Critical Theory & Social Justice

Overview | Requirements | Courses | Faculty


Critical Theory - Social Justice (CTSJ) is fundamentally interdisciplinary, drawing on ideas from across traditional academic disciplines. "Critical" refers to various bodies of theory and methodMarxism, psychoanalysis, the Frankfurt School, deconstruction, critical race studies, queer theory, feminist theory, postcolonial theory, and intersectionalitythat interrogate the essentialist assumptions that underlie social identities. "Social justice" refers to an extrajuridical concept of fairness that is focused on exposing and ending social inequalities. The aim of the Critical Theory - Social Justice department is to promote understanding of how categories such as "race", "sexual orientation," and "nationality" help people recognize and combat some injustices and hinder them from recognizing and combating others.

The department's course offerings are divided into three levels:

  • 100-level classes teach students how to think critically about a wide range of topics, including race, gender, sexuality, and nationality.
  • 200-level classes teach students how to participate in a seminar, including how to contribute to class discussion and how to research and write a scholarly paper.
  • 300-level classes teach students a major body of critical theory or a research methodology.


MAJOR: The major in Critical Theory & Social Justice requires ten courses (40 units) selected in consultation with the student's departmental advisor. Each CTSJ major chooses an emphasis in one of three areas: Critical Race Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and Feminist/Queer Studies.  Three courses must be taken in the chosen emphasis area and at least one course must be taken in the other two emphasis areas.  Of the ten courses, at least eight must be offered by the CTSJ Department, including at least one 4-unit course at the 100 level; one at the 200 level; and three  at the 300 level, including the Junior Seminar (CTSJ 390); and the Senior Seminar (CTSJ 490). The Junior Seminar will be offered during the Spring Semester.  Students planning on traveling abroad during their junior year, should do so in the Fall. All majors must take two 4-unit methodologies courses, at least one by the end of the junior year. At least four of the units must be in experiential learning. Each student is required to submit a major declaration that outlines what the student defines as her/his goals for completing the major.

COURSES IN CTSJ EMPHASIS AREAS: Each student must take 3 courses in the chosen emphasis area and 1 course in each of the other 2 areas. Students may count the same course for a maximum of two different emphases (i.e. “double-dip") for courses that are designated for multiple emphases.  Students may also choose to do two emphases within the major.

Postcolonial Studies

  • 106 Representing the Metropolis
  • 211 Critical Pedagogy
  • 259 Bodies for Exchange
  • 280 Rastafari
  • 311 Children, Poverty, and Public Policies
  • 335 Queer of Color Critique
  • 340 Critical Ethnography
  • 355 Boundaries and Borderlands
  • 357 Law and Empire

Feminist/Queer Studies

  • 140 Critical Theories of Sexuality
  • 210 Mother Goose to Mash-Ups: Children’s Literature and Popular Texts
  • 215 Critical Discourse Analysis
  • 230 Fundamentals of Queer Theory
  • 233 Queer Literature and Culture
  • 234 Materialist Feminism
  • 340 Critical Ethnography
  • 255 Women of Color
  • 332 Psychic Life of Violence
  • 335 Queer of Color Critique
  • 337 Queer Los Angeles: Cruising the Archive

Critical Race Studies

  • 106 Representing the Metropolis
  • 210 Mother Goose to Mash-Ups: Children’s Literature and Popular Texts
  • 335 Queer of Color Critique
  • 337 Queer Los Angeles: Cruising the Archive
  • 340 Critical Ethnography
  • 255 Women of Color
  • 357 Law and Empire
  • 257 Critical Praxis (May count for CRS emphasis, depending on specific community-based learning or research project.  Please consult with course instructor.)
  • 259 Bodies for Exchange
  • 286 Whiteness
  • 312 Language, Literacy and Culture
  • 320 Culture and Community (May count for CRS emphasis, depending on specific community-based learning or research project.  Please consult with course instructor.)

METHODOLOGY COURSES (2 courses required)

CTSJ Courses

  • 215 Critical Discourse Analysis
  • 232 Introduction to Cultural Studies
  • 285 Foucault
  • 310 Qualitative Interview Methods
  • 320 Culture and Community
  • 337 Queer Los Angeles:  Cruising the Archive
  • 340 Critical Ethnography
  • 357 Law and Empire
  • 384 Bataille

Methodology courses taught in other departments may count. Decisions about which courses count are made on an individual basis in consultation with the student’s advisor and the department chair.

ACCEPTABLE COURSES FROM OTHER DEPARTMENTS: The courses listed below count toward the CTSJ major (in addition to non-CTSJ courses that count toward the Experiential Learning Requirement). Students may work with their academic advisor to petition other courses to count for the CTSJ major. Students should consult with their academic advisor in choosing non-departmental courses that fit best with their CTSJ major.   

