Fall 2020 - GSWS 318 E100

Special Topics in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (4)

Feminisms Engaging Nonhumans

Class Number: 6508

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:


  • Prerequisites:

    30 units, including three units in GSWS.



A specific theme within the field of gender, sexuality, and women's studies, not otherwise covered in depth in regularly scheduled courses, will be dealt with as occasion and demand warrant.


Feminists are increasingly examining how the power structures that produce unjust oppressions for women and other marginalized Others extend to the nonhuman world. This course explores how feminists have theorized, advocated for, and fostered relations with nonhumans such as animals, plants, organic and inorganic matter, and machines.

Informed by feminist ethics, science studies, and philosophy, we ask: How do understandings of animals relate to conceptualizations of sex, gender, and sexuality; race, colonialism and slavery; and class and labour? Are there feminist obligations to animals, plants, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protists? How does feminism inform and support animal and environmental advocacy? Can nonhumans teach us about ethics, care, and equality? What does it mean to be feminist on a climate-changing planet?

This course accommodates students with or without prior scientific or ecological knowledge about such topics as evolutionary biology; environmentalism and the anthropocene; cyborgs and artificial intelligence; animal research and ethics; bacteria, viruses and prions; stratigraphy and geology; homo-, trans-, and inter-sexuality in animals; and paleontology and paleoanthropology.

This course recognizes the timely and controversial nature of these topics, particularly regarding the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, as well as the role of GSWS in transforming students into critical advocates for change. As such, assignments encourage engagement in public dialogues on human/nonhuman relationships.


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


  • Grow/Observe’ Multimedia Field Journal: Grow something throughout the term OR do weekly observations of a SAFE field site and curate a multimedia (i.e., text, pictures, video, etc.) journal incorporating analysis based on the week’s readings, lectures, and group discussions. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogging, or any other chosen mode can be used to curate your journal which can be public or private. All things you grow must be pre-approved to foreground safety and ethics, but ideas include plants, sourdough starter, safely-contained mold, etc. Weekly field observations can be of green space, a certain tree or plant, a pet, moss, a stream, rocks, weeds, mildew, animal webcam, etc. 30%
  • Group Dialogue Reflections: Weekly reflective accounts of your group’s synchronous discussions – what did you talk about and what did you learn or reflect upon? 30%
  • Book Review Major Project: Select one book from the reading list below and use it as the basis to create a project with one of the following formats: infographic, long-form comic, podcast, short video, or other project approved by instructor. This project is individual but can be done in groups if approved by your instructor. You should choose your project based on technology and resources you have access to while learning from home 35%
  • Who am I?: Complete your profile on Canvas 5%



The course will incorporate weekly asynchronous lectures, which can be viewed at any time; occasional synchronous sessions may be scheduled if necessary.

Weekly small group discussions are synchronous, but will be held at mutually-agreed upon times at members’ discretion. Groups will be formed with as much attention to time zone and member preference as possible.

Please note that this course requires your access to:

  • the internet, a connection to which is capable of streaming video (i.e., has adequate bandwidth)
  • a computer-device from which you can create and post media including text, images, and video
  • a service through which you can connect for group discussion
  • a microphone and possibly headphones in order to participate in discussion



  • Selected readings posted to Canvas
  • CHOOSE ONE of the following, procured by your own means (e.g., order or read online, etc.):
  • Fossils: Emling, S. (2009). The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World. Martin’s Press.
  • Bees; Winston, M. L. (2014). Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive. Harvard University Press.
  • Plants: Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions.
  • Jellyfish: Berwald, J. (2018). Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone. Riverhead Books.
  • Badgers: Justice, D. H. (2014). Badger. Reaktion Books.
  • Mushrooms: Tsing, A. L. (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press.

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).