Introduction to Feminist Theory. In this course, we trace the emergence of feminist thought in the 18th century, while reading the writings of key thinkers from a wide range of feminist schools. We begin by examining the principles and basic assumptions within liberal feminism and then move on to materialist feminism, dual-system feminism, psychoanalytic feminism, radical feminism, and post-structuralism feminism. As we engage with the writings of different theorists, we will be asking the following questions: How does each school account for women’s oppression and what solutions do they offer? How does each school conceptualize the difference between sex and gender? What relationship, if any, do they suggest exists between gender and other categories of identity, such as race, and class? And, finally, how do the different schools understand the production and reinforcement of gendered identities in society and what kind of vision for the future do they provide?
Gender and Society. We will use social theories in attempts to describe, explain, and critique gender in social institutions, considering the impact of race, ethnicity, class, etc. Emphasis will be made on socialization, education, work, and economics, family, nationalize and politics in the Israeli society.
The Feminist Movement in the West. The course will survey the historical development of the women's movements in the west during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Particularly, we shall examine prominent feminist struggles, influential female figures, and different political strategies that contributed to promote women's equality and emancipation.
Queer and Gender Challenges in the Middle East and Northern Africa. The course will expose the students to topics in queer and gender issues in the Middle East and Northern Africa. We shall begin with an introduction to history and gender background in the middle east and northern Africa and continue with close inspection of struggles of GLBT and feminist movements for equal rights and freedom for sexual preference, beginning in the home, continuing on the street, the media and the state’s institutions (Parliament, courts, election campaigns). We will concentrate on typical issues such as polygamy, struggle for education and freedom of mobility and rights for transformation of FTM and MTF, as they appear in the cultural context in the region.
Examples of B.A. Elective Courses
Introduction to Queer Theory. Queer Theory is a field of knowledge that reflects LGBT perspectives on society and culture, analyzes sexuality as a cultural and historical product, and problematizes the relations between sex, gender, and sexuality. The course traces the evolution of queer thought out of Michel Foucault’s work on the history of sexuality and lesbian feminist thought, and follows some of its major strands. It introduces students to key concepts and debates, and to landmark texts by major theorists in the field: Gayle Rubin, David Halperin, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler, etc. The course also touches on issues such as AIDS, lesbian gender, transgender, identity politics vs. queer politics, critiques of homonormativity, and queer globalization. To contextualize the theoretical readings, the course includes screenings of documentary films in order to familiarize students with LGBT history and aspects of LGBT culture.
Gender and the City: Between Existence and Absence. In this course, we first explore, on the historical comparative level, the relationship between urban life on the one hand, and the status of women in the city on the other. In this context we analyze changes in gender relations during processes of urbanization and de-urbanization. We then discuss, in more detail, the case of gender relations in Palestinian society in Israel against the background of the pre-1948 intensive urban development and then the de-urbanization process and the actual disappearance of most Palestinian cities following the 1948 war and the Nakba. We also examine changes in recent years: namely, new forms of urbanism in Israeli Palestinian society and their impact on women and gender relations within this society.
Sadism and Masochism in Literature and Theory. Before they were appropriated by psychopathology, sadism and masochism first emerged in the literary arena in the writings of the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher Masoch. Despite the affinity attributed to their creations, their works reflect an entirely disparate psychological world and cultural context. The course centers on one famous novel by each author, Sade’s Justine and Masoch’s Venus in Furs, in an attempt to trace their different poetics and metaphysics. In addition, we read some key texts from the critical tradition on Sade, and consider Freud’s and Deleuze’s theories of sadomasochism.
Experiencing the Body: Gender, Identity and Corporeality. In this course, we will try to understand what the body is and how it has been used as a site of social and political control. While many feminist scholars have come to see gender as socially constructed, the physical body has emerged as a crucial and contested site of feminist analysis. How can we make sense of the body as both an object of representation and a subject of experience? What are the differences between thinking the body as "gendered" and thinking the body as "biological sex"?
Becoming Woman: A Philosophical Reading in Simone de Beauvoir. The seminar will engage with prominent themes in Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophical work, themes that made impact on, and are still relevant for today’s feminist thought. We shall get acquainted with philosophies that underlie Beauvoir’s thought (e.g. Hegel, Existentialism, Phenomenology) and shall critically read and discuss both primary and secondary sources. Themes include, inter alia: the constitution of woman as the ‘other’; embodied subjectivity.
Gender Readings in Democracy. We will explore the issues that result from the tension between the values of democracy, as a concept and the distortions that democracy, as a system of governance produces. We shall focus particularly on gender issues, minorities and queer. We shall examine the underlying conditions underlying in different democratic practices and learn about the conditions that makes gender division and sexual contracts possible in democratic regime. Special attention will be given to elaborate manipulations perpetuated by patriarchal gender order and contribute to its conservation. Potential of transformation from patriarchal democracy to inclusive and gender sensitive and proper democratic will conclude the course.
