Reproduction: Critical Witnessing at the Intersections of Gender, Race, and Power

Fall 2020
Winter 2021
Class Size: 40
50% Reserved for Freshmen
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

media arts, photography, visual studies
health science, public health, bioethics
psychology, critical race and feminist studies, community-engaged methods

How do the identities we inhabit shape our reproductive lives? In what ways do power and privilege show up in a variety of bodies, including our own? How do categories of race and gender shape how human reproduction is discussed, legislated, and experienced? What methods can we use to critically witness the ways systems of oppression structure our bodies and psychological lives and to imagine more just alternatives?

In this program, we will approach our study of reproduction by attending to the intersections of race, gender, sexuality and class, centering critical race, feminist, queer, and trans perspectives.  Using the lenses of psychology, political economy, sociology, ethics, human biology, public health and visual & media studies, we will collectively dismantle the idea that cis-gender women are defined by an innate reproductive capacity and explore queer and trans experiences of reproductive health. We will discuss the ways in which contraception, abortion, forced sterilization, genetic testing, and other forms of reproductive control both reflect, and have been used to perpetuate, systemic racism. We will also explore how academics, activists, and practitioners have explored possibilities for social change.

Our interdisciplinary journey will include an examination of the biology of reproduction, contraception, pregnancy, and labor, as well as foundational work in reproductive physiology, genetics, and endocrinology. We’ll travel from the cellular (online microscopy and virtual dissections) to the societal (where are the biological male contraceptives?). Students will demonstrate this learning through workshops, biology worksheets, and quizzes. 

Through both formal and informal assignments, this program will help students learn to listen and observe attentively, do close and critical reading of challenging texts, craft clear and well-developed writing, make relevant contributions to seminar discussions, and acquire and demonstrate physiologic reasoning skills. We will read a range of writing from academic articles to blogs, and view films and a few creative projects that illuminate the more experiential aspects of our program themes. 

And….what is “critical witnessing” anyway? When I critically witness, I ask: How does how I see myself shape how I see you? Through writing and interview exercises, students will take stock of their own relationship to the issues we study, and learn how to critically witness each other as well. This will prepare students for Winter quarter, in which they will design and pursue research projects using first-person accounts to explore an area of inquiry related to our program themes and materials. The project could take the form of an audio documentary/podcast, a zine or artist book, or an essay. Students will gain the skills needed to complete a project in their chosen mode.

This program is designed for lower division students and will cover all topics at the introductory level, but we will provide additional structure and challenge for students who have some prior experience with this material.

Greener Foundations:  This program will incorporate Greener Foundations, a holistic course designed for first-time, first-year students. Faculty and staff collaborate to bring study skills, academic planning, health and wellness education, advising, and more into the classroom. More information can be found on the college website at  Greener Foundations .

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

health professions; social work; activism; graduate school in the humanities, sociology, gender studies, and political change


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Fall Complete Online Learning - This offering delivers all of its instruction online.
  • Winter: Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$35 fee in fall quarter for a required course reader and course materials (will be mailed to students)

Class Standing: Freshman–Sophomore
Class Size: 40
50% Reserved for Freshmen

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - 10:00 am

Located in: Olympia

2020-08-05This program is now fully remote for fall
2020-05-27$35 fee added for fall
2020-05-18Julia Zay added to teaching team