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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.

Outline Content:

Why Sex and Reproduction Matter
Sex, Race, and Gender
Making Sense of Flesh, Blood, and Bodies
Materialities of Sex
Sex and the State
Making Babies, Making Parents
Reproductive Decisions and Technologies
Value and Exchange
Sex, Procreation, and Religion
Rights, Choice, and Agency

Student Learning Experience:

This course is taught through lectures and seminars. Although grounded in social anthropology, this course is open to students with backgrounds in social sciences, medicine, biomedical sciences, and the humanities. Lectures will introduce the core anthropological theories and debates in sex, reproduction, and gender. Content will be delivered in lecture sessions involving some participatory activities. These will be supported by separate seminars, during which students will present their own research in small groups. Students are expected to actively discuss readings in class, and to participate in classroom activities and discussions during lecture time.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  15
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assessment will be by a short essay (20%) and a long essay (60%). The question for the short essay is available at the beginning of the course. Questions for the long essay will be made available to students in week 6.

Students will also be assessed on their group presentations and their participation in seminar discussions (20%).
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on the essays. Students will receive verbal feedback on their presentations and participation during seminars.

Students are encouraged to seek further verbal feedback on assessments during the weekly guidance and feedback hours or by appointment.
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 organiserDr Lucy Lowe
Tel: (0131 6)50 4286
Course secretaryMr Jack Smith
Tel: (0131 6)51 1485
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