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Engendering World History: A Team-Taught Survey Course at the University of California Irvine

Ulrike Strasser and Heidi Tinsman




In winter 2002, we team-taught a course entitled "World History: Gender and Politics, 1400-1870" at the University of California, Irvine. This class emerged out of our commitment as feminists to making gender and sexuality central to how the rapidly growing field of world history is being shaped. While we saw this undertaking primarily as a pedagogical venture, the experience of teaching together was so productive that we decided to reflect on it in a scholarly article. We wanted to outline some of the reasons why the thematics of gender and sexuality have been marginal in existing world history narratives and offer concrete strategies for centering gender and sexuality in "the story of the world." The resulting article, first published in Radical History Review in Winter 2005, elaborated one possible way of telling that story, a narrative that focuses on questions of high politics, Empire-building, and state formation and that traces the ways that gender and sexuality were constitutive of political formations in societies around the globe. This piece is reprinted below, with thanks to Radical History Review for their kind permission to reprint.1

     The article proved to be yet another beginning rather than an endpoint. We both discovered new pedagogical venues. We contributed a teaching case study on Labor, Slavery, and Gender to the online project on World History Sources and Women (, a site that was awarded the James Harvey Robinson Prize for the American Historical Association in January 2007. We also took our insights into other UCI classrooms. Heidi signed up for the modern portion of our world history sequence and found ways of integrating gender and sexuality into that storyline, an experience that she discussed formally at a roundtable at a meeting of the World History Association in Long Beach California in June 2007. Ulrike felt inspired to lecture on gender, colonialism, and early modern missionary work in UCI's freshmen Humanities Core Course during a cycle dedicated to the theme of "Associations/Disassociations : A Globalized Society." We also took lessons from these courses and offered teacher-training institutes on ķgender and world history' for the California History/Social Science Project, an educational partnership between UCI history faculty who try to translate the latest academic work to a broader audience and Orange County School teachers who have the additional challenge of facing district and state standards. These experiences have greatly enhanced our work as feminist teachers.

     Our research agendas broadened in unexpected ways. Individually, we are each working on new monographs with a transnational focus. Heidi is writing a transnational history of consumer culture and gendered labor regimes connecting Chile and the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. Ulrike's current project investigates how German missionary activities in the Pacific Rim co-produced political, religious, sexual, and gender identities on the colonial periphery as well as in the Holy Roman Empire's metropolitan regions. Together, we successfully applied for a grant to convene a residency group at the UC-Humanities Research Institute in fall 2006. In assembling an interdisciplinary group of scholars, we brought together a number of vibrant intellectual conversations taking place across the humanities and social sciences: discussions of globalization, world history, feminist theory, queer theory, and the study of masculinities. Our seminar explored why these conversations have developed separately and at times even antagonistically and how they can be brought into a sustained dialogue.

     The seminar concluded in December 2007. In January we began to pull together a proposal for a presidential workshop on "Stories of Difference and Domination: World Histories and the Study of Masculinities" for the 2008 meeting of the AHA. And so the story of engendering world history continues ¹

Teaching Gender and World History: Reflections and Strategies

     World history courses are quickly becoming an integral part of college and school curricula across the nation. At the University of California Irvine, a world history survey has indeed replaced all other regional studies surveys, excepting that on the United States, as the lower-division course satisfying Humanities breadth requirements. Students no longer start with either a survey of Latin America, Asia, Europe, or the US; they choose between "world history" and "US history." They can take courses on Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa as upper-division classes. This shift towards world history reflects the declining appeal of "area studies" that, along with "western civilization" courses, were a product of the Cold War. Likewise, it reflects contemporary concerns with multiculturalism and globalization and the interest teachers have in historicizing and critiquing such concepts. Although few universities and colleges have made such radical curriculum changes as has UC Irvine, world history is now taught on most campuses, and job advertisements seeking instructors in world history as a second field or even a first field are now the single most common employment offer listed in the American Historical Association's Perspectives newsletter.

     Feminists have long been wary of telling history as a meta-narrative--the "big story" that presumes to include all, while so often eliding dynamics gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. Indeed, feminist social movements and scholarship emerged specifically as a rejection of such universal claims. World history is without a doubt a new mega-narrative--surely the most ambitious thus far proposed. While a feminist critique of world history as an intellectual and political project is beyond the scope of this essay, suffice it to say that we felt strongly that since a new meta-narrative is becoming ever more important to undergraduate education (and for better or worse the "big survey course" is a permanent feature of most higher education), it was crucial that feminists join the on-going struggle over just what the monstrous task of "teaching the history of the world" means.

