Your Body Your Rules: An Interdisciplinary Unpacking of Reproductive Justice

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

Are you interested in learning about the intersections of Feminist Studies and Public Health, or unpacking what it means to be the ruler of one’s own body? In this class, we will examine what lies at the crux of these questions: Reproductive Justice (RJ). Born of Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice in 1994, RJ refers to the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.

Here, students will become familiar with the RJ agenda in the United States and across the globe. Together, we will examine sexual and reproductive rights protections at both law and policy levels, whilst exploring evidence-based research and public health initiatives championing RJ. From health literacy to maternal mortality, students will learn about denials of justice and how to apply cultural competence to critique. Additionally, the class will be asked to consider the role of social determinants of health and identity during readings and class discussions.

Exercising an interdisciplinary approach, this course will interrogate the foundations, theory, and modern applications of the Reproductive Justice Framework, and illuminate how the awesome power of collaboration between disciplines can be mobilized to ensure that governments and health systems uphold sexual and reproductive rights.

Connecting the dots between health policy, community health, and feminist epistemology, this new breadth of knowledge will provide students with the practical skills needed to be agents of positive social change; empowering students to put the action in activism.

This course is structured as an introduction to both feminist studies and public health by unpacking their intersections. It applies the historically rooted theories of feminism, more specifically those of RJ, and methods of empirical study in public health to core health and human rights issues. Together, we will also draw from the scholarship of other subfields including but not limited to: gender and sexuality studies, black feminism, public policy, LGBTQ studies, psychology, and anthropology. Reading materials, lecture content, class discussions, writing assignments, and guest lecturers will focus broadly upon the following topics. The following are unified by the overarching objective of understanding how and why the Reproductive Justice Framework can and should inform related research and community interventions in Public Health, as well as the developments and initiatives in health policy and practice.

Historical Events and Foundations:
• The fight against reproductive injustice was born of which monumental historical moments? What is the history of reproductive oppression in the United States and abroad? How have our understandings and definitions of reproductive justice changed over time?

Reproductive Rights & Feminist Theory:
• What is reproductive justice? What is the Reproductive Justice Framework? How do these theoretical frameworks and approaches embody and enact feminism?

Public Health Overview:
• What is Public Health? How is this academic and professional field uniquely positioned to champion reproductive justice? Why does evidence-based research, informed by the feminist perspective, matter when discussing issues of sexual and reproductive rights?

Public Policy and Health Standards/Recommendations:
• What is health policy? Is health policy always a direct reflection of recommendations made by, and standards established by organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Human Rights Campaign, NARAL, the United Nations People’s Fund, and so on? How can law and policy uphold reproductive justice? And why is it important for Public Health professionals to be involved in these conversations?

Activism and Practice:
• In what ways are communities, both at local and international levels, advocating for the legislation and preservation of reproductive rights? In practice, what does reproductive justice look like? What does it mean to be a student activist?

In our tackling the above subjects, students will examine case studies regarding the following topic areas: healthcare systems and care coverage, sexual & reproductive health literacy, birth justice and maternal mortality, female genital cutting, sexual orientation and gender identity, interpersonal violence, prison policies, colonization, and indigenous populations.

• Understand why reproductive justice is a public health problem
• Identify the intersections of multiple disciplines
• Distinguish when and how reproductive rights have been upheld historically
• Familiar with current events related to reproductive justice
• Understand the interdisciplinary nature of Feminist Studies Public Health
• Develop college-level skills in critical thinking, writing, and public speaking
• Utilize class discussions as a platform for critique and comprehension
• Understand how and why gender shapes theories, methodologies, and modes of inquiry
• Provide information for those considering a career in any of the fields of study/professions covered

Prerequisites: As this course has an introductory nature, there are no prerequisites required. However, all enrolled students should be prepared to thoughtfully engage with course material while respecting the contributions of their peers.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPS0983
  • Length: 1 week

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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