Gender, Health, and Marginalization

FALL: Wednesdays, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
September 3 - December 10, 2014
Meets at MIT, Building and Room TBD


 As the contemporary study of human health becomes increasingly multidisciplinary, social science and public health approaches now challenge prevailing individualistic biomedical models derived primarily from the West, including its dominant religious beliefs. At the same time, a paradigm shift called “global health” is underway, frequently attempting to homogenize human needs in concert with economic “globalization” policies. Such programs often elevate technocratic governmental solutions while ignoring the impact of neo-liberal ideology and economics usually underlying policies being put into place, thus aggravating their negative human rights impact. In the course we will use a feminist interdisciplinary lens and invite students to look critically at how practices like privatization, shrinking public “safety nets”, de-regulation, and the commodification of health services intersect inevitably with gender, race and class, for both men and women. These intersections, in turn, can shape the enduring and deepening health disparities now in existence, especially for those already struggling at the margins. We will draw on a blend of empirical studies, policy materials, films and guest speakers to examine specific health issues like menstrual health, corporate obstetrics, abortion, obesity, intersex, military rape and other forms of violence, mental health and stress, parent- child attachment, as well as ethics and pharmaceuticals. We expect to demonstrate specifically how dominant ideologies and practices produce marginalization and poor health outcomes. We also consider seriously how individuals and groups manifest agency, enact resistance, and practice advocacy.


Chris Bobel is Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She is the author of The Paradox of Natural Mothering, New Blood: Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation and co-editor of Embodied Resistance: Breaking the Rules, Challenging the Norms. She is currently examining menstrual health campaigns in the Global South.

Dr. Silvia Domínguez, PhD, is an interdisciplinary scholar with degrees in sociology, psychology, forensic social work, social welfare policy and specializing in areas addressing the welfare of women, children and minorities both in the United States and abroad, with additional emphasis on sexual violence, race relations, social networks, mental health and immigration. She is the author of Getting Ahead: Social Mobility, Public Housing and Immigrant Networks by New York University Press and co-editor of Mixed Methods in Social Networks by Cambridge University Press.

Norma Meras Swenson, MPH, currently teaches about women and health in global context at the Harvard School of Public Health. A founding co-author of Our Bodies, Ourselves, she is also an advocacy practitioner, working with colleagues across the world, North and South, to help define and create this changing field today.


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Consortium for Graduate Studies in Gender, Culture, Women, and Sexuality
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 14N-211
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone: 617-324-2085