SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Anthropology of "Race", Gender and Desire

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2

This course explores the intersection and social construction of "race" and gender through an anthropological lense. The course emphasises the lived realities of race and gender and how these have been shaped by cultural, historical and economic power relations. At the same time, we explore how the categories of race and gender have been the object of scientific discourses and technologies of control. A special focus is given to the ways in which anthropology has contributed to and been complicit in histories and experiences of oppression, empire and colonialism. By looking at whiteness as a system of power that undergirds gendered ideologies and privileges, the course critically analyses knowledge practices and the representation of race and gender in science and media. 

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate:

  • Understand the parameters of analysis and stakes involved in anthropology's treatment of “race”, gender, and whiteness
  • Understand the concepts and methods of intersectional analysis
  • Understand how race and gender are mutually constitutive in different contexts
  • Read texts closely and critically
  • Understand how "race" and gender have been a feature of capitalism and global political systems
  • Critically read ethnographies of racialized and gendered experiences


One hour lecture and one hour seminar per week.

Scope and syllabus

  1. Body Politics: Gendering "Race" and Racialising Gender
  2. Race, Sexuality, Colonialism and Desire
  3. Whiteness and white ignorance.The Complicity of Anthropology
  4. Race, Gender, Extinction and the Anthropocene
  5. Right Wing Populism, Gender and the Reproduction of Whiteness
  6. Race, Gender and Precarious Bodies
  7. Gender and Post-Humanism: "Breathing Race into the Machine"
  8. Gender, Race and Sex Work
  9. Gender, Race and Pornography
  10. Black and Other Lives Matter: New Solidarities and Struggles

Suggested reading

  • Mire, A. (2019). Wellness in Whiteness. Taylor & Francis
  • Roy, D. (2018). Molecular feminisms: Biology, becomings, and life in the lab. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Anderson, M. 2019. From Boas to Black Power. Racism, Liberalism, and American Anthropology. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Braun, L. (2014) Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Bosworth, M., & Flavin, J. (2007). Race, gender, and punishment: From colonialism to the war on terror. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
    Edmonds, A. (2011) Pretty Modern: Beauty, Sex, and Plastic Surgery in Brazil. Durham: Duke University Press
  • Heyes, C.J. and Jones, M. (2009) Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. London: Ashgate.
  • Miller-Young, Mireille (2014) A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Mills, C. 2007. White Ignorance, in Shannon Sullivan and Nancy Tuana (eds), Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. Albany, NY: SUNY Press ,pp. 13–38.
  • Stovall. T., 2006. Race and the making of the nation: blacks in modern France in Gomez, M. A. Diasporic Africa: A reader. New York: New York University Press.
  • Hill, Collins, P., 2004. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism, Routledge, 2004.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules