Seminar in Cultural Studies: Queer Studies, & Questions of Race, Class, Nation & Genre

In this course we will investigate queer theory and its intersections with studies of class, race, nation and genre. Our basic premise for the course is that human sexuality and gender are socially constructed and regulated. Our primary concern will be to understand the multiplicity of ways in which families, communities, and nations institutionalize heterosexuality and gender roles, and the ways in which individuals and groups can and do resist these roles. We will undergo this exploration by reading works of theory that have been foundational to the field of queer studies (for example, those by Gloria Anzaldúa, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga, Adrienne Rich, Gayle Rubin, and Eve Sedgwick) as well as scholarship that is at the forefront of the field today. We will investigate this work’s intersections with ethnic studies, indigenous studies, settler colonial studies, transnationalism, and diaspora studies (for example, works by David Eng, Roderick Ferguson, Macarena Gómez-Barris, Gayatri Gopinath, Jack Halberstam, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Scott Lauria Morgensen, Jose Muñoz, Tavia Nyong’o, Jasbir Puar, Mark Rifkin, Steven Thrasher, etc.!).


We will analyze these theoretical texts in relation to contemporary cultural texts—novels (Rolling the Rs), life writing or mixed-genre works  (Loving in the War Years, The Argonaut), feature films (Fire, Moonlight), tv movies (A Girl Like Me), documentaries (Pinkwashing Exposed, Kumu Hina), poetry (Islands of Decolonial Love), music and poetry videos (including ones by Angel Haze, Jamaica Osorio, Ozomatli), and blog sites (i.e., bullybloggers, Ke Kaupu Hehiale). Most of our texts come from authors and filmmakers with diverse cultural perspectives who are situated in Hawai‘i, the continental U.S., and Canada, and who, taken together, identify as, defy, and explore a range of sexual and gender identifications. In combination with the theory we will read, these texts provide insight into how conformity to sexual and gender roles gains people acceptance by one’s family, community, and nation. They establish, in other words, the connections between sexual and gender identity and various forms of citizenship and communal and familial belonging. These texts also establish ways that sexual and gender roles have unacknowledged race and class biases, and how deviating from or challenging these roles often results in alienation, exclusion, violence, and premature death. Many of the texts trace as well how people—working from their particular geopolitical, racial or ethnic, and social locations—challenge the sexual and gender roles assigned to them and, in the process of doing so, forge or revive alternative families or communities, and begin to imagine new formulations of belonging. As we read or view “imaginative” cultural texts alongside more purely “theoretical” ones, we will consider if—and if so, how and why—different genres enable different kinds of mappings or imaginings of non-heteronormative identities, communities, and desires.


ASSIGNMENTS:  Grades will be determined by the following components: seminar paper of 18-20 pages + a formal proposal and annotated bibliography + outline + presentation of the paper (60%); 5-page paper accompanying the class presentation (15%), class presentation (10%); weekly letters to the class (10%); event attendance and reflection pieces (5%)



Zamora Linmark, Rolling the Rs

Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds. This Bridge Called My Back.

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts


FILMS (tentative):

Dir. Hector Babenco, Kiss of the Spiderwoman

Dirs. Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, Kumu Hina

Dir. Aknieszka Holland, A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story

Dir. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Dir. Deepa Mehta, Fire

Dir. Dean Spade, Pinkwashing Exposed


General Student Outcomes:

  1. Through our interdisciplinary focus, you will gain a greater “understanding of the discipline of English and its relationship to other disciplines.”
  2. Through readings and assignments, you will be able to identify and describe significant developments and key concepts and concerns in the history of queer studies.
  3. Through written and oral assignments, you will develop the ability to place your own scholarly work within broader critical conversations in queer studies and to contribute to these conversations by conducting independent research.
  4. Through oral presentations, you will gain experience delivering concise, informed, focused, and thought-provoking presentations to peers in the field.
  5. Through written assignments you will gain experience formulating sound and historically- and theoretically-informed argumentation and analyses of cultural texts for an academic audience; and you will gain experience documenting sources accurately and responsibly in your writing using a standard academic style.