     Our class was taught as the second part of UC Irvine's three-quarter class sequence for survey courses; it followed the course on Ancient History and preceded that on Modern History. In other words, the course was part of the standard survey (which students need to satisfy breadth requirements and advancement to specialty courses); it was not an elective in feminist history or a Women's Studies course. Our class enrollment included 250 students over half of whom were male. Ethnically, the classroom reflected UC Irvine's uneven diversity: about half were Asian and Asian-American, roughly 40 percent were white, less than 10 percent were Latino, and only three students were black. Six devoted and talented graduate students served as TAs in the weekly required discussion sections that accompanied the lectures.

      Neither of us had any previous experience teaching or researching in world history. Irvine's world history program was founded by our colleagues, Kenneth Pomeranz, Bin Wong, Daniel Schroeder, and James Given, all of whom have written highly acclaimed scholarship on world dynamics and the relationship between the "East" and "West." We were definitely novices, firmly grounded in our two regional specialties: for Heidi Tinsman, 20th Century Latin America; for Ulrike Strasser, 16th and 17th Century Europe. This was an experiment.

     Nevertheless, as feminist scholars, the two of us brought methodological expertise to the course that has been largely absent from the teaching of world history as well as from most major textbooks on the subject. An important exception to this is a feminist world history course designed by M.J. Maynes and Ann Waltner at the University of Minnesota which along with the encouragement of our UC Irvine colleagues helped motivate our own attempt. Gender and sexuality are arguably the two historical phenomena that appear "most natural" and unchanging to our students. This, in our view, made gender and sexuality especially powerful analytical lenses for opening our students' eyes to the richness of cultural diversity and to the historical contingency of sociopolitical formations around the globe.

     A great many world history courses use "the market" or "markets" as a central organizing principle emphasizing processes through which the world becomes a more unified field of human interaction. They tell tales of how trade and commerce came to bind the world together narrating the rise, fall, and clash of great empires as closely wedded to political competition for trade routes, resources, and territory. We do not propose that the paradigm of markets (and competition over them) is an inappropriate way to approach world history. But we see two problems appearing in many courses and textbooks that rely on it. First, this approach has often implicitly suggested an almost linear process of globalization: world history is the story of people becoming more connected. And Europe's action upon the world in enabling these connections is still too often the primary plot line especially in post-1400 history that recounts the rise of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. Here, world history can repeat many of the problematic presumptions of modernization theory except that modernization goes abroad and becomes global. (This is not, it's crucial to note, the way world history has been taught at Irvine where the faculty who have developed the curriculum have been at the scholarly and pedagogical forefront of de-centering Europe and of stressing the divergences and discontinuities within the so-called globalization process.) Nonetheless, elsewhere in world history courses focused on markets, linear globalization and European protagonism continue to be mainstays. Our second concern about the "world history as world markets" paradigm is that it has largely failed to make gender dynamics--or even women--anything other than a minor footnote to what fuels world change. This is not because market-focused narratives inherently preclude attention to gender/sexuality. Rather, the problem is that feminist economic history has figured so marginally in the broader world histories of the political economy as well as in labor histories.

     Our course does not offer a feminist world history of markets as an answer to this dilemma. We can imagine that this would make a superb and much needed course. The course offered by Mary Jo Maynes and Ann Waltner at the University of Minnesota takes important steps in this direction, and we in fact include a segment on the gendered dimensions of market organization in this instance the slave market and gender divisions of labor. But overall our course de-privileges markets as the world's binding sinew. Instead, we have decided to ask students to consider how gender and sexuality centrally constitute relations of power within, across, and between societies. We also want them to be attentive to the ways in which historical actors subvert and resist dominant norms of gender and sexuality and thus challenge the authorities representing these norms.

     One might say--for lack of better terminology--that our course takes "formal politics" as its point of departure. In part, this is a conscious attempt to move away from the association of gender analysis with "the family" (writ small), or "everyday life," or "history from the bottom up." Not that these are not important categories for studying and teaching the history of the world. However, if these remain the sole rubrics in which women or gender relations appear in textbooks (if they appear at all), we send a rather misleading message to students. "Real (big) history" or "universal history"--the one that deserves most space in your textbook--is the terrain of formalized power relationships which just happens to be the domain of men. In so doing, we don't merely erase vast parts of women's experience from the historical record, we incidentally also make it impossible to study men's experience as that of men, that is to say as an experience always constituted in relation to that of women.

