Q&A With Angie Harris, Ph.D
Angie Harris, Ph.D., is Director of the Center for Gender and Sexualities Studies and the Gender and Sexualities Studies Program at Marquette University. This summer, she will lead a group of students to Cape Town, South Africa for the course "Gender, Sexualities and Culture in South Africa."
1.) Can you describe this study abroad program--what students will study and what they will do?
Gender, Sexualities, and Feminism in South Africa and the United States: A Comparison, is a study abroad 6 credit course in Gender and Sexualities Studies and a 3 credit course in Social Welfare and Justice. The purpose of this class is to introduce students to the many discussions concerning gender, sex, sexualities, feminism, Black feminism, and womanism, while also exploring the unique sociocultural issues impacting Blacks in South Africa and the United States. Additionally, though service learning, students will have the opportunity to apply much of the information that they have learned through course lectures and readings in a real world setting to serve the needs of a community based organization serving marginalized populations in Cape Town.
There are 4 units to the course. Unit 1 and 2 will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, and Units 3 and 4 are entirely online back in the U.S or where students might live or are traveling. While in Cape Town, the class will be taught in a hybrid manner, incorporating both face-to-face meetings, online reading and activities, and service learning experiences. We will also have the opportunity to visit a number of tourist attractions, such as the Robben Island Museum and the District Museum. Once we’ve left Cape Town, we will meet online as a class where students will compare what they learned from the readings and their Service Learning experiences.
2.) What makes this program unique compared to other summer study abroad programs?
No other program examines the ways in which the various national, sociocultural, and historical contexts shape lived experiences surrounding race, gender, and sexualities among Blacks in South Africa and the United States. Additionally, students have the opportunity to somewhat tailor the program to fit their interest and needs. For example, students can earn 3 credits in Social Welfare and Justice or, if they do more work, can earn 6 credits in Gender and Sexualities Studies.
3.) Your research and teaching interests intersect with many of the prominent social issues currently impacting South Africa. How will your expertise assist the students while they are there?
My research and teaching interests are the sociology of health and illness, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, sociology of religion, urban studies, and social movements. I study social problems within marginalized communities and, more specifically, how disadvantaged groups understand, construct, and respond to health issues as well as how the marginalization and stigmatization they experience impact their access to healthcare. There are a number of ways in which my research will intersect with what students will learn in the class, for example, we will look at HIV/AIDS and a number of other health issues that impact Black communities in Cape Town and in the U.S. My work on social constructionism will help students understand the sociocultural factors that influence how different health issues are experienced differently within various communities.
4.) What are a few takeaways you hope students will gain by attending this program?
Through this course, students will be able to understand the constructed nature of gender and sexualities within different cultures and communities and will be able to compare and contrast the lived realities of gender and sexualities in different cultures. Additionally, students will be able to identify and analyze some of the injustices connected to gender and sexualities in South Africa, and the forms of activism South Africans are employing to address them. In the end, I want students to be able to better understand how sociocultural forces influence how people experience the intersections of gender, sexualities, race, and social class.
5.) How will this program be beneficial to the students in the College of Arts and Sciences relating to their degrees?
Beyond the fact that the course work, readings, and lectures will be pretty interesting and students will have the opportunity to travel to Cape Town – which is a once in a life time opportunity – students will also be able to earn 3 credits in Social Welfare and Justice and, if they do more work, can earn 6 credits in Gender and Sexualities Studies, which is a third of the credits needed for a minor in Gender and Sexualities Studies.
6.) How does this program compare/contrast with the current semester long South Africa Service Learning Program?
Although students learn though service learning experiences in both programs, this program is unique in that it provides students with service learning experiences that help them to better understand the ways in which the various national, sociocultural, and historical contexts shape lived experiences surrounding race, gender, and sexualities among Blacks in South Africa.
7.) What are a few takeaways you personally hope to gain by leading this program?
Like most of the students, this will be my first time in South Africa, so I am looking forward to experiencing the culture and learning right along with the students!
To apply, visit the program website.