ANTH 277: Gender and Culture

Because all human populations across the world have some things in common and some things that differ, the focus of this course will be to make analytical distinctions among gender ideologies across global societies. By evaluating the “other,” the class will address how human behaviors, including traditions and customs associated with gender, are transmitted through cultural learning. Writing assignments and exams will critically examine the ethnocentrism of gender, the attitude that the arbitrary conventions of how one’s own culture defines gender roles are “correct” or “natural,” and that all other cultural patterns are immoral or unnatural.

Course readings deal with important contemporary issues, including how gender is defined cross-culturally; the formation of gay, lesbian, and bisexual identity in non-Western cultures; sexuality and the expression of masculinity and femininity; the dynamic interplay among definitions of kinship and the assignment of gender roles; the conflicting obligations of work and the multifarious manifestations of family and domestic life; and the complicated management of often conflicting identities of gender and ethnicity in modern society.

When you have completed this course, you should be able to:

  • understand and dispel ethnocentric ideas of gender roles
  • evaluate the characteristics of gender in modern culture
  • identify and discuss key issues in the cross-cultural study of gender, including race, ethnicity, economics, political systems, and ideology.

Required Texts:

  • Brettell and Sargent, Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective, 6th edition, ISBN 978-0205247288.
  • Hochschild, The Second Shift. ISBN: 0-14-202292-5
  • Nanda, Neither Man Nor Woman, 2nd edition (1998). ISBN: 0-534-50903-7
  • Lamphere, Ragone, and Zavella, Situated Lives: Gender and Culture in Everyday Life (1997).  ISBN: 0-415-92807-3
  • Weston, Families We Choose (1997).  ISBN: 0-231-11093-6
  • Mullins, On Our Own Terms: Race, Class, and Gender in the Lives of African-American Women (1996). ISBN: 0-415-91286-5

Optional Texts:

  • Allison, Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club (1994)
  • Shostak, Nisa: The Life of an !Kung Woman (2000)

View sample course syllabus.

Contact the Friday Center at with any questions or for more information.

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