Critical Theory & Social Justice


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.

107 - Introduction to Postcolonial Studies

This course will introduce students to major concepts, theories, and intellectual inquiries in the area of postcolonial studies. Students will engage with broad questions around knowledge production, representation, and subjectivities through the examination of topics such as decolonization, migrations, transnationalism, diaspora, cultural productions, and practices of resistance. The course will look at relationships between postcolonial studies and critical race, feminist, and queer theories.

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 take place Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall with both Occidental College students and incarcerated students from the BJN Juvenile Hall. It will focus on the uses of the visual and performing arts, spoken word and Hip Hop as a tool for positive social change, specifically examining the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). Artists and activists have made use of artistic expression in efforts to educate about the PIC. By examining movements such as The Black Arts Movement, Theatre of the Oppressed and Hip Hop Theatre, students will gain an understanding of tangible ways in which artists have shaped and addressed social issues. Through collaboration with each other, students will create artistic and dialogical spaces for critical thinking. Students will create arts based workshops which they will present to classmates. Students do not need to be artists to participate in the course, however, creative building will be an integral part of the curriculum. At the end of the course, there will be a closing ceremony in which components of the workshops will be presented to the community, including the Warden and other officials. Readings include work by Augusto Boal, Paolo Friere, Christian Parenti and Manning Marable. Satisfies the experiential learning requirement. Prerequisite: Sophomore Standing and over the age of 18. Instructor permission required.

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 - Feminist Rhetoric and Social Change

This course is an introduction to feminist rhetorical history and criticism, as it foregrounds the study of how women “stand and speak” using rhetorical strategies to address social and cultural issues that impact them. This class positions the study of feminist rhetorics within the larger study of language and discourse theories, as we examine how social relations, power, knowledge, and identities are constituted through private and public rhetorical acts. Through our readings, we will engage a wide range of contributions to a rhetorical critical history by women who, either as practitioners or theorists, advanced their visions of social change and acted to implement them. Course readings will begin in antiquity to provide a foundation for our study, though much of our material will focus on texts from the nineteenth-century to the present to examine the intersections of gender and rhetoric. Through this work, we will challenge the seeming erasure of women from this critical history and interrogate the notion of “feminist rhetoric” as merely a corollary to a masculinist tradition. Assignments will include critical essays and a visual rhetoric project on representations of women in the media and popular culture. Same as WRD 265

280 - Rastafari

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

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

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.

  • Phone: (323) 259-2749
  • Betsy Dillon, Administrative Assistant: