Unruly Bodies: Health, Media, Biology, and Power

Winter 2019
Spring 2019
Class Size: 46
50% Reserved for Freshmen
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

health science, public health, bioethics
Julie Russo square
media studies, gender & women's studies, sexuality and queer studies

In this program, we will use the concept of “unruly bodies”—whether human, organic, unified, or otherwise— as the gateway for our learning about power, knowledge production, representation, social order, ideas of health, and human biology.  Our bodies are not as disciplined and controlled as we may think. They defy classification and containment. They violate scientific orthodoxies and cultural boundaries. Students and faculty will take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the human body and human health.

Over the course of the program, we’ll learn about public health, and its social, political, and epidemiological dimensions. We’ll learn about queer and gender theories. We’ll examine media representations of sex in relation to race, gender, and disability. We’ll take into consideration a range of cases and contexts, as well as social, cultural, and historical configurations of power and knowledge. We’ll also focus on building foundational skills in academic writing, close reading, research, and interdisciplinary critical thinking, which will be strong preparation for a broad range of later studies.

Part of our curriculum will entail a shared lecture series and seminar readings (4 credits) with another introductory program: Culture, Self, and Healing . This means that students will be a part of a larger learning community with four faculty teachers during part of each week, examining interdisciplinary approaches to the body, health, power, and knowledge.  

In addition, each quarter, students enrolled in the program for 16 credits will have the opportunity to choose from one of the following workshops (4 credits) offered by faculty of both programs:

  • Human Biology: Anatomy and Physiology: What are human bodies made of? How do they work? Students will learn about human anatomy and physiology, and have the option to observe and carry out dissections including the (non-human) heart, lungs, kidneys, brain and eye.  Lectures and laboratory sessions will explore cell and tissue structure and function, and will investigate body systems such as muscular, nervous, cardiovascular, immune, urinary, reproductive, and digestive systems, through examination of normal and abnormal (disease) states. This two-quarter workshop spans winter and spring quarters; students entering in spring quarter will require previous course work in human biology.
  • Happiness: What qualities are associated with strong and happy individuals, relationships, and communities, and how can we learn to build them? This workshop provides an in-depth, applied exploration of research on happiness and well-being. We will participate in text-based seminar discussions and in experiential workshops that aim to integrate mind, body, and spirit as we cultivate the positive qualities that scientists and practitioners have identified are useful for happiness, resilience, equanimity, and enduring well-being. This one-quarter workshop repeats both winter and spring quarters.
  • Illness Narratives:  How do people generate stories about their experiences with illness and persistence? We will read scholarship about exchanges between healers and patients, and between storytellers and listeners. Students will engage in the listening process by recording illness narratives and presenting them at the end of the quarter in the form of audio podcasts. This workshop is available winter quarter only.
  • Cyborg Bodies: The cybernetic organism, or cyborg, has figured the contested boundary between humans and machines in theory and science fiction. Through viewing, reading, and analysis, we will meet famous cyborgs from film and television and explore what they can tell us about our conceptions of the organic body. We’ll think about cyborgs in relation to the materiality of media, and its evolution through the 20th and 21st centuries. This one-quarter workshop repeats both winter and spring quarters.
  • Community Based Learning and Action (Spring Only) : What kinds of practical engagements can address sickness and healing in our own communities? For this workshop, students will complete three credits of internship or volunteer work (8-10 hours/week), either individually or in small groups, with local or regional community organizations. Faculty will help students connect with various opportunities during the first two weeks of Spring quarter; these may include agriculture, food, and nutrition; youth mentoring; tutoring; or other possibilities broadly related to health and social well-being. In addition, students will attend a two-hour, one-credit seminar on half of the Wednesday mornings in spring quarter that considers theories and processes of community collaboration, and discusses ongoing experiences with the community based work.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

Health-related fields, biology; gender, media, arts; social justice and non-profit careers. 


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$21 for winter text course pack

$35 for course pack

Class Standing: Freshman–Sophomore
Class Size: 46
50% Reserved for Freshmen

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Monday, April 1, 2019 - 9:30 am
SEM 2 E1105 - Lecture

Located in: Olympia

2019-03-18Spring fee reduced from $120 to $35
2019-02-28readings added to Spring registration
2019-02-27description updated
2019-01-07$21 fee for winter quarter added
2018-12-06$20 Winter fee removed
2018-03-14This program will be offered in winter-spring (formerly year long).