This course examines the impact of war, militarization, and global conflict on women’s lives. From past American wars to contemporary questions of terrorism and refugee migration, we will examine women’s historical and ongoing roles as soldiers, revolutionaries and guerillas, spies and traitors, wives and mothers of servicemen, sex workers and “comfort women,” industrial war workers and suicide bombers. Students will be invited to look beyond the conventional image of women as victims and instead to critique their active roles as participants in combat, patriotism, resistance and global peace movements, as well as diplomacy. Central to the discussion will be the ways that racial and religious identity emerge as causes of civil war, assigning women functions based on regional and family loyalties, rather than gender.
Through readings, written assignments, in-port touring and analysis of rare film footage, students will become well-versed in the following themes:
- the history of women’s participation in warfare,
- gender ideology in the Cold War, World War II and the Vietnam conflict;
- the development of racial segregation and ideology as a result of conflict in both the U.S. and South Africa;
- the global phenomenon of rape as a war crime;
- perspectives on women, security and regional responses to terrorism.
Field WorkCountry: Vietnam
Date: February 13, 2019
We will begin our day by touring the War Remnants Museum and Southern Women museum in Ho Chi Minh City for curated exhibits and reflections on the long era of conflict. Then we will visit the Cu Chi underground tunnels for an up-close look at the conditions and survival strategies for Viet Cong guerrillas. While this is a standard field trip combo for Semester at Sea (and for foreign tourists generally), it is one of the most challenging for American visitors. We will have unique opportunities to consider gender issues of the war, including the roles played by both young and old women in guerrilla warfare and propaganda, and the plight of Vietnamese children fathered by U.S. servicemen.
- To immerse ourselves in both physical and historical conditions of the U.S.-Southeast Asian conflict.
- To engage with the roles local women played in the war and compare them with experiences and views of American servicewomen and wives.
- To investigate how ideals of protecting “women and children first” fail in wartime and to expand our understanding of ways that women act as aggressors, spies, healers and diplomats, as well as curators of the past.