  • ENGL 290  Introduction to Literary Analysis
  • ENGL 341 Race, Law & Literature
  • ENGL 352 Contested Territories: Ethnic/Racial Literatures of the U.S. “Southwest”
  • ENGL 365 Black Reconstruction: Rethinking Black Radicalism in African American Literature
  • ENGL 368 Post Colonial Literature and Theory
  • HIST 277 Women and Community Health
  • PHIL 235 Feminism and Philosophy
  • POLS 206 Race and American Politics (Prerequisite POLS 101 does not count for CTSJ major)
  • POLS 352 Black Political Thought
  • POLS 340 Rebellious Lawyering (Co-requisite POLS 260 counts toward CTSJ Experiential Learning Requirement; permission of instructor is required)
  • RELS 150 Introduction to Islam
  • RELS 305 Islam, Gender and Sexuality
  • SOC 265 Gender and Society
  • UEP 310 Community Organizing and Leadership (Co-requisite UEP 311 counts toward CTSJ Experiential Learning Requirement; permission of instructor is required)

MINOR: The minor in Critical Theory & Social Justice requires five courses (20 units) taught in the CTSJ Department, including at least one course at the 100 level, one at the 200 level, and one at the 300 level.

WRITING REQUIREMENT: Students majoring in Critical Theory & Social Justice satisfy the final component of Occidental College's college-wide writing requirement by completing the Junior Seminar (CTSJ 390).

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING REQUIREMENT (4 units): Credit for this component may be earned through participation in a departmentally-approved internship or by completing a community-based learning or research course offered by CTSJ or another department. Students will work with their advisors to determine how to fulfill this requirement in the context of their own courses of study as defined in their major declarations.

Courses that Fulfill the Experiential Learning Requirement

CTSJ courses:

  • CTSJ 105 Immigration and Education
  • CTSJ 257 Critical Praxis
  • CTSJ 271 Theatre for Social Change
  • CTSJ 310 Qualitative Interview Methods
  • CTSJ 320 Culture and Community
  • CTSJ 337 Queer Los Angeles:  Cruising the Archive
  • CTSJ 340 Critical Ethnography
  • CTSJ 369 Clinical Psychology Laboratory (2 units, may be repeated. Permission of instructor is required.)

Courses offered in other departments:

  • ArtM 242 Projects in Documentary Video
  • MATH 201 Mathematics, Education, and Access to Power (2 units, may be repeated for credit
  • POLS 212 Mobilizing Voters: Ethnographic Field Research (Permission of instructor is required)
  • POLS 260 Community Law Internship (Co-requisite POLS 340; permission of instructor is required)
  • SOC 360 Urban Sociology (Fulfills experiential learning requirement in semesters when the course includes a community-based research component.  Please consult with course instructor.)
  • SPAN 211 Advanced Spanish for Native Speakers (Fulfills experiential learning requirement in semesters when the course includes a community-based learning component.  Please consult with course instructor.)
  • UEP 307 Public Health Practicum (Prerequisite:  UEP 203 Public Health: Community and Environment or UEP 205 Public Health & Human Rights: Global and Local Practices.  May be taken concurrently with UEP 203)
  • UEP 311 Community Internship, (Co-requisite UEP 310; permission of instructor is required)
  • WRD 250 Writing with the Community
  • INT 200 2-unit Internship (must be approved by advisor.  INT 200 can be used to count for a total of 4 units for the CTSJ major. Internships that will count for the major must be done with a CTSJ faculty member as the Internship faculty supervisor.)

Other courses may count; decisions will be made in consultation with the student’s advisor and the department chair.

SENIOR COMPREHENSIVE REQUIREMENT: In their senior year, students majoring in CTSJ are required to complete a comprehensive project concerning a topic of the student's own particular interest. Students produce drafts of their projects during CTSJ 490: Senior Seminar in the fall semester of their senior year.  (A student graduating in December is encouraged to take 490 in his or her third-to-last semester, rather than in the last semester.)  Each student is directed to consult with at least one CTSJ professor in addition to the professor teaching the senior seminar.  The final version of the comprehensive project is due the Friday before spring (or midterm) break of the student's final semester.  A typical project culminates in a 20- to 25-page paper.  The department is open to critical projects of comparable length that employ other media from students formally trained in those media.  A comprehensive project earns the grade "Pass with Distinction" if the department faculty determine that it is of the quality publishable in the CTSJ Journal or another journal in the fields embraced by Critical Theory & Social Justice.

