Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Intro Post's picture

My name is Katie and I'm a Senior Anthropology major at Haverford with a concentration in Gender and Sexuality studies. Looking back on my college experience, I've found gender and sexuality studies to have guided my course selection and my intellectual trajectory, and my thesis -- which will focus on urban bicycle culture in Philadelphia -- will certainly employ gender and sexuality lenses. I've always wanted to take an interdisciplinary class, and this seems ideal! (click through for more -- sorry this is so long...)

In that vein, my thoughts this week are drawn to the word "performative"... Of course, the Judith Butler reference makes me look forward to more deeply engaging with Butler's ideas in conjunction with her visit this fall. However, it also takes me back to my Anthropology of Gender class Sophomore year when I first encountered her notions of gender as performative. At the time, I was also taking a Psychology class called "Primate Origins of Society," premised upon behavioral evolutionary theory and, at several moments, making claims about humans by extension that seemed to me to be in direct opposition to the ideas I was encountering in Anthro of Gender (of which Butler's were the most extreme). I remember feeling extremely frustrated, like that there was no way to reconcile the views about human behavior I was learning about in the two classes. To exaggerate the extremes, I felt like either everything had to be culturally constructed or else we were mere animals, slaves to an evolutionary past. I tried to think through some of these tensions myself in a final paper for that anthro class, but without feeling as if the disciplines/professors themselves were willing to engage in any meaningful way with ideas outside their department, the process left me feeling pretty alone and confused -- if different disciplines just teach us blatantly different worldviews, whom can we believe? How do we decide what kind of knowledge is valid? As much as I want to be confident in myself as an independent thinker, part of me knows that "insistently interdisciplinary" courses are what's really needed here. I'm ready to revisit some of these nature/culture debates, along with others, over the course of this semester. I'm sure I'll still feel confused and frustrated at times -- that's always part of the learning process -- but hopefully with a supportive context (and a few more years of school under my belt) I'll be able to further clarify my thinking about some of these issues....(And be able to better talk to my Biology-professor parents about my Anthropology major!) I'm definitely pumped about this course!