Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
315 William L. Harkness Hall, 203.432.0845
M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.
Director of Graduate Studies
Professors Fatima El-Tayeb, Roderick Ferguson, Scott Herring, Margaret Homans, Regina Kunzel, Gail Lewis (Visiting), Dara Strolovitch, Kalinda Vora, Laura Wexler
Associate Professors Joseph Fischel, Deb Vargas
Assistant Professors Eda Pepi, Evren Savci
Senior Lecturer Maria Trumpler
Lecturers Craig Canfield, Igor De Souza, Graeme Reid, Talya Zemach-Bersin
Affiliated faculty Julia Adams (Sociology), Rene Almeling (Sociology), Carol Armstrong (History of Art), Daniel Botsman (History), Claire Bowern (Linguistics), Marijeta Bozovic (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Daphne Brooks (African American Studies; American Studies; Theater and Performance Studies), Jill Campbell (English), Becky Conekin (History), Rohit De (History), Carolyn Dean (History; French), Robin Dembroff (Philosophy), Crystal Feimster (African American Studies; American Studies), Marta Figlerowicz (English; Comparative Literature), Moira Fradinger (Comparative Literature), Jacqueline Goldsby (English; African American Studies; American Studies), Gregg Gonsalves (School of Medicine; Law School), Zareena Grewal (American Studies), Sarah Khan (Political Science), Jennifer Klein (History), Greta LaFleur (American Studies), Kathryn Lofton (American Studies; Religious Studies), Lisa Lowe (American Studies; Ethnicity, Race, and Migration), Mary Lui (American Studies; History), Alka Menon (Sociology), Joanne Meyerowitz (American Studies; History), Alice Miller (Law School; Public Health), Laura Nasrallah (Religious Studies), Tavia Nyong’o (African American Studies; American Studies; Theater and Performance Studies), Sally Promey (American Studies; Religious Studies), Ayesha Ramachandran (Comparative Literature) Ana Ramos-Zayas (Ethnicity, Race, and Migration; American Studies), Judith Resnik (Law School), Juno Richards (English), Naomi Rogers (History of Science and Medicine), Alicia Schmidt Camacho (Ethnicity, Race, and Migration; American Studies), George Syrimis (Hellenic Studies), Linn Tonstad (Divinity School), Michael Warner (English), Elisabeth Wood (Political Science)
Fields of Study
The Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) offers a combined Ph.D. in conjunction with five departments and programs: African American Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, English, and Sociology. Students pursuing the combined Ph.D. in WGSS will determine their research and doctoral foci in coordination with the directors of graduate studies in WGSS and the partnering department or program.
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies critically interrogates gender and sexuality as categories of inequality, difference, and identification. Gender (the social and historical meanings of distinctions across sexes) and sexuality (the domain of sexual practices, identities, discourses, and institutions) are studied as they intersect with class, race, nationality, religion, ability, and other zones of human and nonhuman experience.
There are no specified areas of study within the combined Ph.D. program, but students whose research interests overlap with WGSS faculty’s are encouraged to apply. Current WGSS faculty concentrate on gender and sexuality as they articulate across transnational politics and security regimes; citizenship and statelessness; public law and sexual violence; public policy and political representation; kinship, reproduction, and reproductive technologies; policing, surveillance, and incarceration; social movements and protest; indigeneity, racialization, and racism; literature, language, and translation; Islam and neoliberalism; colonialism and postcolonialism.
Students may only apply for the Ph.D. in WGSS in conjunction with their application to one of the five partnering departments or programs (African American Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, English, and Sociology). The doctoral program in WGSS will begin reviewing external applications in fall 2021 for matriculation in fall 2022.
Requirements for Transfer into the Combined Ph.D. Program
Students already pursuing a Ph.D. in one of the five partnering departments and programs listed above may apply for transfer into the combined Ph.D. in WGSS, starting in fall 2021.