Women in the Arab World. The aim of the course is to examine the status of women in some contemporary Arab societies within the family as well as in public spaces such as educational institutions, the labor market and political frameworks. We will trace the social, cultural, religious, economic and ecological roots of the status of Arab women today and will deal with its complexities and contradictions. We will examine, among other things, the impact of colonialism and imperialism, past and present, the struggles for national liberation as well as uprisings and revolutions on women and discuss women's roles in these occurrences.
Educating for Gender Sensitivity in Elementary Schools. The aim of the course is raising awareness of gender inequality and gender stereotypes in elementary education, as well as developing strategies to help expose and dismantle gender stereotypes expressed in the school. The course will offer new forms of interaction and alternative activities that promote awareness of gender equality. The first semester will be theoretical and the second semester will be practical, in which the knowledge acquired during the theoretical part of the course will be applied.
Drag-Performance. Drag-Performance is a workshop that attempts to examine personal identity as a performative persona in everyday life. We shall learn about the drag in society, its meaning, history, negative attitudes toward drag persons in tandem to its attractiveness. Participants will work on a personal project as an exercise to inquire their own gendered space. In the end of the semester, students will perform their personal work.
Workshop on Dealing with Sexual Violence. This workshop, which is being taught in collaboration with MASLAN (the Negev's Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Support Center), is meant to provide students with the theoretical and practical skills to address the diverse cultural and individual manifestations of sexual violence. By encouraging students to analyze the cultural structures, hierarchies, and norms that make such violence possible, this workshop will deepen students’ understanding of what victims of sexual assault have to contend with. This course will also address the relationship between healthy sexuality and sexual violence.
Critical Theories. "Critical Theory" names a wide array of theoretical discourses in the fields of philosophy, linguistics, literary studies, and sociology that developed in the 20th century, which challenge in various ways accepted cultural notions, and seek to expose structures of domination. The purpose of this course is to provide students of gender with a deeper understanding of the broader theoretical traditions that different feminist schools of thought draw on. The course acquaints students with Marxist and neo-Marxist thought, as well as psychoanalysis, semiotics, poststructuralism, critical sociology, and postcolonial thought, and allows them to practice the use of the critical tools they provide in analyzing contemporary cultural texts.
Thesis Seminar. The course is aimed to provide the students who want to write an MA thesis to construct it and to plan their research proposal, based on the requirements of the BGU. The course is structured in the form of class discussions and one on one meetings in which we shall work on the ways of designing the research subjects which are in the students' interests.
Feminist Research Methodologies. This course seeks to deepen onto feminist research methodologies. In part one we will get to know the different methodologies that evolved due to the feminist waves and cultural studies. We will examine the methodologies different in different fields of knowledge and creativity: science, history, literature, film and art. In part two we will get to know the philosophical foundations and assumptions of qualitative research, the main research traditions, along with innovative ones, experience with research planning, data collection, data analyzing, and ways of writing qualitative research. A special emphasis will be put on ethical issues, relations of power and reflexivity of the researcher.
Examples of M.A. Elective Courses
Family Law, Feminist Theories and the Relationship between them. This course explores how family law has changed due to academic and legal feminist activities. We will ask whether these changes are positive? What are their negative effects? We will further ask what other changes are desirable from a feminist perspective? where is family law heading in the future? In discussing family law we will address couples relationships (marriage, divorce, common law marriage, same-sex couples), parents-children relationships (parenthood, children's rights, new families, inheritance), grandparents-grandchildren relationships and siblings relationships.
Pornography. The course deals with the history of pornography as a modern Western genre, and with the theoretical and political debates around pornography. We trace the emergence of pornography as a category of representations as part of the construction of sexuality in the 18th and 19th centuries, and examine its simultaneous construction as an aesthetic and juridical category; we focus on the history of moving-image pornography; and we devote special attention to the feminist debate on pornography, raising the issues of pornography’s harm to women as individuals and as a social group on the one hand, and its potential for recuperation by women as a resource for alternative constructions of sexuality and gender on the other. Classes include screenings of selected pornographic representations.
Transgender: Theories and Narratives of Gender Transition. The course examines both literary and theoretical discourses of transgender, focusing primarily on the less represented experience of FTM. We read novelistic representations - both fictional and autobiographical - of transgendered experience asking what narratives of self and what understandings of transgender they offer. Concomitantly, we explore different conceptualizations of gender variance from 19th century inversion theory to queer and postmodern formulations. The discussion of these texts will revolve around questions of minoritizing versus universalizing, and essentialist versus performative understandings of transgender, inquire into the role of narrative in identity construction, and address the relations between identity and technology, “authentic self” and cultural possibilities.
