2013 Seminar Descriptions
Writing Wrongs: Gender and Power in Antiquity
Professor Eric Casey
We will examine the paradoxical difference of the status of women in literature and life in the ancient societies of Rome, Greece, and Egypt. Wherever possible, we will read the words of women themselves, and so we will look at the fragments of the Greek lyric poet Sappho and from the Roman world, we will read the elegies of Sulpicia, which are widely considered the only examples of Roman love elegy to be authored by a woman. Religious ritual poses another realm of relative autonomy for women in ancient Greece and Rome and we will consider why it is that women are afforded such status in the world of religious ritual. We will look at the lives of priestesses in Athens and compare this to the famous Pythia (priestess of Apollo at Delphi) and the surprising power of women in Sparta. The course will end with an examination the fascinating phenomenon of female pharaohs in ancient Egypt and how art and texts had to change in some ways to accommodate this shift in political power. We will compare evidence of actual powerful women such as Hatshepsut and Nefertiti to the way that women are regularly depicted in Egyptian literature and art.
Women and Power
Professor Padmini Coopamah
“Women and Power” will examine women’s relationship to political power around the world. The common reading, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, highlights the powerless condition of millions of women who are forced into servitude, prostitution and slavery. However, it is undeniable that in recent decades women have made great strides in improving their social, economic and political condition, often in those same developing countries. These two paradoxical realities illustrate the complexity of any discussion of women’s position and prospects. This course will explore the role of women in politics. Some of the questions that will be examined include: Is the low number of women in political office because women do not want to participate in politics, or are there societal or institutional factors that bar their entry and ascent? Are female politicians as effective as men? Do women in office attempt to address “women’s issues”? How do women’s roles outside of formal politics (for example, in civil society) influence the political process? In trying to answer these and other questions, we will study specific countries from around the world.
Professor Deborah Durham
American anthropology began, in the 1920s, with the observation that girlhood could be very different from place to place around the world. Girls have had different obligations to kin, different senses of selfhood, different relations to boys, and different lives to look forward to as they grow up. How do girls spend their time in different societies? What do they look forward to, what do they avoid, what deep obligations do they feel? The 20th century saw historical transformations that both brought together girlhoods from around the world, and divided them sharply – modernity, with its standards of education and its linking of personal growth with national development; and globalization, with its paradox of mass market consumption and flexible production giving girls new prominence around the world. What do girls want in the new world economy, and how should they achieve their desires?
The Raw and the Cooked: Seeing Culture through Food
Professor Cathy Gutierrez
The procuring and consuming of food is one of the requirements for all of humanity, and the ability to grow, store, and trade foodstuffs shapes cultures and their views of others. Identities are formed over what people eat and what others perceive as forbidden food: all religions have dietary restrictions and neighbors are judged by what they eat and how they prepare it. This course will look at the history of food as it affects group identity, from the mysterious beginnings of bread to the spice trade and finally to current movements such as Slow Food and locavorism. We will consider themes throughout the course of how food creates insiders and outsiders, how gender and food are interwoven, and how the exchange of food and cooking styles has created much of the modern world. We will also conduct a brief service learning project in which the students create a fundraiser using recipes from The World Religions’ Cookbook that demonstrate how different beliefs and values influence food. Students will choose a recipient of the proceeds to give a micro-loan that helps women in agriculture.
The Whole World: Cartography as History, Art, and Ideology
Professor Tracy Hamilton
When choosing a format to publicize their social cause via digital online gaming, the authors of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, looked to a woman and a map. Students in this course will explore both the much older and more recent history of mapmaking, looking especially to trace its ideological and artistic manifestations and interweaving those ideas with the subjects of Half the Sky. Using the resources from the book and its companion on-line game, as well as books, eBooks, applications for the iPad, and mapping programs such as google earth, we will reevaluate how we have and continue to view the world and its inhabitants through the lens of the map.