HONORS: Students majoring in CTSJ must be nominated during their senior year by a CTSJ faculty member to be considered for Honors. Nominations will be reviewed by the CTSJ department faculty, who will consider the nominee’s excellence as a CTSJ major by examininga number of factors such as: GPA in courses taken for the major, quality of the comprehensive project, experiential learning, and engagement with community-based learning and research.  Nominees must meet the minimum overall GPA of 3.25 set by the College for Honors. Students interested in being considered for Honors may apply during the first semester of their senior year to enroll in CTSJ 499: Honors Thesis, which is an independent study, by conferring with their academic advisor and the instructor of CTSJ 490: Senior Seminar. Permission to enroll in CTSJ 499 does not guarantee that the student will receive Honors; the student’s completed comprehensive project will be considered along with the additional criteria listed above in consideration for the designation of Honors.


101 - Critical Theory - Social Justice Colloquium

The Critical Theory-Social Justice Colloquium introduces students to the CTSJ major. Students will engage with topics and materials in the areas of emphasis within the major: Critical Race Studies, Gender and Queer Studies, and Postcolonial Studies. 

105 - Immigration and Education

This course will locate the topic of immigration and education within historical, legislative, and cultural debates on what it means to be an American and who has the right to an Education. Students will explore and debate precedent-setting Supreme Court cases, such as Mendez v. Westminster, which challenged the segregation of Mexican children into separate schools, and Lau v. Nichols, which fought hard for non-English speaking students to have linguistic access to the public school curricula. In addition, students will research the historical antecedents to the recent anti-immigrant movements in California, Arizona, and Colorado, which target the use of languages other than English in school settings, and have all but abolished bilingual public schools. Against this historical and legislative backdrop, students will examine ethnographic research detailing the persistent challenges that immigrant children face in schooling, including migrant children, and the ways in which they, their parents, and communities experience those challenges. Satisfies the experiential learning requirement

106 - Representing the Metropolis

In the United States, roughly 80% of the population lives in urban regions (2000 US Census), while according to United Nations figures, about 52% of people are urban-dwellers worldwide. This course will examine various representations of the modern metropolis through film, literature, and cultural theory. The city, as we experience it today is the product of multiple historical, cultural, and social forces. Over the course of the semester, we will consider how cities have been shaped by these forces, as well as how they, in turn, shape our own experience and understanding of culture, history, and social practices. In an era of increasing globalization and mobility, the role of the metropolis continues to evolve and expand. As we consider representations of the city in a variety of films and novels from around the world, including some from our own city of Los Angeles, we will interrogate the ways in which the city has played a formative role in how we imagine life in the contemporary moment. In what ways has the city become a vehicle for the production of culture? How does life in the city serve to normativize certain notions of what it means to live in the modern world? How does life in rural spaces complicate representations of modernity that take the city as their norm? Does the city promote accessibility, or, alternatively, does it rigidify codes of exclusivity? These are some of the many questions we will address as we consume a spectrum of world cinema and literature. As we work our way through the material, we will strive to develop a complex understanding of how cities shape our cultural imagination. Emphasis Topic: Postcolonial Theory. Same as English 106.

140 - Critical Theories of Sexuality

This course introduces students to critical theories concerning human sexuality. We read feminist, Marxist, psychoanalytic, structuralist, and poststructuralist theories of sexuality and discuss what makes each of these theories "critical." Topics include the political economy of marriage, the relation between sexuality and procreation, uses of the erotic, homosociality, and the incitement to discourse. The authors we read include Engels, Freud, de Beauvoir, Lévi-Strauss, Gayle Rubin, Andrea Dworkin, Foucault, and Judith Butler. Emphasis Topic: Queer Studies.

180 - Stupidity

Stupidity is neither ignorance nor organicity, but rather, a corollary of knowing and an element of normalcy, the double of intelligence rather than its opposite. It is an artifact of our nature as finite beings and one of the most powerful determinants of human destiny. Stupidity is always the name of the Other, and it is the sign of the feminine. This course in Critical Psychology follows the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, and most recently, Avital Ronell, in a philosophical examination of those operations and technologies that we conduct in order to render ourselves uncomprehending. Stupidity, which has been evicted from the philosophical premises and dumbed down by psychometric psychology, has returned in the postmodern discourse against Nation, Self, and Truth and makes itself felt in political life ranging from the presidency to Beavis and Butthead. This course examines stupidity.

186 - Introduction to Critical Theory

This course introduces critical theory in the context of the problem of social justice. Introductions will be made to psychoanalytic, Marxist, Feminist, Structuralist, Deconstructive, and Postcolonial Criticism. Reader-responses, New Criticism, lesbian, gay, and queer criticism will also be surveyed. There will be close readings of the work of Louis Althusser, Georges Bataille, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida as well as in depth readings of essays by Guy Hocquenghem, Julia Kristeva, and Trinh T. Minh-ha.

