Health Activism

How do conceptions of "health" relate to ideological assumptions about gender, race, class, and sexuality? In this course we will explore these questions through a close examination of recent and contemporary activist movements that have attempted to challenge contemporary conceptions of health and models of disease. Case studies will include the 1970s women's health movement(s), feminist responses to the "epidemic" of anorexia in the 1980s, and the ongoing reproductive rights/justice movement, ACT UP and AIDS activism, breast cancer, and environmental activism, and mental health activism in the era of psychopharmacology. In each case, we will consider how activists frame the problem, the tactics they use to mobilize a diverse group of social actors around the problem, and their success in creating a social movement that challenges contemporary medical models and the ideological assumptions that inform them. The course also introduces students to recent interdisciplinary scholarship on social movements.