Students must have already taken WGSS 600 and WGSS 900 or be enrolled in them during the term of application and submit a statement of interest describing why they wish to pursue the combined Ph.D. The statement of interest should outline a plan of completion for outstanding WGSS course requirements.
Only students in the first or second year of their degree study are eligible to apply, and preference will be given to second-year students. Students must submit their statement of interest by January 4. The WGSS graduate admissions committee will inform applicants of its decision by March 5.
Special Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree
The WGSS combined Ph.D. student’s course of study and research will be coordinated with the student’s adviser, the director of graduate studies (DGS) of WGSS, and the DGS of the partnering department or program. Ideally, students should complete course work for WGSS and the partnering department or program by the end of their second year. Students are required to complete the following core courses: WGSS 600, Introduction to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; WGSS 700, Feminist and Queer Theories; WGSS 900, Colloquium and Working Group ( half credit per term; students should enroll for two sequential terms); and one WGSS-numbered elective. Students are strongly encouraged to take WGSS 800, Methods in Gender and Sexuality Studies.
In their third year, students will enroll in a term-long dissertation proposal workshop.
WGSS combined Ph.D. students will teach or serve as a teaching fellow in their third and fourth years in the program, unless their dissertation research plans require other arrangements. The courses will typically have undergraduate WGSS numbers.
Students will be admitted to candidacy when they have fulfilled all requirements of the relevant participating department or program and WGSS. The scheduling and structure of qualifying examinations will follow the protocols of the partnering department.
At least one member of the WGSS faculty or affiliated faculty will be a member of the dissertation proposal review committee; at least one faculty member of the student’s dissertation committee will hold a primary, tenure, or tenure-track appointment in WGSS.
Students pursuing the combined Ph.D. with African American Studies In addition to fulfilling the course work—twelve courses over two years, including core WGSS and AFAM courses—and the teaching requirements for each program, students must also: (1) demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English by conducting substantial research in the chosen language as part of a course requirement; passing a translation test, offered each term by various language departments; or receiving a grade of B or higher in a Yale College intermediate- or advanced-level language course or in a Yale language-for-reading course; and (2) pass an oral examination at the end of their third year, jointly administered by four faculty selected by the student (with at least one faculty member in African American Studies and another in WGSS). The oral exam will test on four content areas selected by the student in the student’s second year of study.
Students pursuing the combined Ph.D. with Anthropology In the beginning of their second year, students should consult with directors of graduate studies in WGSS and Anthropology to coordinate the written and oral components of the qualifying exams.
M.Phil. See Degree Requirements under Policies and Regulations.
M.A. (en route to the combined Ph.D.) Students will be awarded a combined M.A. degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the partnering department or program upon successful completion of all course work with the exception of the WGSS dissertation proposal workshop. See also Degree Requirements under Policies and Regulations.
WGSS 570b / SOCY 605b, LGBTQ Population Health John Pachankis
Sexual and gender minority individuals (e.g., those who identify as LGBTQ) represent a key health disparity population in the United States and worldwide, but high-quality evidence of this problem has historically been slow to accumulate. This course engages students in critically examining today’s rapidly expanding empirical knowledge regarding sexual and gender minority health by considering challenges to, and opportunities for, conducting this research with methodological rigor. Students consider social and ecological influences on sexual and gender minority health, including migration, community, and neighborhood influences. Social institutions, including religion, school, family, and close relationships, are examined as sources of both stress and support. Given the relevance of individual and collective identity and stress as mechanisms through which stigma impacts sexual and gender minority health, the empirical platform of the course is complemented by intersectionality theory, critical postmodern work on identity fluidity and multiplicity across the life course, and minority stress conceptualizations of health. Students apply lessons learned in the course to evaluating and developing policy and health care interventions for this increasingly visible segment of the global population. Also SBS 570.
WGSS 600a, Introduction to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Joseph Fischel
Introduction to women’s, gender, and sexuality studies as a field of knowledge and to the interdiscipline’s structuring questions and tensions. The course genealogizes feminist and queer knowledge production, and the institutionalization of WGSS, by examining several of our key terms.