210 - Mother Goose to Mash-Ups: Children's Literature and Popular Texts

Why did the London Bridge fall down? Is Rub-a-dub-dub really about bath time? Why didn't an old man live in a shoe? Who is more imperialist, Babar or Peter Pan? Is Tinky Winky gay? Is South Park a children's show? Is Harry Potter a Hero? How tired was Rosa Parks? Using different critical approaches, this course will examine children's poetry, picture books, novels, cartoons, feature films, and music videos. Analysis will include topics related to gender, race, culture, and nation, as they play out in the aesthetics, images, and poetics of children's texts. Emphasis topic: Critical Race Theory

211 - Critical Pedagogy

Critical pedagogy aims to develop collective critical consciousness for the purpose of transforming oppressive socio-political conditions. In this course, students will study critical pedagogy from historical, political, and sociological perspectives. Students in the course will consider traditional student/teacher relationships, pedagogical approaches, as well as hierarchies of knowledge promulgated by schools and textbook publishers. Students will analyze and critique theories of the Frankfurt School and the emancipatory works of Paolo Freire, the most renowned critical pedagogist. Additionally, contemporary readings from Henry Giroux, bell hooks, and Peter McLaren will focus on critical pedagogy in relation to social structures, globalization, media, and race. Emphasis topic: Postcolonial Theory

215 - Critical Discourse Analysis

This seminar introduces students to discourse analysis as the ontological and epistemological deconstruction of every day language and symbols and their relationship to power. Throughout the course, students develop techniques for gathering and analyzing multimodal transcripts of naturally occurring conversations, interviews, discourses in institutional settings, media discourses, and texts of historical materials. The course draws from systemic functional linguistics, genre/text studies, multi-modal semiotics, interactional sociolinguistics, and critical social theory to understand how linguistic features of texts constitute and are constituted by the social, cultural and local relations, processes and contexts in which they are embedded. Using a seminar format, students will engage the readings and apply discourse analysis strategies in order to develop their own independent qualitative research projects.

222 - Body Politics

The course offers an interdisciplinary analysis of gender, power, and the body. The theoretical center of the course will be Foucault's work on biopower, including Discipline and Punish and Foucault 2.0. Topics include: class and the body (Atwood, Bodily Harm, and Larsen, Passing); law and the female body (Wendy Williams, Mary Poovey); science and gender (Emily Martin, Thomas Laqueur); pornography (Catherine McKinnon, Laura Kipnis); race, body, and gender (Morrison, Beloved; Lauren Berlant, Judith Butler); multiculturalism and cross-race identifications (John Stahl, Imitation of Life, Wyatt, "The Hazards of ldealization"); and, Latin American perspectives on gender, torture, and memory. Prerequisite: at least sophomore standing.

230 - Fundamentals of Queer Theory

This class is designed to introduce the classical texts of Anglo-American queer theory as well as explore recent trends in the field. While situating queer theory's 1990s academic advent in its historical context of identity politics, the emergence of the AIDS pandemic, and the U.S. "culture wars," the course will begin by reviewing crucial antecedents in gay and lesbian studies, psychoanalysis, and the interventions of Michel Foucault. Readings will include works by Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, Leo Bersani, Lee Edelman, and Teresa de Lauretis. Additional readings will trace recent debates about "what is still queer in queer theory?" as critics engage ongoing questions about neoliberalism, homonormativity, and politics in the 21st century. Emphasis topic: Feminist and Queer Studies.

232 - Introduction to Cultural Studies

This course introduces the methodologies and key theories of Cultural Studies, focusing on analyses of popular cultural and subcultures. Readings will include selections from Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, bell hooks, Jean Baudrillard, Guy Deborg, Stuart Hall, Matthew Arnold, Raymond Williams, J. Halberstam, Michel de Certeau, Henry Louis Gates, Inderpal Grewal, Oliver Sacks and others. We will focus on non-traditional academic disciplines and media including television studies, new media theory, performance studies, history of science, fashion, cartoons, built environments, slang, and fan culture with the intention of honing rigorous research skills and critical argumentation.

233 - Queer Literature and Culture

This course introduces students to literary questions of queerness, canonization, and nation in the context of the United States’ twentieth century discourses about homosexuality.  Students will critically examine the production of certain ideas of the nation through literature by examining questions raised through queer texts.  The course will run concurrently with CTSJ 333:  The Queer Novel; assignments for CTSJ 233 will be designed for a 200-level course.  Emphasis Topic:  Feminist and Queer Studies.

