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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Michelle L. Mcgowan
ANTH 484
Seattle Campus

Ideologies and Technologies of Motherhood

Examines how motherhood is culturally constituted, regulated, and managed within various ideological and technological milieus. Uses ethnographies from anthropology and case studies from feminist legal theory. Topics include slave mothers, surrogate mothers, lesbian mothers, transracial mothers, co-mothers, teen mothers. Prerequisite: GWSS 200. Offered: jointly with GWSS 458.

Class description

In this course we will examine how motherhood is culturally constituted, regulated, and managed within various ideological and technological milieus. The regulation of fertility and infertility, childbearing and childrearing all involve highly stratified social relations among women and men; within communities; and as aspects of national policy and transnational politics. Reproduction is intricately involved in social relations and power arrangements. We will begin by examining ideologies about what constitutes a "fit" and an "unfit" mother in historically specific and local contexts, and how these ideologies are upheld. In every society, cultural beliefs and requirements for motherhood determine how womens' fertility should be regulated based upon a set of culturally prescribed criteria including age, marital status, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, ability, religion, and nationality. The second part of the course will examine how medical technologies are being employed to sustain normative definitions of family while simultaneously redefining the meaning of motherhood and parenthood. The readings, discussions, and assignments will problematize aspects of the politics of motherhood through which social hierarchies are produced, sustained, and transformed.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Prerequisite WOMEN 200

Class assignments and grading

Papers, group project, in-class presentation, and participation


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Michelle L. Mcgowan
Date: 02/16/2005