Intersectionality and Identity Critical Considerations in Teaching Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies

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Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies

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This article offers and discusses a prototype syllabus for teaching the course Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies (henceforth abbreviated as Introduction) that simultaneously mobilizes and operationalizes intersectionality's critical power as tool and method, which explicates individual and collective experiences in societies and cultures. The article exemplifies a practical approach to getting past the impasse created by intersectionality's deployment in the Introduction classroom, positioned as it is either as an identity-based critical lens, which poses the familiar problem of essentialism, or as different from deconstructive critical approaches that then produce confusion regarding its critical value. Starting with a review of intersectionality's relationship to identity in theory and in pedagogy, I move on to make a case for why Introduction is a unique space for feminist/queer interventions and then offer a model syllabus grounded in decolonial history, which helps frame the critical and methodological rigor of intersectionality appropriately. The syllabus also leads directly to another goal in the article—and, dare I say, of Introduction—namely, the importance of integrative learning in introductory courses. Integrative learning is defined by the Association of American Colleges and Universities as "an understanding and a disposition that a student builds across the curriculum and co-curriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations within and beyond the campus."


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