234 - Materialist Feminism

Is there such a thing as a "woman's condition" and can that condition be explained by examining the economic dimensions of women's history? Is the violence that people are disproportionately exposed to based on gender, race, sex, and sexuality only a tool in the production and reproduction of economic classes or do these identities and experiences require an analytic framework that transcends economic relations? In this course we will consider a particular intellectual tradition that engages these questions: Materialist Feminism. We will begin our readings by considering texts by Marx and Engels that form the backbone of this tradition. We will then consider texts from American, British, and Italian traditions of thought and activism that include feminists working in national and transnational Women of Color traditions. Readings will include Michèle Barrett, Hazel Carby, Carolyn J. Eichner, Silvia Federici, Combahee River Collective, Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, Angela Davis, Friedrich Engels, Rosa Luxemberg, Karl Marx, Heidi Hartmann and Denise Riley. Emphasis Topic: Feminist and Queer Studies.

255 - Women of Color

This course will examine intersecting and overlapping categories of "difference" by focusing on the lives of women of color. By looking at conditions that shape race, sexuality, gender, class, and cultural differences, this class will critically examine multiple discourses surrounding feminism, anti-racism, heteronormativity, and critiques of imperialism. We will consider contexts of individual and collective work for social change. Using personal essays, stories, scholarly writings, artistic works, music, film, and other media, the course will look at sources that women of color draw from to ground themselves and their activist work. Emphasis topic: Critical Race Studies or Feminist and Queer Studies.

257 - Critical Praxis: Lyrics on Lockdown

This course will focus on the use of art as a tool for positive social change. Within various social justice movements, the mass incarceration of people of color has spawned much debate and controversy. Many grassroots groups have taken up this issue in the attempt to educate and potentially reverse and halt the effects of the prison industrial complex (PIC). In addition, many of these groups make the use of traditional artistic expressions in the struggle to educate and organize around these issues. Poetry (including spoken word), music, film, theatre and visual arts are all tools that have been used to examine what the PIC is, how it affects society, and how organizers can act as change agents in this struggle. Students will learn how to use these tools and work with various grassroots organizations to understand how the tools are used. The course will feature guest lectures, film viewings and possible visiting artist performances. Students will be required to participate in an interactive project, which will take place at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar CA (Sylmar). Through readings, interactive discussions and exercises, students will be expected to design (in groups) lesson plans that will be used to conduct workshops with students at Sylmar Hall. Satisfies the experiential learning requirement. Prerequisite: Sophomore Standing and over the age of 18

259 - Bodies for Exchange: Migrations, Markets, Politics

This course examines movements of bodies through political, legal, economic, and social exchanges. Drawing from a variety of materials (theory, literature, film), the course examines practices such as human trafficking, organ transplantation, transnational adoption, and surrogacy. Emphasis topic: Critical Race Studies or Postcolonial Theory.

265 - Workers Rights in the Global Economy

This course examines how globalization affects the lives of workers across the globe. The course analyzes the impact of changes in the global political economy over the last fifty years on workers’ rights, working conditions, and living standards. It evaluates strategies adopted by worker organizations and advocates in response to these changes. Students will gain a working knowledge of major changes in the global economy by examining the geographic relocation of jobs and workers, the changing roles of firms and states, public debates over sweatshops and other human rights abuses, and the emergence of new legal regimes governing worker rights. Case studies are drawn from across the globe, including the U.S., focusing on commodity chains (e.g., apparel), regions (e.g., China), or specific populations (e.g., migrant workers). Students will explore different strategies for change — linking worker rights to trade agreements, corporate social responsibility, transnational legal strategies, corporate campaigns, and consumer boycotts — in order to better understand the possibilities and limitations for redressing the inequalities of globalization and shoring up of workers' rights. Prerequisite: UEP 101, Politics 101, DWA 101, Econ 101, or permission of the instructor.

271 - Theatre for Social Justice

This course will serve as a hands-on introduction to the use of Theatre for Social Justice. Through theatre and diversity exercises, improvisation, discussion and readings in Theatre and social sciences, students will explore diverse strategies for tackling discrimination and/or other forms of social injustice and promoting safer and more inclusive communities. Topic for Spring 2015: LGBTQ & Allied Theatre Activism Practicum. The Spring 2015 course will draw from Theatre and Psychology to explore diverse strategies for addressing homophobia, transphobia, and sexism and promoting a safer and more inclusive campus for students of all genders and sexual orientations. Ultimately, students in the course will collaborate with Occidental College community members to craft a piece of theatre that can be used to address current LGBTQQIAA issues on the College campus. Emphasis topic for Spring 2015: Feminist/Queer Studies

280 - Rasatafari

This course will examine the character of postcolonial theory in the Afro-Caribbean. Particular attention will be paid to the work of C.L.R. James, Walter Rodney, Franz Fanon, Marcus Garvey, Aimé Césaire, Eric Williams, Kamau Brathwaite, and Bob Marley. The course will also examine Rastafari as a religio-political protest movement. We will chart the musicological development of Reggae and Dub Poetry as distinctive expressions of Rasta. Emphasis topic: Postcolonial Theory.

