Performative Bodies & Somatic Fictions: Theorizing Sex, Race, and Ability

How does bodily movement become politically meaningful? This course approaches that question through critical analysis of sex, race, and ability as somatic fictions: structures of social stratification that are simultaneously experienced materially in, on, and by our physical bodies. To name these systems as “fictions” is not to discount the ways that they have real, material effects on bodies, on lives, and in the world, but to highlight the ways in which they are discursively produced in order to benefit specific forms of domination.

We will begin the semester by laying the groundwork of embodiment and movement analysis, reading key thinkers in gender studies, feminism, disability studies, and critical race studies. In the second half of the semester, students will apply their theoretical skills to case studies and sites drawn from professional sports, sex work, activist movements, and popular culture, while continuing to build an intersectional analysis. Readings, films, and class discussions will be complemented by writing exercises designed to address writing about performance and performativity in politically engaged ways.

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