     To guard against this danger, our course seeks to build on the still recent and growing literature in feminist scholarship on gender, sexuality, and the state. We draw on two specific insights that have come out of this scholarship. For one, this historiography has broadened our notion of "the political" demonstrating that our study of politics, if it is to be exhaustive, ought to include institutional as well as informal power relationships. We need to be especially attentive to the political meanings and far-reaching public implications of seemingly personal, private, or intimate matters such as who has sex with whom or how men and women behave in the household. (See the article by Lyn Reese in this issue with suggestions about original sources available on the Web regarding gender relations within the family.) Against this backdrop, we want to challenge our students' understanding of the political by having them analyze why ruling authorities try to regulate sexual behavior and impose norms of femininity and masculinity upon the populace. We ask them to reflect on how gender and sexuality are used to establish structures of authority and to maintain religious, national, class, and racial boundaries.

     Second, this scholarship has shown gender and sexuality as centrally shaping power dynamics within "high politics": the levels of "states," "empires," or "so-called major religions;" the very levels where "men" seem to be the main actors and women (or most women) seem almost entirely absent. State authorities have widely used gender relations as metaphors for the elaboration and justification of political rule. Imperial powers have drawn on images of sexual conquest to imagine and authorize their colonial projects. In this light, we want to urge students to consider gender and sexuality as primary ways of signifying and structuring power and as central to how and why things change. This approach might or might not always bring more "women" back into the story (though it usually does). But it will certainly clarify why and how "men" are in the story in the ways they are (i.e. men are not "there" simply because men are always history's natural protagonists) and that the reasons men are "there" have implications for women.

World History: Gender and Politics, 1400-1870

     Every large survey demands that teachers make choices. When covering "world history" over a five-hundred-year period, the need is all the greater. We designed our class to explore ways that definitions of male and female were constitutive of how power was organized, experienced, and resisted in a variety of societies and moments in what is generically (and problematically) known as the early modern period. Themes and case studies include the importance of sexuality and religion to conquest and rule in Meso-America and Europe; the role of female seclusion and state formation in Europe, China, and the Middle East; the significance of slavery and its gendered divisions of labor to local economies and the emergence of capitalism; the gender-specific meanings of citizenship and nation; and the role of imperialism in sexualizing and racializing women's and men's bodies.

     Although our concentration on gender, sexuality, and politics helps with the selection process; it is still not possible to treat every important and relevant aspect of our chosen focus. To strike some balance between depth and coverage, change over time, and elaboration of specific historical contexts; we highlight four themes (discussed below) that we developed in several society-specific case studies. We teach the course roughly chronologically to emphasize connection and causation with our four themes recurring throughout the term. Comparisons and connections over time thus are our analytical twin lenses for focusing the course. In some ways, we hark back to the older historical model of comparative history while also wanting to insinuate ourselves in the "newer" world-history trend that emphasizes connection. Although this course is still more oriented towards the Atlantic than to the Indian or Pacific ocean worlds, we believe it moves significantly away from being a tale of proto-globalization and therefore questions the degree to which Europe can be considered the motor of change. Just as importantly, it puts the politics of gender and sexuality squarely at the center of how students should consider all socioeconomic formations -- markets, empires, nations, world societies as a whole.

Introductions: What is a World History of Gender and Politics?

     We begin with a basic introduction in which we both familiarize students with the themes, definitions, and expectations: What is world history? What can we expect a concentration on gender to help us understand? What do we want from you? Following that first lecture, we took turns lecturing and only at the final lecture did we both return to the podium at the same time.

Theme I - Sexuality, State Formation, and Empire-Building

     Our first set of lectures introduces students to the connection between political centralization, gender, and sexuality. How did rulers build states and empires by controlling sexual practices? Why do so many societies have an institution called marriage?

Topic: Gender, Religion and Empire in the Inca World

Irene Silverblatt, Moon, Sun, and Witches : Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Spanish Peru, (Princeton: Princenton University Press, 1987), 1-108.

     Our first case study was that of the Inca Empire. Heidi's lecture on the topic addresses how sexuality and religion were critical to the establishment and expansion of Inca rule over Andean tribal communities in the fifteenth century. Using Irene Silverblatt's book Moon, Sun, and Witches as the assigned text, Heidi discusses how the Inca transformed Andean cosmology's emphasis on parallel and roughly equivalent gender roles into a cosmology of gender hierarchy that emphasized female subordination as a metaphor for Andean submission to Inca rule. The lecture also discusses how tribute in women--some of whom were sacrificed, others who were married to the king or his noblemen or given to high priests and secluded in temples as holy-women--was critical to the growth of the Inca bureaucracy, the control of conquered territories and resources, and the hegemony of Inca cultural formations throughout the northern Andes.

Topic: Gender, Religion, and the State in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Sarah Hanley, "Engendering the State: Family Formation and State-building in Early Modern Europe," French Historical Studies 16 (1989): 4-27.