285 - Foucault

This course will cover the early writings of Michel Foucault, paying particular attention to his psychological writings. We will conduct a close reading of "Madness and Civilization".
Prerequisite: a 100-level CTSJ class

286 - Whiteness

This course seeks to engage the emergent body of scholarship designated to deconstruct whiteness. It will examine the construction of whiteness in the historic, legal, and economic contexts which have allowed it to function as an enabling condition for privilege and race-based prejudice. Particular attention will be paid to the role of religion and psychology in the construction of whiteness. Texts will include Race Traitor, Critical White Studies, The Invention of the White Race, The Abolition of Whiteness, White Trash, and Even the Rat was White Emphasis topic: Critical Race Theory.

295 - Topics in Critical Theory-Social Justice

This seminar will engage important topics and issues in Critical Theory ─ Social Justice. All CTSJ faculty will participate in order to facilitate an interdisciplinary engagement with complexities and nuances of these topics. Students from other CTSJ courses will be invited to participate in the construction of discourse around the topics. Topics might include Whiteness, Theory-Practice (Critical Theory - Social Justice), and Representation-Embodiment. Prerequisite: a 100-level CTSJ course or permission of instructor.

Soc. Movements/Representational Forms
In this course, we will examine the competing advocacy, within social movements, for documentary, fiction, journalism, lyric, abstraction, and other representational forms. For each social movement or political issue that we cover, students will compare multiple modes of representation, considering why they emerged, what their strengths and weaknesses were at each specific conjuncture, and what significance they have for future struggles. We will begin with some theoretical grounding and then proceed via a set of case studies: these may include debates about realism vs. modernism in the Frankfurt school, testimonios in Latin America, confession vs. experimentation in feminist literature, reportage vs. the essay in journalism, and slogans, songs, and posters in queer activism.n this course, we will examine the competing advocacy, within social movements, for documentary, fiction, journalism, lyric, abstraction, and other representational forms. For each social movement or political issue that we cover, students will compare multiple modes of representation, considering why they emerged, what their strengths and weaknesses were at each specific conjuncture, and what significance they have for future struggles. We will begin with some theoretical grounding and then proceed via a set of case studies: these may include debates about realism vs. modernism in the Frankfurt school, testimonios in Latin America, confession vs. experimentation in feminist literature, reportage vs. the essay in journalism, and slogans, songs, and posters in queer activism.

310 - Qualitative Interview Methods

This course is designed to introduce students to the methods and approaches used in qualitative interviewing. In addition to structured interviews, students learn about semi-structured, biographical, and narrative interviewing methods. The course also explores the ethical dilemmas and research challenges inherent during interviewing, as well as the details of conducting qualitative interviews. By the end of the semester, each student will have constructed, modified, conducted, analyzed, and written up an interview study. Satisfies the experiential learning requirement.

311 - Children, Poverty, and Public Policies

In this course, students examine contemporary child poverty both in the United States and abroad. Topics include how poverty is defined both locally and globally, the numbers and distribution of poor children, as well as the causes of child poverty. Readings explore poverty in relation to education, economics, homelessness, child labor, family, gender, and race. Students analyze historical anti-poverty policies such as the New Deal, the War on Poverty, and the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child, as well as contemporary proposals to reduce child poverty such as childcare, welfare, job training, job creation, and tax policy.
Emphasis topic: Postcolonial Theory

312 - Language, Literacy and Culture

This course combines theory and practice in the study of language and literacy across cultures and institutions. It will introduce students to competing theories of language and literacy development and the politics that undergird those theories. The course will also explore topics such as gender, race, culture, and ethnicity as they intersect and shape language learning. Students will learn about language acquisition, heritage languages, language variation, dialects, and bilingualism. The course will also explore controversies surrounding multimodal literacies involving speech, writing, drawing, pictures, video, and music. Prerequisite: Junior Standing

320 - Culture and Community

This class provides an opportunity for students who wish to continue and deepen their intellectual and community work to interact with a highly-motivated small group of students and community activists and organizations. Topics we will examine will be determined in consultation with community partners. Students will work together on a significant final project that links academic learning and community praxis and engagement. Satisfies experiential learning requirement.