Gay and Lesbian Fiction. Aside from the centrality of homoerotic desire to the Western literary canon as a whole, modern gay identity gave rise to works of fiction that center on lesbian and gay male experience in a homophobic society. In this course, we read novels and short stories by Wilde, Proust, E.M. Forester, Jean Genet, James Baldwin, Andrew Holleran, Gertrude Stein, Radclyffe Hall, Virginia Woolf, Rita Mae Brown, Leslie Feinberg, and Joan Nestle, alongside queer scholarly work that contextualizes or analyzes these works of fiction. We examine these literary texts as attempts to lend expression to a realm of experience silenced by dominant culture, and as taking part in the construction of modern gay identity, which like all identities is founded on narratives. We ask about the type of gay or lesbian identity they construct (e.g. in terms of gender characterization, social belonging or non-belonging) and the generic and narrative conventions they utilize.
Experiencing the Body: Gender, Identity and Corporeality. While many feminist scholars have come to see gender as socially constructed, the physical body has emerged as a crucial and contested site of feminist analysis. How can we make sense of the body as both an object of representation and a subject of experience? What are the differences between thinking the body as “gendered” and thinking the body as “biological sex”? How do we experience our bodies? Is corporeal experience unmediated? What is the relationship between corporeality and identity? In this course we read and draw on a wide range of feminist thinkers in order to address these and other questions.
Identity and Passing. “Passing,” the public claiming of an identity that one is not legally or socially entitled to, is a term employed in racial, gendered, and sexual contexts: blacks can pass a white, women as men, and gays as straight. Narratives of passing hold a mirror to the dominant culture, expose the arbitrariness of its hierarchies, and destabilize its categories. The cultural texts we examine include literary texts, films, television shows, historical studies, and juridical texts that deal with gendered, racial, and sexual passing. These texts provide the basis for a discussion of the performativity of identity, and for a comparison of different types of oppression in terms of embodiment, visibility, and stigma, and the ways in which these aspects come into play in cultural representations. We also raise questions concerning processes of identity acquisition and identity attribution, the naturalization of social identities, and mobility between social categories.
Gender and Visual Culture Studies. Visual Culture Studies is a new discipline that developed in the last three decades. It strives to understand the visual image in and of itself and the visual image in cultural-political context. Visual Culture Studies and Gender Studies are based on critical ways of thinking. The course will combine between these two critical perceptions. Central scholars and issues of both disciplines will be presented in the course, bringing into the class visual events and visual images from films, performance, art and more, for discussion and interpretation. In order to develop critical reading of texts and visuals, we will learn basic terms. Among the subjects that will be taught are the definitions of fields and fields of research, the interdisciplinary character of the two disciplines, the social network, the (gendered) spectatorship, space, ethnics and post- colonialism
Equality: Theory, Law and Practice. In this course we will study equality from feminist perspectives. We will discuss several theories of equality from Aristotle to contemporary feminist theories such as formal equality and substantive equality. We will also discuss equality in several contexts such as equality in the military, buses, labor market and affirmative action, in light of antidiscrimination law and the above theories. We will raise questions such as whether the feminist movement should focus on equality for women or alternatively on dignity? And if so how should the feminist movement promote equality for women? Are there relevant differences between the sexes and should the feminist movement focus on these differences in light of queer theories?
The Human Condition, the Feminine Condition: Reflections on Hannah Arendt's Works. In this course we will learn about Hannah Arendt, the woman, whose femininity did not stand on her way, the Jew whose Jewishness did not hinder her from strictly criticizing her origins and the thinker who left her mark on the entire western 20th century thought. We will explore her works from gender perspectives and focus on issues of human existence such as evil, terror and violence. Political conflicts and the conditions of existence in tyrannical regimes and in democracy will be studied in light of gender literature and concept aiming at understanding Arentd's logic views of history within gender context
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can The Subaltern Speak": Difficult, revolutionary, enriches. The article of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak is one of the most difficult, enriching and revolutionary that were written in the last few decades. What makes it particularly difficult is its rich and diverse paradigmatic ground from which it emerges, the complex language and the original mode of thinking that the author employs. This is an article that is being studied in many fields, constantly cited and conferences center around it. This seminar examines the scientific and the literature ground of the article, the revolutionary forces embedded in it as well as its inspiration force for so many academic disciplines. We shall learn the hermeneutics of the article and the author.
Manhood - Theoretical Perspectives. In this course we will focus on theories concerning Manhood and Fatherhood, as those of Foucault, Irigaray, Lacan, Freud, Karen Horney, MacKinnon, George Mosse, Boyarin, and Bourdieu.