Lucia Ferrante, "Marriage and Women's Subjectivity in a Patrilineal System: The Case of Early Modern Bologna," in Gender, Kinship, Power: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary History, ed. Mary Jo Maynes, et al. (New Brunswick: Routledge Press, 1996), 115-129

     Playing off the issues brought up by our study of the Inca, Ulrike's lecture discusses why early modern European secular and ecclesiastical authorities had a stake in regulating sexual behavior and how the process of political centralization was connected to expanding control over marriage formation; Sarah Hanley's "Engendering the State" provides a useful supplementary reading on this issue. More specifically, Ulrike centers her lecture on tracing the transformation of marriage from a personal contract controlled by family members and local networks to an object of public control and state sanction during the Reformations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. She highlights the effects of these large-scale trends on men and women of different social classes and also of different generations in order to teach students how men's and women's power varies not only according to gender but also according to class and age. Lucia Ferrante's article on men's and women's use of ecclesiastical courts to defy their parents' choice of marriage partners in sixteenth-century Bologna provides rich individual cases illustrating the theoretical points.

Topic: Conquest, Marriage, and Empire-Building in Spanish America

Irene Silverblatt, Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Spanish Peru, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 109-215.

Patricia Seed, "Marriage Promises and the Value of a Woman's Testimony in Colonial Mexico," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 13:2 (1988): 253-276.

     Heidi's next lecture addresses the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Peru. She begins with a laundry list of the "reasons" for Spanish success conventionally covered in most treatments of the subject: technological superiority, disease, military alliances, successful imposition of Catholicism, and creation of new bureaucracy. She then discusses how gender dynamics were central to all of these--especially military alliances, religion, and political bureaucracy. Following up on the marriage themes addressed in the previous lecture's analysis of European marriage, Heidi discusses how Spanish-Native marriage and concubinage were central Spanish political strategies. For example, "La Malinche," Hernön Cortēs's Aztec mistress, was crucial to the Spanish ability to communicate linguistically with Montezuma and enemies of the Aztecs. Likewise, Heidi discusses the role of the Catholic Church in conquering indigenous populations. In the spirit of Counter-Reformation Spain and the aftermath of the Council of Trent (themes addressed in Ulrike's previous lecture), priests in the Americas were particularly concerned with enforcing of Catholic marriage, cracking-down on sexual "irregularities," and prosecuting "witchcraft," which in Peru and Mexico was often associated with female goddess cults. Lastly, Heidi notes how Spanish-Catholic marriage practices shaped political, class, and racial hierarchies in colonial urban centers. Students were required to read the remainder of Silverblatt's book and an article by Patricia Seed on honor, shame, and marriage promises in Mexico. Seed's piece and Ferrante's article make for an excellent comparative pairing.

Theme II: The Enclosure and Seclusion of Women and the Religious/Ideological Dimensions of Political Rule

Our next set of lectures asks students to consider the cross-cultural practice of enclosing women ‚ in convents, in harems, in households. How is women's enclosure connected to maintaining overarching power structures and ideological systems? How do women in various contexts respond to enclosure norms?

Topic: Enclosing Women in Europe and America

Judith Brown, Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

Ulrike Strasser, "Bones of Contention: Catholic Nuns Resist Their Enclosure," In Unspoken Worlds. Women's Religious Lives, ed. Nancy Auer Falk and Rita M. Gross, (Belmont: Wadsworth Press, 2001), 207-220.

Sor Juana Inēs de la Cruz in Electa Arenal and Amanda Powell, eds., The Answer/La Respuesta (New York: The Feminist Press, 1994), 49-63; 73-87.*

FILM: "Yo, La Peor de Todas" (I, The Worst of All).

     We dedicated the following two class periods to a comparison of enclosure practices and their effects on women's agency in Europe and the Americas. The assigned readings by Brown, Strasser, and Sor Juana introduce students to the institution of the convent in early modern Europe and colonial Mexico illustrating that convents served not only religious but a host of social, cultural, and political purposes. To drive home this point, Ulrike's lecture takes a close look at sixteenth-century Venice where the ruling patrician oligarchy forced an enormous numbers of their daughters into convents in order to maintain purity of blood among the elite and thereby a firm grip on the Republic's governing institutions. Ulrike also discusses how religion, in this instance Catholicism, was a critical resource for justifying gender norms. The Catholic ideal of virginity underwrote the familial, matrimonial, and political strategies of the Venetian patriciate. The lecture ends with various examples of female resistance to sequestration and explores the extent to which the convent, as an all-female space, also accorded women particular forms of agency. This sets up a discussion of the case of Sor Juana and the movie "I, the Worst of All."

Topic: Confucian Gender Norms and the Enclosure of Women in Qing China

"Confucianism," in An Anthology of Sacred Texts by and about Women, ed., Serenity Young, (New York: Crossroads, 1995), 340-353.