332 - Psychic Life of Violence

Sigmund Freud's intervention in personal sexual life often overshadows how psychoanalysis uniquely theorized violence in the context of two World Wars. This course will consider how contemporary social justice issues might be informed by psychoanalytic concepts including aggressivity, group identification, neighbor relations, and altruism. Readings include Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and key essays; Franz Fanon's anti-racist masterpiece Black Skin, White Masks; Melanie Klein's studies of negative affect; queer theory's relation to the death drive; and essays by contemporary critical theorists grappling with the ongoing problems of war, racism, class conflict, and sexual violence. Prerequisite: 200-level CTSJ course

335 - The Queer of Color Critique

This course examines the emergent field of queer of color critique. Combining woman of color feminism with queer theory, queer of color critique analyzes intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class through interdisciplinary methodologies. This course will engage essential background and formative essays including the texts of Kimberlé Crenshaw, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Chandra Mohanty; cultural instances of race and sexuality's crossings in work by James Baldwin, Cheryl Dunye, and Issac Julien; and recent critical work by such contemporary theorists as Roderick Ferguson, Jasbir Puar, and José Esteban Muñoz. Prerequisite: any 100- or 200-level CTSJ course. Emphasis topic: Feminist and Queer Studies.

337 - Queer LA: Cruising the Archive

The course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the last decade’s increasing attention to Los Angeles as a historical origin point of United States’ LGBT history. Students are encouraged to “queer” the very concept of the archive by considering how minority voices and experiences register themselves across time through both traditional archives and less formal communities of readership and historiography wrought through alternative archives like pulp novels, comics, films, and even gossip. Students will be training in physical archival work, oral history, digital story telling and mapping, all while considering the impact of the “Digital Revolution” and how LA’s particularly intersectional queer communities have mapped themselves across the so-called “digital divide.” In addition to individual papers and presentations, the class will produce a “mixed media archive” as a student group final project that will both yield an exhibit at the end of the semester and serve as a template for an ongoing “queer LA archive” housed at Oxy. Satisfies the experiential learning requirement. Prerequisite: any 100- or 200-level CTSJ course. Emphasis topic: Feminist and Queer Studies.

340 - Critical Ethnography

In this course students learn how to do ethnographic research and writing by conducting exercises in participant-observation on or near campus. We review the history of the ethnographic method and its relation to anthropology and the colonial encounter. We also discuss what makes an ethnography critical and the tensions between ethnography sympathy and critical theory. Authors we read include Malinowski, Geertz, Delmos Jones, Dorinne Kondo, Renato Rosaldo, Ruth Behar, Jim Thomas, and Kamala Visweswaran. Satisfies the experiential learning requirement. Prerequisite: a 200-level CTSJ class. Emphasis topic: Postcolonial Theory.

352 - Spatial Justice

This course will examine space, place, and geographies as matters of social justice. Students will read theoretical materials on the spatiality of justice. We will look at themes of shifting and overlapping communities; histories that shape present conditions of neighborhoods; intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, and their impact on meanings of place; and issues surrounding gentrification and displacement in Los Angeles neighborhoods. The course will center on a community-based research component with a community partner doing work in Los Angeles around gentrification and displacement. Students will learn to use digital technologies as tools for researching, analyzing, and contributing to community efforts.
5 units

355 - Boundaries and Borderlands

This course employs postcolonial theory to consider transformations of religions and cultures that occur when physical, experiential, geographic, and intellectual borders are crossed and blurred. How are cultures and "differences" named? From what locations? We consider cultural hybridities, re-mapped borders of culture and difference, postcoloniality, transnational migrations, and other postmodern conditions as sources for reconceiving identities, relationships between religions and cultures, and social transformations. Emphasis topic: Postcolonial theory.

357 - Law and Empire

This course employs interpretive tactics from critical legal theory and critical race theory in order to examine the use of law to justify and sustain U.S. colonial/imperial projects. We will look at how these projects are connected to the control of domestic populations (especially indigenous and racialized groups) and the expanding desire for territory. We will look at questions about nation, state, and sovereignty; law and hegemony; and relationships between "change" and maintenance of the same in legal discourse. The course will also investigate relationships between globalization, international legal regimes, and new forms of Empire. We will consider specific topics that raise questions about ongoing operations of and resistances to imperialism, including trafficking in persons, sovereignty and indigenous people's rights, the legal status of territories and protectorates and the selective use of the U.S. Constitution in those locations, and issues rising from the "war on terror."  Emphasis topic: Critical Race Theory or Postcolonial Theory.

