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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Anthropology of Sex and Reproduction (PGSP11415)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummarySex and reproduction are a necessity, a desire, a human compulsion. They are simultaneously private and public, as intimate acts and matters of open social concern. Sex sells, but it can be posed as indicative of larger social concerns. Political sex scandals, teenage pregnancy, designer vaginas, emergency contraceptives, and genetically engineered babies, have all provoked alarm and titillation at the failings, fears, and excitement of modernity. Human reproduction is crucial to social reproduction, as the birth of babies also produces parents, families, nations, and futures. From myths of origin to pornography, reproductive rights to the politics of motherhood, this course examines anthropological approaches to the study of sex and reproduction, asking why two aspects of life so crucial to biological existence can be seen as a desire, a danger, a choice, a risk, or even the very point of life itself. It addresses the multiple biological, political, ethical, material, and religious ways in which people engage with desire, love, and kinship.
Course description While myths of origin, kinship diagrams, and the rituals of protecting, proving, and sacrificing virginity have a long and glorious anthropological history, the intimate details of the everyday sex and reproduction they hint at have often been relegated to the periphery of anthropological subfields. All the while, the well-trodden trope 'sex sells' becomes increasingly true in diverse ways. Social movements are formulated in response to sexual and reproductive injustice and inequality. Developments in science and technology illuminate and transform how people think about and act upon their own sexual and reproductive capacities. The rise of transnational travel and communications facilitates an awareness of what might otherwise be hidden. Sexual and reproductive consumers can engage in intercourse, surgery, and pharmaceuticals; sperm can be bought, wombs can be rented; and everything can be watched online. As sex and reproduction - both frequently private acts of public concern - are shaped in response to mass global consumerism, they also remain deeply embedded in specific social, legal, ethical, and religious contexts. This course will examine these specific forms of relatedness through an in-depth analysis of the dynamic interplay between sex, gender, and reproduction as they intersect with concepts of identity, personhood, citizenship, and morality. The course will engage students with classic and contemporary anthropological literature, and encourage them to consider how and why sex and reproduction have been approached in particular ways during specific historical periods.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  40
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 5, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 171 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Short mid-semester essay 20% (1,000-1,500 words)
Long end of semester essay 60% (3000 words)
Group Presentation 10%
Group Participation 10%
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge and advanced critical understanding of the links between the intimate acts of sex and reproduction and the social, economic, political, and historical contexts in which they take place.
  2. Develop an advanced critical understanding of the theories and concepts of gender, sex and reproduction.
  3. Demonstrate an extensive, detailed and critical knowledge and advanced understanding of scientific interventions in sex and reproduction, and why they are relevant to social scientists.
  4. Develop a critical understanding of the implications of the state and human rights in relation to gender, sex, sexuality, and reproduction
  5. Develop independent research and oral presentation skills and be able to discuss anthropological theory in relation to contemporary social issues
Reading List
Butler, J. 1993. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York; London: Routledge
Constable, Nicole. 2009. The commodification of intimacy: Marriage, sex, and reproductive labor. Annual Review of Anthropology 38:49-64.
Day, Sophie. 2007. On the game: Women and sex work. London: Pluto.
Hunter, Mark. 2010. Love in the time of AIDS: Inequality, gender, and rights in South Africa. Bloomington: Univ. of Indiana Press.
Martin, Emily. 1987. The woman in the body: A cultural analysis of reproduction. Boston: Beacon.
Rapp, Rayna. 1999. Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America. New York; London: Routledge
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - be able to use collaboration and debate effectively to test, modify and strengthen their own views
- make effective use of oral, written and visual means to critique, negotiate, create and communicate understanding
- seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness
- transfer their knowledge, learning, skills and abilities from one context to another
- use an anthropological approach to understand and act on social, cultural, and political issues surrounding sexuality and reproduction
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserMs Lucy Lowe
Tel: (0131 6)51 5574
Course secretaryMs Jessica Barton
Tel: (0131 6)51 5066
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