Special Topics in Women’s Global Health (01:988:416 )*
Medicine and Biopolitics, 1850-present
Professor Kyla Schuller
2014 Summer Session II,
June 23 – July 31
“Health is the new morality,” the editors of the provocative recent book Against Health proclaim. Their comment diagnoses the way a range of laws and cultural norms currently treat physical wellness as an individual’s duty to society, rather than an aspect of personal well-being. How did this come to be? Who profits from placing such a premium on the vitality of the body, and whose bodies are deemed “problems” standing in the way of national productivity?
We will explore how we can work toward reducing disease and suffering, while also developing a critical perspective on the ways “health” currently functions as a normalized set of bodily practices that benefits some groups at the expense of others. We will begin in the United States during the 1850s, a time when a small group of women became the first licensed female physicians in the modern world. As we will learn, these advances for (white) women often came at the cost of racial justice, as female physicians justified their unusual professional ambitions by their belief that they were contributing to the gradual perfection of the Anglo Saxon race. We will also examine how, concurrently, male physicians worked to clamp down on white women’s rising political and social power by illegalizing abortion and thus bringing women’s reproductive lives under the control of the nation-state and the medical community. Next, we will explore the eugenics movements of the early twentieth century in the U.S. and Latin America, which sought to improve the racial stock of the nation by preventing “unfit” women from reproducing and encouraging “fit” women to have more children. Readings include studies of mandatory health examinations for immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as well as accounts of the forced sterilization of thousands of working-class women. Finally, we will consider how the U.S. and other advanced economies have recently framed individual health as a moral imperative. We will consider topics such as the efforts of the South African government to access affordable AIDS drugs, the new politics of breastfeeding, the rise of cosmetic surgery in the developed world, and the stigmatization of mental and physical disability. We will also look at examples of how marginalized groups are actively intervening in medical and health discourse as a strategy of social justice and individual self-determination. To this end, we will explore the role of U.S. women of color in the fight for reproductive justice, fat-positive feminism, and the struggles of transgender folks for increased access to health care. Overall, students will learn how modern political and economic power often functions through optimizing the biological life itself of the population.
Readings include both primary sources and scholarship by authors including Elizabeth Blackwell, Alexandra Stern, Melinda Cooper, Dorothy Roberts, and Lennerd Davis. The course requires regular reading quizzes, postings to our online forum, and short writing assignments.
Timothy C. Campbell and Adam Sitze. 2013. Biopolitics: A Reader. Durham: Duke University Press.
Melinda Cooper. 2008. Life as Surplus: Biotechnology and Capitalism in the Neoliberal Era. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Jonathan Metzl and Anna Rutherford Kirkland. 2010. Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality. New York: New York University Press.
Alexandra Stern. 2005. Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America. Berkeley: University of California Press.
The Color of AIDS: The Politics of Race During the AIDS Crisis
Professor Carlos Decena
In recent years, the visibility of people of color (particularly women) infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States has sparked discussions about the influences of individual and structural factors in how people negotiate risk, protection, mobilization and access to care and medications. This course focuses on AIDS and the way it is represented in scholarly, popular and community discussions. One of our key concerns will be to discuss the role that race thinking has in shaping the representations of communities, the problems, and the solutions identifies. The course explores cultural narratives of the spread of HIV among women and men from different racial/ethnic backgrounds, in addition to debating recent controversies caused by phenomena within the framework of contested social meanings of illness and deviance, or what Paula Treichler has aptly called “an epidemic of signification.” The course also explores linkages linkages between how we imagine and represent illness and already existing notions of racial/ethnic/sexual difference. Discussions of selected moments throughout the crisis will help us understand debates about the meanings of race, from the designation of Haitians as a risk group in the earliest stages of the epidemic to current debates about African Americans makes as AIDS carriers and women of color in the epidemic. Discussions of gender, sexuality and the status of AIDS among African Americans, Latinas/os, Asian Americans and Native Americans will foreground the problematic nature of “culture” and “visibility” in health policy, research and care provision.
Keith Boykin. 2004. Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America. New York: Carroll & Graf.
Cathy J. Cohen. 1999. The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Rafael M. Diaz. 1997. Latino Gay Men and HIV: Culture, Sexuality and Risk Behavior. New York: Routledge.
Paul Farmer. 2006. AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame. Updated with new Preface ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Jacob Levenson. 2005. The Secret Epidemic: The Story of AIDS in Black America. New York: Pantheon Books.
Susan Sontag. 1989. AIDS and Its Metaphors. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Paula A. Treichler. 1999. How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS. Durham: Duke University Press.
Irene S. Vernon. 2001. Killing Us Quietly: Native Americans and HIV/AIDS. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
*Topic varies with instructor.