EGMT 1530: Taboo and Transgression

Years Offered: 
Quarter Offered: 
Day | Time: 
MW 11:00am-12:15pm
Session: 
Spring Quarter Four: March 16 – May 3
Years Offered: 
Quarter Offered: 
Day | Time: 
MW 5:00pm-6:15pm
Session: 
Spring Quarter Four: March 16 – May 3
Instructor: 
The idea of something that is too repulsive or too sacred for ordinary life to withstand is one of those slippery ideas that is both very common and yet hard to get a firm of grasp on. Starting in the late 19th-century, the word taboo was used to describe these prohibitions. This concept became a central one for theorists from a wide range of academic disciplines. All kinds of thinkers, from psychoanalysts and anthropologists to philosophers and poets, began to study these prohibitions as a means to formulate their ideas of what separated human civilization from the natural world. This course uses the concept of taboo, and the transgression of these taboos, as a way to pose a series of questions: 1) what kinds of rules and regulations shape the world we live in, 2) how do these prohibitions produce and negotiate human difference, 3) how and why is there inequality in the enforcement of these rules, 4) why are taboos so often attached to sexuality and sexual difference, 5) what dangers, and what possibilities, are inherent within the concept of transgression? We will navigate a wide historical and cultural field to examine how these concepts produce challenges in our communication across cultural boundaries but can also be instrumental in the formation of communities and offer the possibility of new, and perhaps more egalitarian, social arrangements. The course is divided into four sections. Each section is themed, with the intent of building up a shared set of terms and ideas. Our work will be interdisciplinary in nature, both in terms of the academic disciplines of our readings (from psychoanalysis, philosophy, critical race theory, queer theory, anthropology, trans studies, etc.) but also through our engagements with various genres, using fiction, film and the visual arts.