvestitism and lesbianism.

Spring 2018: WMST UN3514
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 3514 001/61229 W 2:10pm - 4:00pm
754 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Saidiya Hartman 4 15/20

WMST GU4000 Genealogies of Feminism. 4 points.

Please contact the Department for course description for this seminar

Spring 2018: WMST GU4000
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 4000 001/75830 T 2:10pm - 4:00pm
754 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Lila Abu-Lughod 4 15/20
WMST 4000 002/60925 Th 2:10pm - 4:00pm
754 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Neferti Tadiar 4 12/20
Fall 2018: WMST GU4000
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 4000 001/68314 T 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Room TBA
Marianne Hirsch 4 0/20

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.

Spring 2018: WMST GU4506
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 4506 001/70748 M 2:10pm - 4:00pm
6ab Kraft Center
Katherine Franke, Elizabeth Boylan 3 35/40

WMST GR8001 Feminist Pedagogy. 1 point.

This is a course is oriented to graduate students who are thinking about issues in teaching in the near and distant future and want to explore issues related to pedagogy. The course will ask what it means to teach “as a feminist” and will explore how to create a classroom receptive to feminist and queer methodologies and theories regardless of course theme/content. Topics include: the role of political engagement, the gender dynamics of the classroom, and modes of critical thought and disagreement. Discussions can be oriented around student interest. The course will meet several times a SEMESTER (dates TBD) and the final assignment is to develop a syllabus for a new gender/sexuality course in your field.  Because this course is required for graduate students choosing to fulfill Option 2 for the Graduate Certificate in Feminist Studies at IRWGS, priority will be given to graduate students completing the certificate.

Spring 2018: WMST GR8001
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
WMST 8001 001/62211 T 6:10pm - 8:00pm
754 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Marianne Hirsch 1 19/20