Dr. Kelley Elliott, associate professor of history, will teach the first course covering historical perspectives on gender and sexuality.
The Department of History offers classes on social, ethnic and women’s history. However, a course directed towards the topic of sexuality, in particular, has never been taught.
“Our courses need to reflect hospitality and inclusion,” Elliot said.
To Elliott, teaching this class is an opportunity to inform students. This will be done in a way that demonstrates gender and sexuality as subjects of history, rather than subjects of debate.
Rather than develop exclusive ideas, the class will seek to allow controversial conversation to develop in ways that are open, informed and positioned by academic integrity, she said.
The class will walk through many different case studies in places such as Colonial West Africa and the United States, while ranging from the early modern period to the 21st century.
Without shying away from spirituality, the influence of religion and faith on gender and sexuality will also be incorporated into the class.
As a potential subject of talk and example of this incorporation are the hijras, or ‘the third sex,’ in India. To put the concept into familiar terms, these people identify as transgender women. Within Indian culture, they are revered for their spiritual power.
In the class, hijras will not be placed on a pedestal to review for favor or disapproval. Instead, the fluctuation of conversation will be paced and directed by the students.
Elliott said the class will look at topics of present conversation, such as homosexuality and gender orientation.
Accordingly, instead of analyzing the present-day issue, the history of such topics will be observed and analyzed from the perspective of “how did we get here?”
“If there is really any sort of overarching narrative it is probably to show how we understand gender and sexualities today is not the way that other people in other times in history have understood these things,” she said.
Historical perspectives on genders and sexualities has a 20-student cap and can fulfill any one campus requirement of cultural awareness, historical literature, or social science.
In fall 2019, this course will be offered Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 9 a.m., as a 300-level course open to all students.