369 - Clinical Psychology Laboratory

The Clinical Psychology Laboratory (CPL) provides experiential opportunities for students interested in graduate study in psychology, law, and social justice. Students are given the opportunity to participate in the data analysis of clinical psychological assessments. Students will also participate in research under a Human Studies Committee approved project, with the goal for an early exposure to the field, and with the objective to yield research data for presentation or publication. In some projects, students may have limited opportunities to observe and participate in forensic psychological assessments as prescribed in the respective protocols. Prerequisite: instructor interview and approval required. May be repeated three times for credit.
2 units

370 - Marx, Freud, and the Frankfurt School

This seminar will explore the origins of the world famous Frankfurt School, a group of German social philosophers and theoreticians which emerged at the Institute for Social research of the University of Frankfurt am Main in the 1920s who wanted a) to analyze the conditions of modern capitalism and its impact on society in general, on family and social structures, value systems and mass culture, b) critically review the theories of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Max Weber, and c) to establish the principles and foundations of a ‘critical theory.’ We’ll read and discuss major works by Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Siegfried Kracauer, Leo Loewenthal and others. The seminar will focus on the ‘first phase’ of the Frankfurt School, its beginnings and its work and development during the thirties and forties – when the school relocated to New York and many of its collaborators lived in other American cities or abroad - and the immediate post WWII period. (A second seminar will follow next year and explore the school’s development and its world wide impact in the sixties and seventies.) The course is taught in English. Students minoring or majoring in German will read some of the original texts (especially Marx, Freud, Benjamin, and Kracauer) in German. Prerequisite:Junior/senior standing.  Same as GERM 370

380 - Psycho Analysis: Freud

The work of Sigmund Freud continues to be of signal importance to students of literature, psychology, and feminist social theory. This course is designed to provide students with an in depth knowledge of his work as a model of intellectual courage and as a great and problematic achievement of the human imagination. The course will rely on the work of historian Peter Gay, Freud, a Life for our Time, for a well-contextualized treatment of Sigmund Freud's life and work. There will be close readings of three of Freud's seminal works, The Interpretation of Dreams, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, and Beyond the Pleasure Principle. We will also read two case studies central to the emergent feminist critique and re-analysis of Freud's work: Anna O. and Dora, an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. In addition to critically evaluating his contributions to contemporary thought, this course will employ Freud as a great writer. The assignments will therefore emphasize the recognition and imitation of Freud's skill as a writer. There will be four writing assignments from the different psychoanalytic genres: case history, dream interpretation, death-wish analysis, and an exercise in psychoanalytic theory. The course will be taught as a seminar with an emphasis on student participation. Prerequisite: a 200-level CTSJ class. Emphasis topic: Feminist and Queer Studies. Satisfies experiential learning requirement.

384 - Bataille

A close reading of the works of Georges Bataille, including The Impossible, The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge, The Accursed Share, On Nietzsche, Story of the Eye, The Dead Man, and Collected Poems. Prerequisite: 1st year students cannot enroll in this class.

386 - Critical Blackness

Critical Race Theorists have begun to describe a "new blackness," "critical blackness," post-blackness," and "unforgivable blackness." This emergent scholarship, which describes a feminist New Black Man, also seeks to "queer blackness" and to articulate a black sexual politics that addresses a "new racism." By calling us to examine the possibility of a black political solidarity that escapes the problems of identity politics, this scholarship provokes We Who Are Dark to imagine more complex and free identities. This course invites all of us to engage this scholarship.

390 - CTSJ Junior Seminar: Interventions

The CTSJ Junior Seminar is designed to develop students' methodological sophistication and theoretical skills in anticipation of the senior comprehensive project. Students will be required to acquire an applicable understanding of the range of archives and the complex interdisciplinary methodological strategies used in Critical Theory and Social Justice. They are also to develop an understanding of the meaning of the CTSJ comprehensive project as an "intervention." Prerequisite: Junior year standing.

395 - Special Topics in Critical Theory - Social Justice

An advanced seminar in Critical Theory - Social Justice. Prerequisite: a 200-level class in CTSJ or permission of instructor. May be repeated for credit.

397 - Independent Study in CTSJ

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.
2 or 4 units

490 - Senior Seminar in Critical Theory - Social Justice

This course is offered in conjunction with CTSJ majors' ongoing research for the senior thesis. Seminar meetings will be devoted to discussion and critique of students' work in progress and to close readings of a select few texts in Critical Theory - Social Justice. Prerequisite: senior CTSJ majors only.

499 - Honors Project in Critical Theory - Social Justice

Prerequisite: permission of the department.


Regular Faculty

Donna Maeda, chair

Professor, Critical Theory and Social Justice

B.A., St. Olaf College; Ph.D., USC J.D., Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley)

Mary Christianakis

Associate Professor, Critical Theory and Social Justice

B.A., UCLA; M. Ed., UCLA; M.A., Loyola Marymount University; Ph.D., UC Berkeley

G. Elmer Griffin

Professor, Critical Theory and Social Justice

B.A., Pacific Union College; Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary

Heather Lukes

Assistant Professor, Critical Theory and Social Justice

B.A., UC Berkeley; M.A., Ph.D., UCLA