Fall 2020 - GSWS 414 D100

Dude, Where's My Body?: Biopolitics, Biotechnologies, Bioecologies (4)

Class Number: 7558

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including 6 units in GSWS.



Bodies are composed of matter and are given to matter. This course situates embodiment socially, historically, technologically, biologically, politically, and economically. Students who have taken GSWS 411 or GSWS 831 in Fall 2018 or Fall 2017, or GSWS 320 or GSWS 830 in Spring 2016 under the title "Dude, Where's My Body?" may not take this course for further credit.


We live in a historical moment in which cells are technologies, genes can be edited, organs and tissues are exchangeable, plastic molecules are laced through our bodies, and our limbs, senses, sex, looks, and lives are transformable. In this context, what is your body? Where does it begin and end? What are your biological properties? How much of your bodily substance and sensation is strictly “you” or “yours”?

Starting from feminist science studies scholar Donna Haraway’s enduring provocation, “Why should our bodies end at the skin?” (“A Cyborg Manifesto” 1991), we will spend the semester mapping and remapping the contours of this thing we call “a body.” This course traces and interrogates the numerous ways in which our bodies matter – socially, historically, technologically, biologically, politically, and economically. We will begin by reading focused selections from key theoretical texts that will help us to develop a shared language for talking about our bodies and their cultural, physical, and historical dimensions. The rest of the semester will be spent on case studies drawn from historical texts, anthropology, science and technology studies, performance studies, and critical cultural studies of race, gender, and sexuality.

Areas of exploration include constructions of race and ethnicity, sex and gender, drugs and addiction, social inequality, ecology, digital media, cosmetic surgery, contagion, organ transplantation, prosthetics, interspecies relations, reproductive technologies, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, toys, toxins, food, and bioart.


For more detailed information please see the GSWS website: http://www.sfu.ca/gsws/undergraduate/courses/Educational_Goals.html


  • Weekly Modules (includes online discussion component, option for synchronous or asynchronous participation) 30%
  • Body Journal (7 entries @ 8 points each) 56%
  • Critical Analysis (1200 to 1500 word essay, 10-minute well-edited podcast, or equivalent in alternative format to be approved by professor) 14%



    • Lecture materials will be recorded and available on canvas.
    • Weekly discussions will take place online and will include asynchronous and synchronous components. Attendance at synchronous online discussions (via BB Collaborate and/or Zoom) on Mondays from 2pm-4pm is encouraged, but not required. Recordings of these sessions will be made available on canvas. Other interactive online components will be available through Canvas, hypothes.is, or other platforms.



• Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era (2013), Paul Preciado; e-book $24 at Indigo
• Between the World and Me (2015), Ta-Nehisi Coates; e-book $14 at Indigo, the audiobook is also exceptionally good and available through ITunes, GooglePlay, and other sources
• M Archive at the End of the World (2018), Alexis Pauline Gumbs; paperback $32.17 at Indigo, available as e-book through SFU library, but I strongly encourage getting a hard copy of the book that you can write in
• All other readings and materials will be made available on canvas

*I encourage you to purchase e-books from sellers that aren’t Amazon. If you want a paperback, Pulp Fiction Books is a great local bookstore that will order anything Amazon has at a comparable price and offers free shipping. They are also doing free delivery in Vancouver.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).