"Letters to My Sons," "Letters by Women of the Ming-Quing period," "Selected Short Works by Wang Duanshu," in Under Confucian Eyes: Writings on Gender in Chinese History, eds., Susan Mann and Yu-Yin Cheng (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 149-154; 169-196.

Ulrike's next lecture on seventeenth-century China provides another example of female enclosure norms, this time Confucian. The point here is less to highlight common features in the European and the Chinese cases than to make visible key differences and attune students to cultural and historical variety. The seclusion of women is a good starting-point since various cases resemble each other on the level of surface explanation yet show significant differences upon closer examination. Patriarchy, in other words, has many faces and supporters among men and women. This particular lecture analyzes how Confucianism with its emphasis on male authority, female obedience, and women's seclusion aided the establishment of the Qing dynasty. It also discusses how women embraced and enforced these norms, for example, in the all-female ritual world of foot binding. The lecture concludes with examples of elite women--writers, itinerant teachers, publishers--who creatively interpreted Confucian norms to carve out a sphere of autonomy for themselves yet ultimately left the dominant gender system intact.

Topic: Gender, Islam, and the Ottoman Empire

Leslie Peirce, The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 3-90.

     Heidi added yet another comparative case with a lecture on Islamic practices of sequestration. Using Leslie Peirce's Imperial Harem as assigned reading, she explores the political significance of seclusion during the Ottoman empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. She addresses the notion of "harem" as a sacred space surrounding the sultan that was enabled by a harem of women (the inner harem) as well as by a harem of men (eunuchs, religious functionaries, and bureaucrats). She also explains the role of female concubines in providing heirs and the fiercely intimate and loyal ties that bound princes to mothers in their bid for political succession. Surprising for many students and contrary to the stereotype of Islamic seclusion as an instrument for disempowering women, the lecture proposes that sultanate women in the Ottoman empire were extremely powerful in their role as "queen mothers" often controlling access to the sultan and exercising considerable influence over his decisions.

Theme III: Gender Divisions of Labor, Slavery, and Capitalist Development

In weeks five through seven, we concentrate on our third over-all theme for the course: gender divisions of labor, markets, and the emergence of capitalism. As a case study, we look at the case of New World slavery, using it to highlight connections and differences between Africa, Europe, and the Americas. How and why do societies divide human labor? Why did slavery in the Americas involve more men than women whereas elsewhere in the world slavery involved more women than men?

Problem-Based Learning Unit on Slavery and Sexual Division of Labor

Beckles, Hilary Mc D. Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989).

Davis, Natalie Zemon." Non-European Stories. European Literature," in Berichten, Erzaehlen, Beherrschen: Wahrnehmung und Repraesentation in der fruehen Kolonialgeschichte Europas, edited by Susanna Burghartz et al. (Frankfurt a. M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 2003), 200-219.

Guy, Jeff. "Gender Oppression in Southern Africa's Precapitalist Societies" in Women and Gender in Southern Africa to 1945, edited by Cherryl Walker (Cape Town: D. Philip Press, 1990), 33-47.

Jones, Jacqueline. Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family from Slavery to the Present, (New York: Basic Books, 1985).

"The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself," in Henry Louis Gates, Jr., ed. Six Women's Slave Narratives, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).

Karasch, Mary. "Slave Women on the Brazilian Frontier in the Nineteenth Century," in More Than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas, edited by David Gaspar and Darlene Hine (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 79-96.

Klein, Herbert "African Women in the Atlantic Slave Trade," in Women and Slavery in Africa, edited by C. Robertson and M. Klein (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 29-39.

Klein, Martin A. "Women in Slavery in the Western Sudan," in Women and Slavery, 67-94.

MacCormack, Carol. "Slaves, Slave Owners, and Slave Dealers: Sherbo Coast and Hinterland," in Women and Slavery, 271-294.

Moitt, Bernard, "Women, Work and Resistance in the French Caribbean," in Verene Shepard, Bridget Brereton, Barbara Bailey, eds., Engendering History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspective, (New York: St. Martins, 1995), 155-175.

Robertson, Claire and Martin Klein, "Women's Importance in African Slave Systems," in Women and Slavery , 3-28.

Thornton, John. "Sexual Demography: The Impact of the Slave Trade on Family Structure," in Women and Slavery, 39-48.

     During the following three weeks, we depart from the traditional lecture format to pursue a pedagogical style known as "problem based learning" (PBL). Briefly, PBL involves dividing the students into research teams of eight students to undertake small collaborative group projects that generate a collective explanation of a particular "problem" in history. Instead of relying primarily on lectures, students spend class meetings working in groups, discussing research, and drafting presentations that they later deliver to class. In our scheme, students are asked to produce a mock "script" for a documentary film that explains how and why male and female workers in the Americas and/or Africa come to have distinct (or similar) labor responsibilities within local economies and what impact such gender divisions of labor have on women's and men's experience of slavery.

