'Gender & Material Culture' Graduate Syllabus: suggestions?

sophie white Discussion

Hi, I'm teaching a new Graduate interdisciplinary seminar on "Gender & Material Culture" (keen to keep it open in terms of time/place as it will have a range of students), I would appreciate any suggestions for readings and approaches that have worked well, esp. in terms of methodology but also case-studies. Thanks!

Sophie White, Professor of American Studies, University of Notre Dame

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Hi, I have written on the materiality of the AK47 rifle among Islamist militants and implications on masculinities among them. The article touches upon the theme of the gendered object. You can find abstract and URL below:

The constant presence of various forms and makes of firearm has turned it into an everyday item among some Lebanese. For Hezbollah militants, the AK-47 is an object of humour and fun despite its lethal potential. The weapon is saturated with representative qualities – both material and semiotic, so the author explores its materiality as a crucial nodal point from which to sketch the difficult terrain of subject–object relationship in the life of Lebanese Shi’i Hezbollah militants. He seeks to identify the material culture of a weapon that consolidates myths, reifies identities, stages propaganda and advertises threats. With this in view, the author follows the AK-47 to explore its ‘enchanting’ qualities and speak of the relationship it forms with a militant’s body. He locates the body of militants between three questions: what does the AK-47 signify, how does it arrive at that signification, and finally, how have its materiality and dynamic physicality made it the weapon of choice?


I hope it helps.


Jo Paoletti's Pink and Blue: telling the boys from the girls in america is one of my go-to referrals for the topic of children's gendering and material culture.
I think looking at the presentation of very young children is especially effective because they were dressed almost without gender until school-age for most of portraited history. And now you'll see some parents push back on boys wearing even a plain daygown because it's a "dress".

Marliese Thomas, MLIS
Fine Arts Librarian
University of Alabama At Birmingham

You might look at thethe contributions to Making Gender with Things, English translation (available on line through JStor of Objets et Fabrication du genre. Autumn, 2014 issue (40) of Clio: Femmes, Histoire, Genre. Editors Leora Auslander, with Rebecca Rogers and Michelle Zancarini-Fournel. On material culture as a source for historians of gender and sexuality.
Leora Auslander
History, Univ. of Chicago