This is an archived course. A more recent version may be available at

21A.218J / SP.454J / WGS.454J Identity and Difference

As taught in: Spring 2007

Person's shadow against a rocky wall; shadow is off-center, slightly to the left, and is full body.

The shadow of a person. Often, our identities are not concrete, fixed things but constantly adaptive, dynamic performances. This course deals with these issues and more. (Image courtesy of Josh Otis.)




Prof. Heather Paxson

Course Features

Course Description

How can the individual be at once cause and consequence of society, a unique agent of social action and also a social product? This course explores how identities, whether of individuals or groups, based on single behaviors or institutional practices, are produced, maintained, and transformed. Students will be introduced to various theoretical perspectives that are used to make sense of identity formation, including essentialism, constructivism, stigma, deviance, discourse, and performance. We will explore the utility of these terms in discussing issues of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.