     In some of the PBL lecture periods we orient student group discussions by giving "mini-lectures" which underscore important themes in historical debates over capitalism and slavery. For example, Heidi gives a mini-lecture on "Slavery and the Making of Modernity" that emphasizes how the Atlantic slave trade was fueled by market dynamics and "free" enterprise (as opposed to being a pre-capitalist formation). Ulrike's mini-lecture on "European Ideologies of Difference and the Emergence of Racisms" covers how Europeans imagined differences between peoples before and after the conquest and colonization of the Americas. She sketches out how ideas about Africans became racialized and racist over time supplanting more ambivalent and positive images of earlier periods in European history. Another mini-lecture by Heidi on "Slavery and the Americas : Comparative Perspectives" examines the variations in slave economies in Brazil, the Caribbean, and North America as well as their connections to slave economies and non-slave economies in Africa.

     We rely on the readings and the TA-guided student discussions to make apparent gender and sexuality's role in shaping these dynamics. There is an abundance of excellent feminist scholarship on American slavery and a growing feminist historiography of Africa, including histories of non-slave as well as slave societies. We assign a combination of secondary literature and primary sources such as slave narratives. Several readings emphasize how European notions of the patriarchal family and men's primary role in agricultural production shaped the slave-based agriculture in the Americas and clashed with agricultural practices and gender roles in Africa (where women predominated in agrarian production). At the same time, these readings emphasize how racist ideologies "exempted" enslaved women from the ideals of motherhood and presumptions of fragility that excluded white women from many types of labor. Other readings focus on dynamics between masters, mistresses, and slave servants underscoring the violence (often sexual) of domestic work. Still other works look at life in the slave communities underscoring slave women's important work in family gardening and huckstering and exploring slave efforts to carve out areas of autonomy and sometimes resistance to their masters.

     We also provide mini-lectures on how to use the assigned readings to "research" these questions and how to put arguments together. Our teaching assistants reinforce these guidelines as they circulate through the group discussions. Students are told that their "documentary films" must cover three topics: 1) gender divisions of labor in agriculture (both in the Americas and Africa); 2) gender divisions of labor in household production (both in the Americas and Africa); and 3) gender divisions of labor in the work that enslaved people performed for themselves.

Theme IV: Sexual Rights, Inequalities and Dominations: Nationalism and Imperialism

     The PBL section on gender-divisions-of-labor, slavery, and capitalism appropriately sets the stage for our final theme which we explore in the remaining three weeks of the course. How do different societies imagine and enforce equality and inequality? How does gender intersect with other mechanisms of social differentiation?

Topic: "Men are born and remain free and equal in rights": The French Revolution and the Gender of Citizenship

Londa Schiebinger, "The Gendered Ape" in The Graph of Sex and the German Text, ed. by Lynn Tatlock (Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 1994), 413-42.

Primary Sources:         Declaration of the Rights of Men

Declaration of the Rights of Women

Topic: "Men are born and remain free and equal in rights" while "property is an inviolable rights": The Slave Revolt in Haiti

Primary Sources:        Liefville des Essar in support of emancipation

                                    Antoine-Pierre Barnave in support of plantation system

     The paradoxes of the Enlightenment project serve as an organizing principle throughout the section. Ulrike begins with two lectures on the ways in which the Enlightenment conceptualized the state, society, sexuality, gender, and race. On the one hand, Enlightenment concepts of equality and universal rights opened up a space in which one could debate the enfranchisement of even animals. On the other hand, ideas of insurmountable difference which precluded political participation returned in a new and arguably more insidious guise as science replaced religion as the primary lens for imagining difference. Science placed racial, sexual, and gender boundaries on a much firmer footing -- that of "nature." Ulrike explores the contradictory effects of the Enlightenment in detail by focusing on two contexts: Lecture 1 looks at French women's attempts to claim the ideals of equality and liberty. Lecture 2 analyzes the slave revolt in Haiti and French responses to it. Ulrike's lectures finally offer some comparisons between Europe's Old Regime and the post-Enlightenment order of things. This also allows her to return to Theme I (political centralization and gender), trace change over time inside of Europe, and complicate the students' ideas about historical progress (for whom?)

Topic: Enlightenment and Independence in the Americas

Sharon Block, "Lines of Color, Sex, and Service: Comparative Sexual Coericion

in Early America," in Martha Hodes, Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History,(New York: New York University Press, 1998), 141-164.

