University of Utah Seminar on Gender and Sexuality in Education Fall 2008
Office: 308C MBH ECS 6662/7662 mailbox in 307 MBH

Audrey Thompson voicemail: 587-7803
Focus on: Alternative and Hegemonic Spaces
Class meets in OSH 234 on Wed. 4:35-7:35 p.m.
Office Hours: fax: 587-7801, receptionist: 587-7814
Tu 1-4, W 2:00-4:30 and by appt.  email:


The frequent appeals to “safe spaces” in the educational literature seem to suggest that student (and teacher) safety is a neutral, normal condition, with unsafe conditions an unfortunate disruption in the norm.  To create educational spaces in which all students can learn, however, we may need to denormalize what counts as safety, and to recognize how that form of safety is often constructed to exclude particular groups.  The purpose of this seminar is to study how sexuality and gender are spatialized:  the ways in which particular spaces both shape and are shaped by what is recognized as possible, legitimate, appropriate, and desirable in relation to gender/sexuality.  Because the construction of sexuality and gender is also, at the same time, raced and classed, we will study intersectionalities of gender/sexuality with race, class, culture, age, as well as other dimensions of identity and situatedness.

(Note: Depending on the semester, the seminar on gender and sexuality in education may take up different topics. Students may sign up for the course a second time, for a total of 6 hours, if the topic changes.)

This class is intended to give master’s and doctoral students experience in shaping a small research project; accordingly, the class will develop interview questions together, discuss how to look at and photograph spaces, and collectively address researchable questions. The course requirements include a final project in which each student examines a particular local space to analyze the ways in which performances of sexuality and gender are organized. Such a space might be a classroom, a GSA, an after-school club or camp, a staff room, a library, or a cafeteria, for example. Although the space chosen for analysis does not have to be one connected to formal education, the paper should take up educational considerations related to the analysis.


The class will meet once a week, each time discussing the readings on the syllabus. To participate actively in class, it is essential that you read carefully, prepare questions, and jot down any issues you wish to discuss. I will make short presentations to provide necessary background information. My primary role, however, will be to ask questions, clarify points raised in our discussions, and summarize the important issues that we discuss.

Read the articles not solely as advancing particular arguments, but as complex moves to address and challenge the silences, norms, narratives, and definitions advanced in the larger debates. Ask: how do these readings work together? Rather than approach the readings as positions with which one might agree or disagree, then, approach them as offering insights about what to pay attention to in the construction of safe, queer, hostile, playful, educational, hegemonic, and/or alternative spaces for the performance of sexuality/gender.


There are no books to purchase. Except for in-class handouts, all of the assigned readings are on electronic reserve at the library. There are also some additional readings on e-reserve that will not be assigned but that you might be interested in reading as further background.

Course Requirements

Course requirements include carefully reading the assigned articles and chapters, attending class regularly, and participating respectfully (please see below for specifics). In addition, there will be two brief photography assignments (one as part of the final project), a midterm paper (6-7 pages), a one-page paper, a set of two transcribed interviews (approx. 3-4 pages), and a final paper/project on the politics of location (10-12 pages). There is no final exam.

Class participation does not necessarily mean talking a lot. I would like everyone to try to contribute in spoken words sometimes but I don’t expect that everyone will speak to the same degree. How you participate is what matters: talking a lot does not equal thoughtful or better participation. Indeed, I ask that no one dominate the group or make it difficult for others to contribute. I expect everyone to listen carefully to others and to give one another what Marilyn Frye calls “uptake,” so that the conversation takes careful account of everyone else’s contributions. Listening doesn’t mean just refuting positions or using an interval of non-talking to prepare one’s own next statement; it means taking in the strengths as well as the limitations of the positions being argued for, and also trying to hear what is beyond speaking. All members of the class do not have to agree, but we need to listen carefully and respectfully to one another and to engage one another’s questions, concerns, challenges, and (re)framings.

Participation and attendance: 15% of grade
First photography assignment: 5% of grade
Midterm paper: 30% of grade
One-page paper and interview transcripts: 10% of grade
Second photography assignment & presentation of project: 10% of grade
Final project: 30% of grade

The midterm paper should discuss a key issue in the readings. At least three of the class readings should be addressed in some detail.

