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Bodies at Work: Gender and Labor in Contemporary Visual Culture

Semester and Year FA 2017
Course Number ELEC-GG2775
Section 001
Instructor Elena Wang
Days R
Time 6:20 PM - 9:00 PM
Units 4
Level G


Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of the instructor (


How are women’s bodies and women’s labor valued in visual culture today? How are those values related to the value of women’s bodies and women’s work historically, both in the public and private spheres? Taking the glamorous figure of the runway model as our point of departure, this course explores the different kinds of labor entailed by the female body’s insistent commodification across fields of popular cultural production, with an emphasis on the fashion and beauty industries. We will put into dialogue the representational as well as material dimensions of women’s bodies in fashion, film, art and pop music, interrogating the dominant paradigms that shape female embodiment and bodywork in the 21st century. Students will learn to use political theory, sociology, feminist and media studies literatures to read recent films, ethnographies and journalistic accounts of female bodywork, while weekly current events presentations enrich our discussions. Texts include Hannah Arendt’s  The Human Condition , Linda McDowell’s  Capital Culture ,   Iris Marion Young’s  On Female Body Experience , and   Ashley Mears’   groundbreaking study of the modeling industry,  Pricing Beauty .


All Syllabi

Course Type

Graduate Electives (ELEC-GG)