Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Description

This course explores how identities, whether of individuals or groups, are produced, maintained, and transformed. Students will be introduced to various theoretical perspectives that deal with identity formation, including constructions of "the normal." We will explore the utility of these perspectives for understanding identity components such as gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, language, social class, and bodily difference. By semester's end students will understand better how an individual can be at once cause and consequence of society, a unique agent of social action as well as a social product.


In addition to written work, students are expected to keep up with all assigned readings (a book per week; 100 pp. a week for articles). Students must attend class and participate; this part of the course, coupled with Reader Responses, accounts for 25% of the grade. Students who miss more than 3 classes will lose credit. Students will write 3 papers, each counting 25%. There is no final examination. Several video/DVDs will be shown in class.

Reader Responses

These consist of a brief paragraph describing your reaction to one or more of the readings for that week. You will post them on the "Forum" section of the class Web site by 2:00 PM the day of class. Do not provide an analysis or summary, give us your response to the reading. These should take no more than 15 minutes, although you may write more if you wish. They are not graded but are required to pass the course.


You will write three papers, 7 or more pages (roughly 2000 words) each on an assigned topic. You must rewrite the first two papers in light of the comments you receive. The revised draft is the version that will be graded. Rewriting the third paper is optional, but highly recommended.

The first paper is due Week #5. You will get it back one week later, Week #6, and must submit your rewrite one week later, Week #7. The second paper is due Week #9. You will get it back one week later, Week #10, and must submit your rewrite in Week #11. If you plan on revising the third paper, the first version must be handed in during Week #12 (as e-mail attachment if you wish), and will be handed back Week #13. For the entire class, the final paper is due Week #14.


Students will give presentations, lead discussion, and participate in various kinds of group activities. Each student will give a formal presentation of the third paper, time limit to be determined on the basis of enrollment. These final presentations are not graded.


The first class hour will be lecture, followed by student presentations and structured discussion. Participating enthusiastically in the group activities and structured discussions is extremely important.

Required Books

Bourgois, Philippe. In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780521017114.

Pascoe, C. J. Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780520252301.

Rhodes, Lorna A. Total Confinement: Madness and Reason in the Maximum Security Prison. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780520240766.