Rebecca Earle, "Rape and the Anxious Republic: Revolutionary Colombia, 1810 -1830," in Elizabeth Dore and Maxine Molyneaux, eds., Hidden

Histories of Gender and the State in Latin America, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 127-146.

Sarah Chambers, From Subjects to Citizens: Honor, Gender, and Politics in Arequipa, Peru, 1780-1854, (Pittsburgh: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999).

     Heidi follows with a lecture on the comparative experience of independence in the Americas including both British and Spanish America. She discusses the different reasons for independence movements and the uneven impacts that Enlightenment ideologies had on American populations. Pursuing themes similar to those discussed by Ulrike's lecture on France, Heidi explains how, despite a new idealization of women as "republican mothers" with moral public roles, Enlightenment ideals in practice denied women formal citizenship and increased male control over women (especially in Spanish America where women had considerable legal rights prior to republican government). Sarah Chambers' book on Peru is a particularly helpful illustration of this dynamic and has the rare advantage of focusing heavily on poor women. Heidi's lecture also highlights the contradictory impact independence had on race. In Spanish America, republicanism helped abet the abolition of slavery in Spanish America but disenfranchised Indians of their colonial rights to land. In the United States, slavery became more entrenched in southern states and racist ideologies about black and Indian inferiority were hardened.

Topic: British Imperialism, Victorian Norms, and Richard Burton

Sir Richard Burton, ed., The Kama sutra of Vatsyayana, (New York: Modern Library, 2002).

Topic: Imperialism and Sexuality in India: Kama Sutra as a British Fantasy

Uma Chakravari, "Whatever Happened to the Vedic Dasi? Orientalism, Nationalism, and a Script for the Past," in Recasting Women: Essays in Indian Colonial History, Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid, eds., (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1989) 27-87.

Lata Mani, "Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India," in Recasting Women, 88-126.

Partha Chatterjee, "Nationalism and the Woman Question," in Recasting Women, 127-140.

     Weeks nine and ten further highlight the links between Theme IV and Theme I as we tease out the connections between imperial rule and sexual regulation. In this segment, we focus on Britain and India; the Kama Sutra is our assigned text. Ulrike begins with a lecture that explains the domestic context for Richard Burton's translation, revival, and dissemination of the Kama Sutra and introduces students to the concept of orientalism: Why would nineteenth-century Britain take an interest in a third-century Sanskrit text? The lecture situates British interest in India in the context of industrialization, changing consumption patterns of Britain's upper classes, and the transformation of colonial Empire-building under Queen Victoria. Ulrike also discusses Richard Burton's life placing his marriage to Isabell Arundell against the backdrop of Victorianism and showing how Burton rebelled against his culture's sexual strictures yet on the whole embraced its gender norms.

     Heidi continues with a lecture on how British imperial practices impacted Indian life. She recounts how British colonial laws hardened caste hierarchies, deepened divisions between Muslims and Hindus, and legitimated male domination of women. In particular, she discusses how British laws aimed at abolishing widow-immolation (sati) served mainly to justify British rule (over barbarous Indians), and helped transform the patriarchal Brahmin scriptural interpretation as the "tradition" for all Hindus. Heidi also explores the ways that orientalist understandings of sexuality were re-worked and incorporated into Indian nationalist projects that rejected British imperialism but solved "the woman question" in a way similar to their colonialist counterparts.

Conclusions: Making the Modern World, Making Modern Gender and Sexuality

Anne Walthall, The Weak Body of a Useless Woman: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Susan Mann, Precious Records: Women in China's Long Eighteenth Century, (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1997).

Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999.)

     In future versions of this course, we would like to add lectures and readings that further emphasize how "modernity" was as much made by colonial subjects as by the colonizers as well as the ways in which the modern project was rejected. Scholarship in Indian subaltern studies would be helpful here with its particular emphasis on peasant insurgency and the "un-colonized" spaces of resistance to imperial hegemony. Likewise, the superb feminist history of Asia -- including Japan and China as well as India -- offers an important counterpoint to the Europe-centered studies of orientalism that our course ends on. Anne Walthall's narrative about a peasant woman's effort to reinstate the Meiji in Japan is one such work; Susan Mann's book on Chinese women in the eighteen century is another.

     No course discussion would be complete without some reference to student responses. We want to mention a few in closing. Some came as a surprise, even though we both anticipated a range of reactions to this type of course. Predictably perhaps, denaturalizing gender (especially the male gender) did not always come easily to our students. Some quickly tired of this new kind of analysis and decided the easiest way to please feminist teachers was to state at every turn "how men have always oppressed women" and resisted our pedagogical efforts to disabuse them of this notion. However, a more sizeable group produced some of the best historical writing either one of us had ever seen in an undergraduate setting. Their analysis was simply superb, and the presentation of the material highly imaginative. We had the sense that we had struck a real chord with these students and that many had found our world history narrative inspiring.

