Gender and Society

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1SC8104

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon Semester

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Niharika Banerjea

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Course description:
This course is compulsory for students with Sociology Major (5th Semester), Elective for students from other disciplines. The course will address gendered nature of human relationships. What is gender difference? How is gender difference connected to sexual difference? How is it that gender operates in our everyday lives? How is it that there is interplay of gender in institutional spaces? What are the connections between gender, sexuality, caste, patriarchy and capitalism? Beginning with childhood rearing practices in early childhood, the family is an important site for gendering. This socialization continues through late adulthood in the family, in schools via the formal and informal curriculum and in peer groups. Likewise, in the workplace—and in the economy, law, and politics more widely—men and women are differently located with unequal pay, privilege and power. From ‘public’ to ‘private’ arenas, gender difference is (re)produced in a variety of institutional and micro-political contexts and in relation to other forms of inequality. In terms of a discipline, is the study of society gender-blind or gender-conscious? When family as an institution is discussed, does the domestic labour debate come up? When politics is introduced as a theme, are gendered realities of political representation addressed? Is sociology of gender a sub-discipline? Do we need a separate course on gender, or should it be intertwined as a perspective in the manner in which we observe social structures and relationships?


  • Mid-semester exam (30%) There will be an in-class exam on selected readings that are part of the course outline in September. Further details will be provided in class.
  • Individual class presentation (40%) Individual class presentations will happen toward the end of semester, where each student will provide a self-reflective presentation around a theme discussed in class. In this, students must refer to a text or texts while doing the self-reflection.
  • Reading images with ‘Seeing like a Feminist’ (30%) Toward the end of the semester, we will have group presentations, where students will attempt to ‘apply’ the concepts learnt in class to interpret everyday images around us. The objective of this exercise is to collectively make a connection between what we learn in class and the everyday world. Further details will be provided in class.

Course Schedule:
Unit 1: ‘Sexual difference’, ‘gender’ and ‘essentialism’

This introductory unit does a brief overview of the terms ‘sex’, ‘gender’ and ‘sexual difference’. Sociological writings of sex and gender draw from feminists and feminist historians of science to locate the terms in cultural and social constructionist frames. This unit will discuss the changing ideas of sex and gender through time and different sites. Along the way, we will also discuss what is essentialism, a concept that helps to illuminate the variability of sex and gender.
Week 1& 2 (Aug 9, 14, 16)
Rahman, Momin, and Stevi Jackson. 2011. “The Trouble with Nature”. In Gender and Sexuality: Sociological Approaches, 15-26. Malden: Polity Press. 2 Oudshoorn, Nelly. 2006. “Sex and the Body”. In An Introduction to Women’s Studies: Gender in a Transnational World, edited by Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan. 2nd Ed., 6-9. McGraw Hill.
Unit 2: Gendering the sociological imagination
Sociology has been a study of personal experiences and social structures. The question that historically was raised in the 1970s was that this study of experiences and structures were happening from the perspective of men, although it was assumed that it was the social. This unit intends to explore the following connections:

a) Relationships and Institutions

b) Institutions and Structures

c) Structures and Cultures

d) Cultures and Languages

e) Languages and Law

f) Protests and Transformations.

