Midterm Precis/Outline

Your précis should be a bullet-pointed outline (1-2 pgs, TNR font) and include the following:

1. Identify the 2 out of 4 essay prompts in Part A and 1 out of 2 essay prompts in Part B of the midterm exam for which you will choose to write essays (see page 2, you have options galore!)

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2. Identify which key assigned authors/readings you will need to answer those specific essay prompts (include the full author citations so that you can practice how to cite properly!).

3. Identify the primary argument(s) and/or major keywords of those readings (1-2 sentences), begin to define those keywords (1-2 sentences) and explain why they are most compelling or useful in analyzing the questions of your chosen essay prompt.

4. Identify what days in your schedule, according to your calendar, that you will dedicate to working on the GWS 101 midterm exam between 2.21.21 and the exam’s deadline of 3.7.21.


PART A: KEYWORD RESPONSES (60 points total). Choose TWO of the following questions and write a brief (1.5 double-spaced pages) essay response to each of them (for a total of 3 pages).


What is biopower? Using an example from the readings in weeks 3-5, describe how biopower has regulated the lives of one group of people in particular (e.g., women, people of color, colonized groups, and/or the low-income and working class.


According to Jennifer Terry’s “Significant Injury” in week 4, modern warfare advances our understanding of medical science. In the process, western medicine also contributes to new technologies that advance and perpetuate US militarism. Using her concept of a “signature wound,” describe the relation between medical science and militarism.


Many of the scholars we have read in class discuss the historical relation between gender, poverty, and overpopulation. Using two or three keywords from the textbook readings in week 5, explain the connection between poverty, reproduction, and population growth. Be sure to define your use of these keywords based on the readings.


Many of the scholars we have read in class explore the relationship between motherhood and nationhood. Using at least two of the assigned readings in week 5 (especially Inderpal Grewal’s “Security Moms”), explain how mothers became central to both the British and US nation-states, respectively, in different historical periods.


PART B: ESSAY (40 points). Write a 2.5 to 3-page double-spaced essay in response to ONE of the following questions.


According to the readings in weeks 1-4, what is the difference between social constructionism and biological essentialism? What is an example of an essentialist understanding of gender, race, or sex from the textbook readings? What is an example of a social constructionist understanding from the readings? In your response, be sure to draw on (and define your use of) the keywords listed in the study guide below. Finally, (and most importantly!) explain why social constructionism would be of particular use to feminist or anti-racist activists for social justice.


According to the readings in week 6 and 7, what is the difference between a “nation,” “state,” and “nationalism”? Why are these distinctions important to our understanding of feminism? How, according to Priya Kandaswamy, have different kinds of feminists engaged with the US nation-state in the late 20th century and to what effect? Finally, what are some of the benefits and limitations of these methods with regards to anti-domestic violence activism?







Week 1


Categories of difference

Differential distribution of power, resources, and life chances

Systems and structures of inequality, power, and violence

The Invisible Knapsack: the unseen and the unsaid of privilege based on difference

Norms and Normalization


Identity Politics


Week 2 & 3

Centrality of Western science as ‘modern’ and legitimate

Nature vs. Culture

Sex-gender binary and the heterosexual matrix

European colonial expansion and knowledge

Difference and Inequality

Social Darwinism, Malthusianism, Eugenics

Ideals and norms

History of Science

Biomedical discourse

Sex and bodily difference

Eunuchs and Third Gender


The “Homosexual Gene”

Sex acts vs. sexual identities



Late 19 th medical discourse

Racial Science

Hottentot Venus



Week 4

Categories of difference are socially constructed but socially real

Change over time

Medical reform and its effect on new groups of people

Women and Medicine

Social construction of race

Racial formation and racial fabrication

Genetics and evolution.

Morphing and miscegenation

Social context for female castration in the US


Week 5



Population Growth


Population Control

Abortion and Reproductive Freedom

Sterilization abuse

Colonialism and Medicine

Women’s Bodies and the Nation

Public Health and Domestic Hygiene

Treatment of the insane and the poor

Race/class Implications of Western Science

Circumcision and Female Genital Mutilation

Security Moms

Biopower and Biopolitics

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