The Making of Crucial Differences:'Race', Sexuality, Gender and Class in Historical Perspective
Full course description
Starting from recent debates and problems like new nationalism, misogyny, political homophobia, Islamophobia and antisemitism the course offers a historical inquiry into the construction and development of cultural ‘differences’ marked through categories like gender, sexuality, class, ‘race’, and religion from the eighteenth century until the Holocaust. Through historical case studies, philosophy and literature it looks at the way in which Western identity-discourse and its colonial subcode have formed dichotomies like self and other, black and white, the Orient and the West, male and female, worker and bourgeois, hetero- and homosexual, and how these differences became social inequalities. The course introduces gender as a category of historical analysis. Through a critical inquiry it will reconstruct the paradoxes of a ‘dialectic of Enlightenment’ (Adorno), that means the dark side behind its claim for reason, equality, brotherhood and freedom.
It aims to trace and illustrate the ways in which the Enlightenment has provided a rationale to mark gendered, classed and racialized boundaries in science which, more often than not, resulted in inequalities. These inequalities became embedded in European society in such a way that the active, dominant subject came to be seen as ‘white, male, and middle class.’ This discourse of dominance helped to carry out European colonialism and the imperial project. With the help of a literary analysis (Joseph Conrad “Heart of Darkness”), the course introduces into the (critical) role literature can play within the dynamics of social change and cultural discourse.
Furthermore, the course will introduce into critical theories, like discourse analysis and the history of knowledge, postcolonial and gender/sexualitiy studies and studies on Orientalism (Said). Thus, it will examine the dynamic processes of the “history of sexualities”, their formation and contradictions, which emerged out of these processes. It will reconstruct how ‘masculinity’ and the ‘image of man’ (Mosse) became a central trope of nationalism and colonialism. Last but not least, it will ask how colonial and anti-Semitic discourse, stereotypes of the ‘external Other’ (in the colonies) and stereotypes of an ‘internal European Other’ (the Jews etc.) were intertwined and how we can better understand the Holocaust from a historical, multidirectional perspective.
- To acquaint students with a critical perspective on modern, mostly European history and the ‘dialectic of Enlightenment’, that means to show how the achievements of Enlightened ideals etc. were intertwined with colonialism, the ‘Jewish question’, gender and class inequalities.
- To familiarize students with a historical perspective and historical knowledge on the production and impact of configurations of ‘race’, class, gender and sexuality from the Enlightenment until the Shoa/Holocaust.
- To introduce students to canonical philosophical, theoretical texts on ‘race’ and ‘gender’, ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘orientalism’, and to major texts in the field of historical gender and diversity studies like Foucault’s “History of Sexuality”.
- To acquaint students with the way in which these configurations like gender, race and religion have structured cultural scripts and practices, stereotypes, individual identities, and European and North American developments, like slavery.
- To introduce students into the (critical) role literature can play within the dynamics of social change and cultural discourse.
- To provide students with the analytical skills to examine the dynamics of the production and reproduction of identity and difference, inclusion and exclusion, equality and inequality.
Interest in historical research, gender studies and critical theoretical reflection.
- E-reader and the novel “Heart of Darkness” (Joseph Conrad).