     We were also surprised by our students' comparatively much greater openness towards historicizing sexuality. To interrogate sexual norms apparently was one thing, to question gender norms quite another. Perhaps the specific circumstances of undergraduate life account for students' greater willingness to explore questions of sexuality in the classroom just as they help explain students' greater resistance to reflecting on the all-too personal politics of gender. But something larger also seems to be at stake here. Analyses of gender surely go hand in hand with analysis of power. As such, they fly in the face of the increasingly empty celebrations of individualism and freedom in twenty-first-century mainstream US culture which encourages young people to search for personal and possibly sexual expression but not for social justice.

     Our final course evaluations had another surprise in store for us. Taken together, our marks were gratifyingly high for a course of this size; at the same time, students were deeply divided in their opinions. After weeks of hearing about empires, revolutions, and economies; a considerable number of students, some more thoughtfully than others, still questioned whether this was indeed a history course. Several students complained that our course "belonged in Women's Studies" or should have been "offered as an elective" upper-division course (not as part of the required survey.) One of our less generous critics suggested the following strategy for improving the course--"leave out the women [did he mean us?], teach some real history." Such hostility, demonstrates how much work remains to be done in closing the gap between undergraduate expectations and what professional historians understand history to be. More to the point, it drives home both the challenges and the indispensability of integrating feminist history into the standard survey course as distinct from always offering feminist history as its own specialty. If we hit a nerve in some our students, it was because they had become accustomed to the idea that gender analysis is optional rather than integral to social analysis. Although unpleasant to read, some of the more angry evaluations (whose objections were always about the "focus on women" as opposed to other criteria), left us with a sense of just how politically and intellectually important the task we had undertaken had been. This was also quite apparent in the many enthusiastic, even gushing, evaluations we received. Numerous students commented that they were thrilled with the lectures and readings and hugely appreciated a history course that made women's experiences so central to the "big story." Most gratifying of all were the several students who admitted they had been deeply skeptical when they first discovered the course's focus on gender but that they had been "won over" and came to think about history in a "completely new way." We concluded that it was precisely the polarized nature of student reaction to our course that underscored the transformative potential, indeed imperative, of bringing feminist pedagogy to master narratives about the world.

     Beyond the rewards of teaching, we were both struck by the intellectual rewards of a feminist collaboration across fields and time periods. Once we began to pool our methodological and historiographical resources and started designing the actual syllabus, the task of "covering the world" seemed much less daunting and became a conceptually intriguing and even enjoyable exercise. Readings and topics quickly multiplied between us. It turned out that we had much more to bring to this formidable task than either one of us first anticipated including, if all else failed, a list of scholarly contacts whom we could consult for additional resources. Designing this class thus also gave us an opportunity to build on and enlarge our feminist scholarly network at our home institution and beyond.

     Of course, we also learned a great deal in the process of developing and teaching this course together. As feminist teachers, we found it extremely helpful to watch each other lecture and enlarge our respective pedagogical repertoire. What are the many ways of teaching gender in the history classroom? Which are particular effective in helping students "discover" gender for themselves? As feminist researchers, we broadened our knowledge base and benefited tremendously from the readings that took us outside more familiar areas of scholarship. And the coordinating of lectures and co-supervising of teaching assistants necessitated a sustained comparative conversation that opened up new theoretical perspectives on writing and teaching feminist histories in a global context. What are the possibilities and limits of bringing gender to world history? Given that so many of gender history's analytical categories were first developed for the European context, how can we make sure that in studying gender systems in other cultures we do not resort to another form of Euro-centrism less obvious but more insidious because it is methodological rather than topical? Needless to say, we did not settle these larger questions conclusively but posing them again and again allowed us to find local solution and imagine new direction for our teaching and research.

Biographical Note: Ulrike Strasser is Associate Professor of History and Affiliate Faculty in Women's Studies and Religious Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Her book State of Virginity: Gender, Religion and Politics in an Early Modern Catholic State (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004; paperback 2007) won the award for "best book published in 2004" from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women.

Heidi Tinsman is Associate Professor of History and Affiliate Faculty of Women's Studies at the University of California Irvine.  She is author of Partners in Conflict:  The Politics of Sexuality, Gender, and Labor in the Chilean Agrarian Reform and co-editor of Imagining Our Americas:  Towards a Transnational Frame.



1 Ulrike Strasser and Heidi Tinsman, "Engendering World History," in Radical History Review, Volume 91, pp. 151-164. Copyright, 2005, MARHO: The Radical Historians Organization, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the publisher.








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