Gendered Bodies in Contemporary Visual Culture


University of Pittsburgh

Fall 2010

Course website + syllabus

This course will introduce students in Women’s Studies and related inter/disciplines to questions of the body, and encourage the development of a critical visual literacy regarding various technologies of contemporary visual culture that are engaged by and construct bodies. The body remains one of the most significant cites for the enactment of power relations and is hence a vital site for their production, transformation, and critique. This course begins with the seemingly simple question “What is a Body?,” a question that will become the guide for the course as a whole as it interrogates the stakes that institutions such as law, medicine, and the state have in the answer. As the course progresses, it will become more apparent that not only is this not at all a simple question, or one with an answer we already know, but also that its very formulation often masks the particular racial, gendered, and sexualized practices that produce embodied difference. Centering a transnational feminist cultural studies approach, this course will explore a variety of contemporary visual imaging technologies that privilege the body and encourage students to develop critical analytical skills to interrogate the world in which they currently live. Analyzing the production, circulation, and consumption of visual cultural productions (in addition to their representational aspects), the course will ask what the role of visuality is in constructing ideologies of gender, race, sexuality, and national identity. Specifically we will focus on the ways that visual culture focused on the body travels within and across national borders, and the role of such gendered, racialized, and classed mobilities in colonialisms, capitalisms, and practices of war.

Image credit: Escrito, by mónica enríquez-enríquez