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What is Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies?

Women’s Studies began as a field of study in the late 1960s as a response to the exclusion of women’s contributions and perspectives from traditional academic disciplines. Early instigators of the Women’s Studies curriculum were also involved in the feminist movement, and this interconnection of academia and feminist activism continues today.

Over the past 40+ years, Women’s Studies has exploded in popularity, producing classes at nearly 600 colleges and universities in the US alone. Many undergraduate institutions, including Augsburg, offer majors and minors in Women’s Studies, and as of 2016, there are 20 PhD programs in the field in the US. In 2014, Augsburg changed the name of its program from Women’s Studies to Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies in order to reflect the ways that the field has become more inclusive in its approach to analyzing gender and sexuality.

While there are few strict rules about what Women’s Studies should be, there are a few characteristics that define the field:

  • Intersectional: While gender is a major focus of our courses, we are always attentive to the ways that experiences and identities vary depending on race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender expression, ability, nationality, age, and religion. At Augsburg, we are particularly committed to interrogating the connections and inequalities that exist not only in the US, but across the globe.
  • Interdisciplinary: We draw from the insights and contributions of many different academic disciplines, including history, English, sociology, political science, biology, and many more.
  • Research-driven: Though Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies is inherently political, it is also based on decades of research across many fields of study. Our research methods are quite diverse, including surveys, film analyses, ethnographies, oral histories, literary analyses, and even instant messenger interviews.
  • Activist: At the heart of Women’s Studies is the firm belief that academic analysis must be connected to our actions. In this way, Women’s Studies is deeply connected to Augsburg’s commitment to be involved with the Twin Cities community and with the broader world.