For the final project, you are to perform an analysis of a particular geographical space in terms of how it constructs gender and sexuality. See “The Geography of Gender and Sexuality in Public Spaces” handout. For the two weeks before the final projects are due, each student will give the class a brief oral presentation concerning the project, accompanied by photographs.

Both the midterm and the final project must be vitally informed by the course discussions, lectures, activities, and readings. You should cite any references that inform your analysis; wherever possible, give specific page numbers, even if you are not citing the text directly. It does not matter to me which citation system you use or whether you make up your own, as long as I can follow your system and can locate the passages you (should) have indicated. If you plan to write academic papers or a master’s or doctoral thesis, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with whatever citation format is most common in your field (e.g., MLA, Chicago, APA), as it is best to have made formal citation habits more or less automatic before you get to the thesis stage. However, this is up to you. For my purposes, it is enough that you indicate the relevant author and page numbers of any work on the syllabus (e.g., Subero 192). However, please do provide full bibliographic information for any outside readings upon which your paper draws.

Schedule of Class Topics and Reading
Wed. 27 Aug.                                                                 Introduction

How do conventions, time, spatial arrangements, and individuals construct gender/sex possibilities? What makes a space appear heterosexual? masculine? feminine? queer? When and how are the norms challenged or breached?

In-class readings (these will be handed out in class):
Handout: Photo Activity:  Attending to Gender

Video: William H. Whyte, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (New York: Municipal Art Society of New York, 1984).
Slide show on performances of gender

Wed. 3 Sept.                                                                 Home Space


Handout: Paying Attention to Space

First photography assignment due: presentations to be given in small groups

G. Valentine, “(Hetero)sexing Space:  Lesbian Perceptions and Experiences of Everyday Spaces,” Environment and Planning D:  Society and Space 11, No. 4 (August 1993): 395-413.

Wed. 10 Sept.                                                                   Closet and Hidden Spaces


Handout: Spatializing Gender and Sexuality

Barbara A. Weightman, “Gay Bars as Private Places,” Landscape 24, no. 1 (1980): 9-16.

Wed. 17 Sept.                                                                 Constructing Norm and Other in School


Handout: Midterm paper tips

Wed. 24 Sept.                                                                 Materialist Theories of Gender and Sexuality


Wed. 1 Oct.                                                                 Politics and Performativity of Location


Linley Walker, Dianne Butland, and Raewyn Connell, “Boys on the Road: Masculinities, Car Culture, and Road Safety Education,” in Masculinities and Schooling: International Practices and Perspectives, ed. Blye W. Frank and Kevin G. Davison (London, Ontario: Althouse Press, 2007), 111-28.

Wed. 8 Oct.                                                                     Unstable Categories


Midterm paper due

FALL BREAK October 13 - 17

Wed. 22 Oct.                                                                     Public and Private Spaces


Handout:  The Geography of Gender and Sexuality in Public Spaces

Stewart Kirby and Iain Hay, “(Hetero)sexing Space: Gay Men and ‘Straight’ Space in Adelaide, South Australia,” Professional Geographer 49, no. 3 (August 1997): 295-305.

Collective development of interview questions

Wed. 29 Oct.                                                                     NO CLASS MEETING


Wed. 5 Nov.                                                                     Performative and Poststructuralist Analyses of Gender and Sexuality


Handout:  Project and presentation tips

One-page paper and Interview transcripts due

Wed. 12 Nov.                                                                     Belonging and Unbelonging


Wed. 19 Nov.                                                                     Separate Educational Spaces

Small group work on projects: Bring your materials for group analysis

Wed. 26 Nov.                                                                     Gender/Sex Identity and Culture


Carol A. B. Warren, “Interaction Ritual,” in Identity and Community in the Gay World (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1974), 44-67.

Wed. 3 Dec.                                                                     Fear and Power


Recommended: Gill Valentine, ”The Geography of Women’s Fear,” Area 21, no. 4 (December 1989): 385-90.

Short oral presentations of your final projects, Part 1

Wed. 10 Dec.                                                                     Suppressed Discourses


Short oral presentations of your final projects, Part 2

Wed. 17 Dec.                                                                     Final papers due by 4:30 p.m.

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