WGSS 661a, Queer Theology Linn Tonstad
In the United States, queer theory emerged out of the Reagan years, the devastation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the combined impacts of neoliberalism and gentrification (politically, geographically, and socially) on queer communities. In spring 2022, we encounter each other in the midst of two pandemics: COVID-19 and the one that is not over. This course thinks and reads queer theology with attention to the many challenges highlighted by the two pandemics, HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, focusing on how flesh is thought and represented. Readings take up questions of ethics and moralization; stigma and fear of the other; togetherness and the risk of difference; pleasure, wisdom, foolishness, and loss; negativity, sodomy, and divine violence; race (especially anti-blackness) and gender; and the genres of queer theological writings. Prerequisite: at least two graduate-level seminars in religion, philosophy, or WGSS, or permission of the instructor.
WGSS 666b / AMST 778b / ANTH 666b / ER&M 762b, The Study of Privilege in the Americas Ana Ramos-Zayas
Examination of inequality, not only through experiences of the poor and marginal, but also through institutions, beliefs, social norms, and everyday practices of the privileged. Topics include critical examination of key concepts like “studying up,” “elite,” and “privilege,” as well as variations in forms of capital; institutional sites of privilege (elite prep schools, Wall Street); living spaces and social networks (gated communities, private clubs); privilege in intersectional contexts (privilege and race, class, and gender); and everyday practices of intimacy and affect that characterize, solidify, and promote privilege.
WGSS 667b / FREN 900b / HIST 667b, History of Gender and Sexuality in Modern Europe Carolyn Dean
An introduction to the various lines of inquiry informing the history of sexuality. The course asks how historians and others constitute sexuality as an object of inquiry and addresses different arguments about the evolution of sexuality in Europe, including the relationship between sexuality and the state and sexuality and gender.
WGSS 677a / PHIL 677a, Feminist Philosophy: Theories of Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation Robin Dembroff
This course surveys several feminist frameworks for thinking about sex, gender, and sexual orientation. We consider questions such as: Is there a tenable distinction between sex and gender? Between gender and sexual orientation? What does it mean to say that gender is a social construction, or that sexual orientation is innate? What is the place of politics in gender and sexual identities? How do these identities—and especially resistant or transgressive identities—impact the creation and revision of social categories?
WGSS 696b / AMST 696b / ENGL 906b / ER&M 696b / HSHM 782b / RLST 630b, Michel Foucault I: The Works, The Interlocutors, The Critics Greta LaFleur
This graduate-level course presents students with the opportunity to develop a thorough, extensive, and deep (though still not exhaustive!) understanding of the oeuvre of Michel Foucault, and his impact on late-twentieth-century criticism and intellectual history in the United States. Non-francophone and/or U.S. American scholars, as Lynne Huffer has argued, have engaged Foucault’s work unevenly and frequently in a piecemeal way, due to a combination of the overemphasis on The History of Sexuality, Vol 1 (to the exclusion of most of his other major works), and the lack of availability of English translations of most of his writings until the early twenty-first century. This course seeks to correct that trend and to re-introduce Foucault’s works to a generation of graduate students who, on the whole, do not have extensive experience with his oeuvre. In this course, we read almost all of Foucault’s published writings that have been translated into English (which is almost all of them, at this point). We read all of the monographs, and all of the Collège de France lectures, in chronological order. This lightens the reading load; we read a book per week, but the lectures are shorter and generally less dense than the monographs. [The benefit of a single author course is that the more time one spends reading Foucault’s work, the easier reading his work becomes.] We read as many of the essays he published in popular and more widely-circulated media as we can. The goal of the course is to give students both breadth and depth in their understanding of Foucault and his works, and to be able to situate his thinking in relation to the intellectual, social, and political histories of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Alongside Foucault himself, we read Foucault’s mentors, interlocutors, and inheritors (Heidegger, Marx, Blanchot, Canguilhem, Derrida, Barthes, Althusser, Bersani, Hartman, Angela Davis, etc); his critics (Mbembe, Weheliye, Butler, Said, etc.), and scholarship that situates his thought alongside contemporary social movements, including student, Black liberation, prison abolitionist, and anti-psychiatry movements. Instructor permission required.