Through these co-relates, the aim would be to see how gender interacts with all of them.
Week 3 (Aug 21, 23)
Murthy, Laxmi, and Rajashri Dasgupta. 2012. Our Pictures Our Words: A Visual Testament to the Women’s Movement in India. Zubaan, New Delhi. (available in AUD library)
Film: Paromita Vohra. 2002. Unlimited Girls
Smith, Dorothy. 1992. “Sociology from Women’s Experience: A Reaffirmation”. Sociological Theory 10 (1): 88-98.
Unit 3: Understanding gender through questions of labour
Taking labour as an illustrative example, this course intends to discuss the interface that gender and labour has with institutions, cultures and law. This unit will complicate the question of housework and discuss domestic labour. There is a sexual division of labour not just inside the home, but even when women come outside the home to be involved in formal and informal economy there seems to be a gendering between the female air hostess and the male pilot. These differences in work are not just differently located but also given unequal status as well as financial returns. Therefore, a demand for equal pay for equal work existed within women’s activism and responded by the law. Similarly, maternity claims and paternity benefits are not just about labour and reproduction but also about whose primary responsibility it is to nurture a child. Are there connections between women’s labour, migration and marriage? Can sex work be understood to be work or would the questions of morality still dominate the discourse of sex work? Similarly, can ‘renting of a womb’ come within the study of gender and labour or is it only about helping a woman who cannot biologically bear a child?
Week 4 (Aug 28, 30)
Bhandare, Namita. Why Indian Workplaces Are Losing Women: Our Nationwide Investigation Begins. August 5, 2017. India Spend. Available online at
Folbre, Nancy. 1991. “The Unproductive Housewife: Her Evolution in Nineteenth-Century Economic”. Signs, Spring16 (3): 463-484.
Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala, and Pallabi Sil. 2014. “Women's ‘double day’ in middle-class homes in small-town India”. Contemporary South Asia 22 (4): 389-405.
Week 5 (Sept 4, 6)
Air India v. Nergesh Meerza [(1981) 4 SCC 335], available online at
Choudhury, Sharmistha. 2013. “Penalised for Pregnancy”. The Hindu July 13, 2013.
Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee. 2005. “Kolkata Sex Workers Manifesto”. Sarai Reader, Bare Acts.
Qadeer, Imrana, and Mary John. 2009. “The Business and the Ethics of Surrogacy”. Economic and Political Weekly, 44 (2): 10-12.
Week 7 (Sept 18): Mid semester in-Class Exam
Unit 4: Gender, Race, Tribe, Caste, Class, Nation
It would be important to understand race, tribe, caste, class and nation as gendered. Can gender become a useful lens to understand how patriarchy has shaped race, caste, tribe, class relations in the making of the nation state. Racial profiling has been the subject of our discourse but literature within women’s studies show how race becomes a useful category to understand stratification. Why are caste relations gendered? Gendered nature of caste relations are evident move beyond gendered roles and we need to address the structures that shape practices and institutions. Parallel to this, it would be important to understand the need for a gendered lens to understand caste, class, tribe relations. These are not water tight compartments and this is clearly evident in the matrimonial advertisements. So, it would be important to introspect why gender become a useful category to introspect these institutions and practices? Did it emerge from social movements or a need for a critical interrogation of the discipline?
Week 7, 8 & 9 (Sept 20, 25, 27, Oct 4)
Davis, Angela Y. 1981. Women, Race and Class. Women’s Press. (Chapters 2 and 4) (available in AUD library).
Chakravarti, Uma. 2006. Gendering Caste Through a Feminist Lens. Kolkata: Stree: 6-22; 139-171. (available in AUD library)
Sen, Rajyasree. 2016. “Matrimonial ads reflect prejudices Indians wear on their sleeves”. LiveMint. (Available online at
Xaxa, Virginius. 2004. “Women and Gender in the Study of Tribes in India.” Indian Journal of Gender Studies 11: 345-367.
Chaudhuri, Maitreyee. 2000. “Gender and the Indian nation state.” Sociological Bulletin 1 and 2.
Unit 5: Gender and Violence, Gendered Violence
Violence in gendered relationships, violence is an intrinsic part of gender performance. It is important to realize that there is violence within and outside the home; there is violence in parks and streets as well as hotels, public transports and bedrooms. Women, men and transgender persons all face violence. However, it is extremely important to remember that due to heteronormative patriarchal structures, institutions and laws women of all locations have the probability of facing some or the other kind of violence. Violence on hijras, lesbians and gay men are not uncommon.
Week 10 (Oct 9, 11)
Phadke, Shilpa, Sameera Khan, and Shilpa Ranade. 2011. Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets. New Delhi: Penguin Books: vii-xiv; 3-21.Narayan, Devika. 2013. Some thoughts on rape, sexual violence and protest— responding to responses, January 10 available online at
Ramgopal, Ankita. 2018. “Rape laws: Why is sexual violence against India’s transgender community not being taken seriously?” March 3rd, available online at
Human Rights Violation against the Transgender Community: A People’s Union of Civil Liberties Report, January 2004 available online at
Guest Lecture: Sumita, Sappho for Equality.
Week 11 (Oct 23, 25)
Pattnaik, Devdutt. 2005. “Death of The Gay Man”. In Arvind Narrain and Gautam Bhan edited Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India. New Delhi: Yoda Press: 244-247.
D’ Penha, Mario, and and Tarun. 2005. “Queering the Campus” In Arvind Narrain and Gautam Bhan edited Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India. New Delhi: Yoda Press: 205-216.
Guest Lecture: Dr. Rukmini Sen. Read Sen, Rukmini. 2013. “The Need for an Everyday Culture of Protest”. Economic and Political Weekly January 12, 2013 before the lecture.
Unit 6: Sociology of Gender, Gender Studies
This unit will try to understand how gender entered into the academic and the political discourses in India. What is the trajectory of adding women and stirring approach, to the creation of sociology of gender, to the emergence of women’s studies as a perspective and now to a discipline, and finally the probable shift from women’s to gender studies. It is true that the women’s movement in India had an important role to play in questioning the way inherent inequality in human relationships needed to be unpacked in the disciplinary contours. Is gender about women? Is gender about men and women? Does gender de-radicalize the potential that was there in the category women? With the institutionalization of women/gender studies in India in the last decade, with NGOs and government policies responding to gender concerns in the last two decades what has been the transformations that has happened in the meaning and the understanding of gender.
Week 12 (Oct 30, Nov 1)
Chaudhuri, Maitrayee. 2002. “Learning through Teaching the ‘Sociology of Gender’”. Indian Journal of Gender Studies. 9: 245-261.
Rege, Sharmila Rege. 2000. “Histories from the Borderlands”,Seminar.# 495, available online at
Week 13 & 14 (Nov 6, 8, 13, 15): Individual presentations and Reading Images group presentations
Menon, Nivedita. Seeing Like a Feminist. New Delhi: Zubaan.