‘Divided We Stand’: Gender, Norms and Sexuality

Dr Sertaç Sehlikoglu

How have concepts like ‘women’ and ‘men’, ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’, ‘homosexuality and ‘heterosexuality’ shaped our experiences and perceptions of sexuality? How do we establish our own gender and sexuality? How independent are our desires of social expectations and norms? How have we come to understand, accept, internalize, and communicate, the norms? What processes make these norms compulsory, and even oppressive to those who seek out space beyond them?

This course is designed to enable students from any subject major to explore gender and sexuality from a critical angle. By looking at the most popular debates from across the world, students will examine how cultural makings of body, gender, femininity, masculinity, and sexuality have historically shaped and been shaped by wider social forces.

The course visits foundational concepts and theories (feminist and queer theory) in gender studies which draw for example on philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and history. The lectures provide examples from across the globe, to enable us to question our very own norms, in the way we often fail to notice they exist. In seminars, students will discuss their chosen examples from popular culture and facilitate discussion of current controversies around gender vis-à-vis the themes and theories covered in the lectures.

Course Aims and Learning Outcomes:

The main aim of this course to develop the critical thinking skills about norms, including those we might have internalized unknowingly.

By the end of the course, students are expected to:

  • become familiar with social scientific literature relevant to multiple forms of gendering
  • demonstrate an awareness of the relationship between heteronormativity and the everyday makings of gender
  • interpret and deconstruct their everyday exposure to the gendered and caricaturized images of the non-Western contexts (Africa, Asia, Middle East.)
  • understand particular anthropological and sociological terminology on gender, including compulsory heteronormativity, performativity, body, habitus, etc.


Teaching Methodology:

  • Teaching is by means of lectures plus seminars for the period of the course. The lectures aim to present the material, while the seminars aim to discuss the material in greater depth. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in seminar discussions, to brainstorm and share ideas, and to explore the wider issues. Seminars will include film clips, press cuttings and other media.



Critical Engagement Report   : 25 %

Seminar Presentation              : 25 % (in class, 15 to 20 min)

Final Exam                              : 50 %

Critical Engagement Report: Students will submit a critical engagement report during the course in form of a response paper (1,000 to 1,200 word limit). A report may be an analytical response related to the reading material, a class discussion or a media review.

Seminar Presentation: Each student will have the opportunity to prepare a presentation that stimulates a seminar discussion. Presentations should be between 15 and 20 minutes and should cover key concepts of the reading material with a critical perspective. Students should use visual illustrations in their presentation (PowerPoint, photos, short clips, physical materials etc).

Final Exam: Final exams follow the Cambridge style, composed of 7-8 essay questions from which students chose 3.   

Pre-Arrival Reading:

Foucault, M. (1990) The history of sexuality. Vintage.

Other Recommended Reading:

De Beauvoir, S. (2014) [1949]. The second sex. Random House.

Butler, J. (2011) [1993]. Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of sex. Taylor & Francis.

Moore, H. L. (1988). Feminism and anthropology., Ch. 1 and 2, U of Minnesota Press. Pp: 1-41.

Berlant, L. G. (Ed.). (2000). Intimacy. University of Chicago Press. Introduction and any of the 3 chapters you find enjoyable.