WGSS 700b, Feminist and Queer Theories Evren Savci
This course is designed as a graduate introduction to feminist and queer thought. It is organized by a number of key terms and institutions around which feminist and queer thinking has clustered, such as the state, the law, religion, family and kinship, capitalism and labor, the body and language, knowledge and affect, globalization and imperialism, militarism and security. The “conversations” that happen around each term speak to the richness of feminist and queer theories, the multidimensionality of feminist and queer intellectual and political concerns, and the “need to think our way out of these crises,” to cite Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Mohanty. The aim is to leave students appreciating the hard labor of feminist and queer thought, and understanding the urgencies out of which such thinking emerges.
WGSS 704b / AMST 704b / ENGL 886b, War and Everyday Life Sunny Xiang
This course thinks together two spatiotemporal phenomena that appear opposed: war and everyday life. Why is war generally thought of as an exceptional phenomenon, a climactic event that disrupts the quotidian rhythms of the everyday? And why does everyday life so often appear parceled off from war, a placid domestic realm that soldiers depart from and return to? The study of war is often a masculine, muscular endeavor. This course's turn to the methodologies that are guided by feminist, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist critique allows us to better contemplate how militaristic logics shape everyday life and how anti-militarism might be lived at the level of daily practices. This notion of everyday militarisms is both the impetus and the frame for our engagement of the special collections at Yale Library. As an impetus, lived experience of militarism requires us to account for our specific institutional location. What has Yale's role been in war-making and empire-building? How might we analyze our own experiences at Yale and in the historical present with these flashpoints in mind? An attunement to the more quotidian aspects of militarisms also provides an alternate frame for rethinking wartime events that may at the outset seem extraordinary or exceptional. What might it mean to understand nuclear bombs, forced migrations, and environmental disasters as ordinary crises? What do people's day-to-day experience of such crises look like? To approach such questions from different angles and at different scales, we need to consult primary source materials in tandem with an array of interdisciplinary scholarship. Considered together, these course materials help us contemplate why everyday wars tend to go undetected—whether because of new kinds of weapons, war crimes that pass as governance, the time lag of slow violence, or the representational norms of popular culture. Of course, the militarization of daily life looks different depending on one’s geographical, historical, social, and disciplinary orientation. So, even though the course tries to assemble a range of materials and examples, it reflects the instructor's orientation as an Americanist scholar of twentieth-century transpacific culture and politics. But the assessment of everydayness is a matter of perception and perspective in a more general sense as well. How does militarism hide in plain sight, and for whom is it hidden? Throughout the term, the power relations embedded in discerning and analyzing everyday militarisms require us to bring an added layer of critical self-reflection to all our research endeavors.
WGSS 724b / AMST 724b / PLSC 868b, Gender and Sexuality in American Politics and Policy Dara Strolovitch
This seminar familiarizes students with foundational work on and approaches to the study of gender and sexuality in American politics and public policy. It explores empirical work that addresses these topics, a range of theoretical and epistemological approaches to them, and the social scientific methods that have been used to examine them. It explores the history, findings, and controversies in research about gender and sexuality in American politics and political science, examining work within several subfields of American politics (e.g., political development; public law; political behavior; legislative studies; public policy; interest groups and social movements), important work from other disciplines, and research that does not fit neatly into traditional disciplinary categories, paying particular attention to the implications of this “messiness” for the study of gender, sexuality, and politics. We are attentive to the complicated histories of science and social science when it comes to the study of gender and sexuality and to the ways in which gender and sexuality intersect with other politically relevant categories, identities, and forms of marginalization, such as race, ethnicity, class, and ideological and partisan identification.
