Reader Responses

These will consist of a couple paragraphs describing your reaction to one or more of the readings (and possibly film) for that session. Do not summarize, but rather give us your response to the reading. These should take no more than 30 minutes to write. While reader responses are not individually graded, they will be factored into the overall evaluation of your performance. You will write 3 over the course of the term. You will be encouraged to post these on the class site prior to the class for which they are due to share your thoughts with your classmates.

The reader responses (along with class participation) will count for 25% of your final grade.

Argumentative Essays

You will write 3 papers, each counting for 25% of your final grade.

These papers should be 6–7 double-spaced pages, regular font like 12 pt Times (roughly 2,000 words). These are argumentative papers—develop your own thesis and argue it by marshalling evidence from our readings and class discussions. Be sure to engage the arguments of and quote at least three of our authors. Be thorough in your citation practice (include a bibliography). Give your paper an original and informative title.

Paper 1

The aim of this paper is to develop an original thesis and to argue for it with reference to theoretical and case study materials from our readings.

Develop a thesis addressing issues of family, household, and labor.

Write an essay discussing how gender and family relations are, in part, formed, reproduced, and contested in labor relations. Possible theses to develop could address—but are not restricted to—the following: A contrast between how gender and labor are organized in agrarian versus wage labor societies, and with what social and ideological repercussions; how gendered family and labor relations have historically been shaped by—and have reproduced—ideologies about race / ethnicity. You might make use of or explore such concepts as the patriarchal bargain, ascribed / achieved statuses, social reproduction, etc. Your essay should engage the theoretical arguments and cite the evidence of at least three authors (e.g., Friedl, Kandiyoti, Abu-Lughod, Paxson, Collier, Rapp, Glenn, Lane, etc.).

Paper 2

Choose one of the following:

  1. What's love got to do with it? Rayna Rapp has suggested that, "To liberate the notion of voluntary relations which the normative family is supposed to represent, we have to stop paying workers off in a coin called love" (184). But do we want to reduce love to the tradeoff of a "patriarchal bargain"? Write an essay speaking to a few of the manifestations that "love" may take within family relations: Parental (love of a parent or, possibly, caregiver for a child), filial (love of a child for a parent or caregiver), romantic, erotic, spousal, friendship, etc. How is love expressed through—or against—money or material goods? What can attention to love—as felt, as expressed—contribute to our understanding of who counts as "family" or why family relations can take such varied forms both across and within different cultures?
  2. You might structure your paper around one of the following starting points:

    • Love and emotion more generally are often (in the West) defined in opposition to rational thought and decision-making. But how does the emotion / rationality (love / money) dichotomy play out in practice (in specific settings)? What do your observations tell us about ongoing efforts or attempts to treat these as different, even oppositional—whether in popular culture or in social science scholarship?
    • How do ideas about love inform and / or complicate ideas about what constitutes "good" (or "bad") mothering and fathering (in one or more specific cultural contexts)? To what extent is parenting gendered, and gender performed through parenting—and what's love got to do with it?
  3. What makes "a family"? "Real" families only rarely, if ever, conform to ideological expectation—and yet, those ideals are only very gradually revised. Using the arguments forwarded in "Is There a Family?" by Collier, Rosaldo, and Yanagisako as your point of departure, write a paper that makes a case for expanding our understanding of what "family" is, or can be, in social reality. Feel free to forward your own view, but be sure to support your arguments with reference to evidence and / or theorizing in our texts.

Paper 3

The third paper will be on a topic of the student's choosing and may include personal reflection and / or interviews.