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Course Info

  • Course Number / Code:
  • WGS.454J (Spring 2007) 
  • Course Title:
  • Identity and Difference 
  • Course Level:
  • Undergraduate 
  • Offered by :
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
    Massachusetts, United States  
  • Department:
  • Anthropology 
  • Course Instructor(s):
  • Prof. Heather Paxson 
  • Course Introduction:

  • 21A.218J / SP.454J / WGS.454J Identity and Difference

    Spring 2007

    Course Highlights

    21A.218J / SP.454J / WGS.454J Identity and Difference

    Spring 2007

    Person's shadow against a rocky wall; shadow is off-center, slightly to the left, and is full body.
    The shadow of a person. Often, our identities are not concrete, fixed things but constantly adaptive, dynamic performances. This course deals with these issues and more. (Image courtesy of Josh Otis.)

    Course Description

    How can the individual be at once cause and consequence of society, a unique agent of social action and also a social product? This course explores how identities, whether of individuals or groups, based on single behaviors or institutional practices, are produced, maintained, and transformed. Students will be introduced to various theoretical perspectives that are used to make sense of identity formation, including essentialism, constructivism, stigma, deviance, discourse, and performance. We will explore the utility of these terms in discussing issues of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.

    Recommended Citation

    For any use or distribution of these materials, please cite as follows:

    Heather Paxson, course materials for 21A.218J/SP.454J Identity and Difference, Fall 2006. MIT OpenCourseWare (, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Downloaded on [DD Month YYYY].


This course content is a redistribution of MIT Open Courses. Access to the course materials is free to all users.

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