WGSS 730b / HIST 943b / HSHM 736b, Health Politics, Body Politics Naomi Rogers
A reading seminar on struggles to control, pathologize, and normalize human bodies, with a particular focus on science, medicine, and the state, both in North America and in a broader global health context. Topics include disease, race, and politics; repression and regulation of birth control; the politics of adoption; domestic and global population control; feminist health movements; and the pathologizing and identity politics of disabled people.
WGSS 734b / AMST 780b / HIST 734b, Class and Capitalism in the Twentieth-Century United States Jennifer Klein
Reading course on class formation, labor, and political economy in the twentieth-century United States; how regionalism, race, and class power shaped development of American capitalism. The course reconsiders the relationships between economic structure and American politics and political ideologies, and between global and domestic political economy. Readings include primary texts and secondary literature (social, intellectual, and political history; geography).
WGSS 783a / FREN 958a, Social Mobility and Migration Morgane Cadieu
The seminar examines the representation of upward mobility, social demotion, and interclass encounters in contemporary French literature and cinema, with an emphasis on the interaction between social class and literary style. Topics include emancipation and determinism; inequality, precarity, and class struggle; social mobility and migration; the intersectionality of class, race, gender, and sexuality; labor and the workplace; homecomings; mixed couples; and adoption. Works by Nobel Prize winner Annie Ernaux and her peers (Éribon, Gay, Harchi, Linhart, Louis, NDiaye, Taïa). Films by Cantet, Chou, and Diop. Theoretical excerpts by Berlant, Bourdieu, and Rancière. Students have the option to put the French corpus in dialogue with the literature of other countries. Conducted in French.
WGSS 857b / AMST 857b, Frailties Scott Herring
An overview of the methodologies and interdisciplinary potentials of critical age studies. After beginning with a recent issue of Radical History Review on “Old/Age,” we spend our weeks discussing topics such as ageism and age discrimination; immigrant caregiving and servitude; black debility; creative iterations of queer and trans aging; age standardizations in the early twentieth-century United States; “deaths of despair” amidst “the new longevity”; feminist critiques of optimal aging; and junctures of disability and aging. The course brings together a range of thinkers including historians such as Corinne T. Field and Nicholas L. Syrett; theorists such as Kathleen Woodward and Margaret Morganroth Gullette; disability justice activists such as Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha; and sociologists such as Mignon R. Moore. Two governing concerns that we answer as a class: How do considerations of age, aging, and gerontophobia featured in our readings amplify the contemporary investments of American studies? How can we chart political and aesthetic formations of the frail that offset their persistent nonrecognition?
WGSS 900a or b, Colloquium and Working Group Dara Strolovitch
The course is made up of two components: the WGSS Graduate Colloquium, in which graduate students present ongoing research (meets every two to three weeks); and the WGSS Working Group, in which faculty present pre-circulated works-in-progress for critical feedback from the WGSS community (meets every two to three weeks). ½ Course cr
WGSS 908b / ENGL 908b, Queer and Trans Archives Juno Richards
This course offers an introduction to archival theory and methods, with a particular emphasis on the archival turn in queer and trans studies now. Most broadly, we survey major currents in the theorization of the archive, moving through the material afterlives of slavery and colonialism to draw out questions of recovery, reparation, erasure, ephemerality, bureaucracy, and over-abundance. More specifically, the arc of the course branches into three major currents. The first highlights queer and trans authors whose collections are housed in the Beinecke Library, including Richard Bruce Nugent, Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, and James Baldwin. The second current turns to queer and trans archives that have been digitized, including a wide range of periodicals, photographs, scrapbooks, and newsletters now available online. Finally, a third current tracks fictional and cinematic works that reimagine or incorporate the archive as an object of knowledge, including Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston (1989) and Shola von Reinhold’s Lote (2020).