Social Inequality & Health Disparities: Sex, Gender and Reproduction (Spring, 2017)

Diana Romero (Hunter College and the CUNY School of Public Health, Community, Society and Health, Public Health Program)
Ananya Mukherjea (College of Staten Island, Sociology/Anthropology)

Thursdays, 6:30-8:30pm


This course brings an interdisciplinary public health (social ecological/multilevel) and sociological (critical cultural studies) lens to examine the social, historical, political and other contexts in which sex, gender and reproductive health are situated. There will be a particular focus on the role of social inequality with regard to imposition and effects of policies on diverse groups and their associated, disparate sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes. Because of the cross-cutting nature of this subject, we seek to bring together a diverse group of graduate students (eg, from sociology, public health , anthropology, political science, social welfare, gender studies, law), in order to deepen the analysis of the selected issues and provide a more valuable experience than the typical discipline-specific course. We will employ an innovative pedagogical case-study approach to conduct in-depth analyses of select SRH issues (1) as a group in class (selected by the instructors), and (2) in student pairs (selected by the students). The student-led, case-study analyses will involve their assuming the role of ‘co-instructors’ for individual class sessions, wherein they will lead the class in a discussion of the topic and their specific analysis. Toward this end, web-based and other materials on pedagogy will be included among the course materials (e.g., Pedagogy in Action: Connecting Theory to Classroom Practice, Merlot Pedagogy).

Possible instructor-led case-study topics may include:

  • Family planning/contraception and abortion in women of color past and present: population control, reproductive rights, choice, economic equality, or something else?
  • The culture and politics of male circumcision, PrEP, and condom usage as differing approaches to reducing rates of HIV transmission
  • Sexual health education and teen pregnancy: cross-national trends and policy comparison
  • The ongoing controversy regarding HPV vaccine availability to teens and young adults in the US
  • Pregnancy and childbearing — ‘intended’ or not? Interrogation of rational-based theory via quantitative measures to measure pregnancy/childbearing intentions
  • Two scenarios ‘beyond ‘choice’: conscientious objection and sex selection

For the student-led, case-study analyses, students may select from a range of possible topics, as well as propose their own, including but not limited to: LGBTQ health and rights issues; sterilization of marginalized groups and constrained choice; abstinence­-only education vis-à-vis risk of pregnancy and STIs; emergency contraception knowledge, access, and policies; US poverty policy, reproduction (family cap/child exclusion), and heteronormativity (two-parent families/paternity identification).

Our interdisciplinary analytic approach will utilize diverse primary and secondary data sources, domestic and international, as relevant, bringing both qualitative and quantitative research expertise to this co-teaching endeavor. We will engage with methods and theories from the social sciences, public health, and law (human rights) to understand how various forms of social inequality along the lines of race/ethnicity, gender, and class shape not only sexual and reproductive health experiences and outcomes but also the very meaning of reproduction and ‘reproductive illness.’ This course will equip students with the analytical tools to engage in contemporary debates and policy analyses of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and policies, that recognize the inherent diversity of experiences in this field.


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309