Please join us to learn about the Women and Public Policy Program and our work of creating and sharing knowledge that helps close gender gaps in economic opportunity, political participation, health, and education. We will discuss our initiatives, fellowship stipends, and other student opportunities.
“Solidarity” takes an intersectional approach to the study of women’s and sexual rights in transnational perspective from the late nineteenth century until today. In this course, we will explore how American feminism, particularly through the fight for women’s suffrage, set the agenda for issues of equality and sexual rights around the world, often in complex and contradictory ways. Through a semester-long engagement with Schlesinger Library collections on transnational feminist and women of color feminisms, we will investigate feminist links to and critiques of the imperial project – from anti-trafficking campaigns in colonial and postcolonial India, to transnational feminist labor movements in the Philippines and Bangladesh, to the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Together, we will think about the complex relationship of feminism and war, the place of feminist thought in debates about incarceration and immigration, and the contradictory role of feminism in global movements for rights.
Feminism shapes the world we live in today. Debates about women's and sexual rights define almost every public debate today -- from sexual harassment, to electoral politics, to development, public health, and human rights. But when, and where, did ideas of women's equal rights and liberation emerge? This course digs into the deep history of feminism from a global perspective. It traces the intimate relationship between feminism, colonialism, and racism in case studies from America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, from the eighteenth century until today. We will immerse ourselves in rare materials on transnational and global feminism in the Schlesinger Library here at Harvard. Over the course of the semester, you will build a toolkit of critical thinking and writing skills by engaging diverse primary sources, including political writings of women of color and colonized women, short stories, posters, movies, and human rights reports. You will come away from the course having a deeper understanding of ideas of equality and justice that define politics today. Readings will highlight marginalized authors, women writers, especially women of color authors, from previously enslaved women in the US South to indigenous people to colonized women in India and Africa. Reading assignments will focus on primary historical sources and encompass diverse genres, from political thought and speeches to fantasy fiction to posters. Students will build critical skills through assignments that build source analysis skills over the course of the semester, including an annotation of visual materials (a poster or cartoon), short primary source analysis papers using materials from Schlesinger Library, and a final film analysis paper.
This course will examine how women, through popular music, have articulated a clear political analysis of their oppression that has reached large audiences and become foundational to American culture. We will begin with African-American blues in the early 20th century and move through jazz, torch singing, folk, girl groups, disco, and contemporary song. Along with music readings we will include biographical, historical, and critical texts that will place these women in their artistic and political contexts. Performers studied will include, among others, Bessie Smith, the Boswell Sisters, Billie Holiday, Marian Anderson, Peggy Lee, Joan Baez, Gloria Gaynor, and Amy Winehouse.
This seminar explores the culture and politics of American imperialism from the late 19th century to the present, with particular attention to race and gender. This writing and discussion-intensive course encourages students to examine how formal and informal imperial relations developed, and to analyze how American empire functioned on the ground for those who imposed it and those who resisted, appropriated, or accommodated it. The course focuses especially on American relations with Asia and Latin America, and topics include immigration, military occupation, gendered and racialized cultural engagement, international adoption, humanitarianism, and international development. Assigned readings bring together scholarship from American Studies, Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, Anthropology, and American History.
Political philosophy is the project of offering and evaluating answers to normative questions about politics—about how we as a society should get along and share in all the benefits and costs of living cooperatively. The “feminist” in “feminist political philosophy” can be taken to modify different aspects of that project. Unsurprisingly, then, work in feminist political philosophy is extraordinarily diverse. Notwithstanding some in-fighting about the right way to be a feminist political philosopher, this diversity is part of what equips us to make good progress in developing and refining answers to important political questions. Still, we might wonder what unifies these different traditions and methodologies. Many regard “the personal is political” as the unifying insight of contemporary feminist philosophy. This will be the unifying theme for us as well, as we work to better understand that slogan and explore its implications. We will begin by examining foundational work in contemporary political philosophy on theories of justice, as well as feminist challenges to that work. The tradition of liberalism is of particular interest, because the values it celebrates seem at once empowering and problematic from the perspective of feminist political philosophy. Ideals of liberty, individuality, and free choice can be deployed by feminists to critique unjust institutions, but they also appear to shield a great deal of injustice from censure. On the applied side, then, we’ll consider some “hard cases” for liberal feminist political philosophers: prostitution, pornography, and the gendered division of labor. Along the way, we’ll hear from some more radical voices, and we’ll explore intersections between feminism, social class, and race. ... Read more about Feminist Political Philosophy
At the intersection of debates about religion, private morality and public policy, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are lightning rods of controversy in most societies. Political polarization has been particularly pronounced with regard to abortion rights, but is also evident in an array of other SRHR issues. Drawing on examples from constitutional and high courts in Latin America and Africa, as well as cases in various regional and international supra-national human rights forums, the course will explore: the historical origins of asserting international legal claims to SRHR; challenges and benefits of turning toward domestic courts and international forums to advance sexual and reproductive health; evolving narratives of women’s agency and state obligations; and power dynamics/conflicts within global SRHR advocacy. We will discuss the limitations of the autonomy narrative and adoption of “reproductive justice” paradigm in the US, and compare that with evolutions of SRHR in other national contexts, as well as in international law. Some of the topics to be covered include: gender-based violence; involuntary sterilization; abortion; access to care (obstetric care/LGBTQ access to care); disrespect and abuse/obstetric violence; SRHR of persons with disabilities; assisted reproductive technologies; and SRHR in an era of conservative populism and backlash against so-called “gender ideology.” Issues of SRHR present an opportunity to extend thinking on judicial review across contexts of varying levels of democratic consolidation, as well as to critically examine the effectiveness of international human rights law in changing “lived realities.” On the one hand, the marginalization of claimants suggests a place for counter-majoritarian rights protection. Similarly, advocates have sought to set standards in international human rights forums, as these spaces have been perceived as less “tainted” by the political power structures that inflect domestic law and institutions. On the other hand, the morally contested nature of SRHR norms often complicates the claims of courts and supra-national forums to special competence, limits their ability to catalyze the politics of implementation (including within health systems), and inspires backlash. We will explore lessons with respect to how engaging with different SRHR issues can affect the sociological legitimacy of tribunals at domestic and international levels, as well as public attitudes and the dynamics of social conflict.... Read more about Contested Domains: Comparative and International Legal Struggles over Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights