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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jessica A. Johnson
GWSS 464
Seattle Campus

Queer Desires

Explores desire and the politics of sexuality as gendered, raced, classed, and transnational processes. Intimacies and globalization, normality and abnormality, and power and relationships are sites of inquiry into the constitution of "queerness." Students interrogate queer and sexuality studies, using varied media - films, activist writings, and scholarly articles.

Class description

This course approaches the study of sexual desire, intimacy, and subjectivity in relation to intersecting processes of identity formation such as gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, and class. Throughout the quarter, students will examine how feminist and queer studies scholarship interrogates “normative” institutional discourses produced via the law, church, media, and medicine that constitute and reinforce stabilized categories of masculinity/femininity, male/female, and gay/straight.

Our theoretical texts provide a genealogy of “queer” not only as an umbrella term of identification analogous to “LGBT” but also as an instrument of critique. Students will explore how the usage of queer as a verb denaturalizes socially and historically constructed classifications of sexual identity that shape and police boundaries of normality, community, and citizenship. Ethnographic texts offer insight into how such categories of identity based on binaries and borders are increasingly tenuous and blurred given dynamics of globalization and transnational political economy impacting the fluidity of queer desires and mobility of queer lives. While investigating “trans” as a concept and identifier that affords an opening for investigating the complex potential and limitations of political projects and economic horizons based on fluidity and mobility, students will analyze how Western definitions of “lesbian,” “gay,” and “straight,” are circulated, transformed, and untranslatable in distinct geo-political locations.

Furthermore, students will examine how bodies and performances of gender are both disciplined and “queered” not only in response to regulatory systems of power and technologies of surveillance but also by those who flout standards of sexual morality and gender conformity in order to survive. Finally, we will inquire as to how trends in gay rights activism and U.S. identity politics are impacting the national and global futures of “the gay community.” We will consider whether and how there is the potential for queer strategies of resistance and coalitional activism to address a spectrum of issues that affect the lives of those who may not consider themselves members of said “gay community” and yet also struggle for rights and protection in the United States and abroad. This course is organized as a seminar with in-class writing prompts and small group work leading into large group discussions. Each week, we will establish key terms and examine course topics through theoretical, ethnographic, and visual texts. Thoughtful contribution to class discussions is a key component of your grade. Close reading and critical assessment of the assigned texts are necessary to complete the required written assignments, which include weekly analyses of readings and films, a take home mid-term exam, and a final research paper.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

This course is organized as a seminar with in-class writing prompts and small group work leading into large group discussions. Each week, we will establish key terms and examine course topics through theoretical, ethnographic, and visual texts. Thoughtful contribution to class discussions is a key component of your grade. Close reading and critical assessment of the assigned texts are necessary to complete the required assignments, which include weekly written analyses of readings and films, a take home mid-term exam, and a final research paper.

Participation 10% Written Assignments 40% Mid Term 20% Final Research Paper 30%


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 Jessica A. Johnson
Date: 09/12/2013