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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: 'Sexperts' and Scientific Publics in the Global Twentieth Century (HIST10486)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryWhat is the role of psychiatric, medical or legal expertise on sexuality in shaping social ideas about what is 'normal'? How have non-professional or alternative professional networks challenged this 'sexpertise' and has it always been successful? Have people affected by this expertise been granted access to knowledge in the same way, and how have they gone about creating their own knowledge networks? This course discusses the historical, cultural, geographical and political contexts that have shaped public opinion about sexuality and sexual minorities throughout the twentieth century.
Course description In the 1980s, frustrated by the lack of government action on tackling the AIDS crisis and widespread ignorance about the disease, activists began their own medical education campaign -- they felt it was necessary for them to get a grasp on what they were dealing with so that they could counter mis- and disinformation that was being spread about and within the gay community. This is just one example of how 'expert' knowledge has been at odds with grassroots and public knowledge, and there are many more. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, this course takes a deep dive into the ways different social groups and individuals have been able to control, access, develop and challenge scientific knowledge around sex, gender and sexuality throughout the twentieth century. We will look at a variety of geographical and historical contexts, including pre-war Germany, East-Central Europe during the Cold War, late-twentieth-century China and the United States, and recent years in the UK, to name a few. Themes will include the rise of 'scientific publics', battles over narratives in media, law, economics, politics and culture, the politics of scientific knowledge, the validity of public debates over 'private' matters, and what impacts these have on health, bodies and social being of the communities concerned. We will also attend to whose voices have been silenced even within both expert and public discourses and discuss how debates over expert scientific knowledge play out in contemporary arenas over sexuality, gender, climate and vaccines.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  30
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 400 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 44, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 8, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 348 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1500-word primary source analysis (2x sources at 750 words each) (10%)
1500-word conversation piece (15%)
3000-word literature review (25%)
6000-word research essay (50%)
Feedback Students will receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during their published office hours for this course or by appointment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Analyse the role of scientific expertise on sex, gender and sexuality in the past and present;
  2. Understand the significance and uniqueness of historical research on sexuality;
  3. Engage and critique primary sources in relation to current scholarship;
  4. Contribute constructively to team discussions through class participation and conversation, including the use of multimedia options;
  5. Write and research, independently, research papers of varying lengths.
Reading List
Peter Cryle and Elizabeth Stevens, Normality: A Critical Genealogy (University of Chicago Press, 2017)

Jules Gill-Peterson, Histories of the Transgender Child (2017)

Laurie Marhoefer, Racism and the Making of Gay Rights: A Sexologist, His Student, and the Empire of Queer Love (2022)

Arnav Bhattacharya, Making Sex Scientific: A History of Sexual Science in India 1883-1985 (forthcoming)

Howard Chiang, Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific (Columbia, 2021)

Lukasz Szulc, Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)

Katerina Liskova, Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style: Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945-1989 (Cambridge UP, 2018)

Zoƫ Playdon, The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes and the Unwritten History of the Trans Experience (Scribner, Bloomsbury, 2021)

Katie Sutton, Sex between Body and Mind: Psychoanalysis and Sexology in the German-speaking World, 1890s-1930s (U. Michigan Press, 2019)

Kirsten Leng, Sexual Politics and Feminist Science: Women Sexologists in Germany, 1900-1933 (Cornell, 2018)

Chiara Beccalossi 'Types, norms and normalization: Hormone research and treatments in Italy, Argentina and Brazil, c. 1900-1950', History of the Human Sciences, 34:2 (2021), 113-137.

Sarah Schulman, Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP, New York, 1987-1993 (Farrar, Straus And Giroux, 2021).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The ability to think critically and reflectively about the role of public debate on matters involving specialist scientific knowledge.
The ability to think critically and reflectively about how specialist scientific knowledge is created and by whom, under what circumstances and limitations.
The ability to recognise and critically analyse the politicisation of sexual science in the twentieth century, and to apply this to other, more contemporary issues.
The ability to use a variety of writing genres to intervene in the historiographies of science, sexuality and public debate.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Kate Davison
Tel: (0131 6)50 6693
Course secretaryMrs Ksenia Gorlatova
Tel: (0131 6)50 8349
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