Women’s and gender history is a strong and flourishing field at UNC-Chapel Hill. The field is broadly defined, intersects with the interests of a large number of faculty members, and is thoroughly integrated into the culture of the department. It is also structured to provide students with many choices and a great deal of flexibility. Our distinguished and diverse faculty offers a wide range of regularly taught courses that afford students the opportunity to study the history of women and gender around the world and add depth and perspective to the curricula of all history graduate students, regardless of their main fields of study. Courses focus on transnational or global perspectives and encompass South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America; medieval, early modern, and modern Europe; and the United States, including specialized study of Native Americans, African Americans, and the American South. Topics of special interest to our faculty include the history of family, work, and welfare; the history of women’s movements; the gendered history of the nation, race, and ethnicities; the history of colonialism; the history of masculinity, the history of sexuality; the history of violence, the military, war and peace; and the gendered history of popular culture and collective memory. In addition, we provide opportunities to explore the discipline of women’s and gender history itself—that is, we regularly offer classes that introduce students to the foundational theories and methodologies for studying women’s and gender history.
Our courses attract not only history students, but also students in literature, art history, anthropology, and other academic disciplines. History students, in turn, may acquire interdisciplinary skills by taking courses offered in departments and curricula across the University. These include courses in Women’s and Gender Studies, the University Program in Cultural Studies, American Studies, Latin American Studies, and Asian Studies. Our students also have the opportunity to gain valuable research skills by working with the Southern Oral History Program and the Center for the Study of the American South. Our program’s close cooperation with Duke University enables UNC students to take women’s and gender history courses at Duke and to include Duke faculty on their committees. Students and faculty also participate in events that bring together scholars interested in women’s and gender history from other area schools and the National Humanities Center.
Since the academic year 2007–2008, the History Department offers a concentration in women’s and gender history within the undergraduate major. This concentration enables students to think globally and comparatively, taking advantage of the faculty who offer courses on women and gender in a wide variety of geographical areas and time periods. Courses in this concentration examine the unique experiences of women and men from a gender perspective in a variety of regional and historical contexts from the Antiquity to the recent past. Two important themes are the struggles for equal rights of women in the economy, politics, society and the family, as well as the complex constructions of gender norms and images, and their consequences for all aspects of political, social, and cultural life.
Graduate students at UNC-CH work within one of the department’s “major fields” such as women’s and gender history, European history, or Latin American history. Students interested in women and gender have two options:
- Students may choose women’s and gender history as their major field. Courses and comprehensive examinations will help students who select this option to build expertise in global and theoretical approaches to women’s and gender history, as well as in a conventionally defined field, such as U.S. history. For more information see the Graduate Student Handbook.
- Students may work primarily within another major field (such as African or U.S. history) but emphasize women’s and gender history within it (by taking women’s and gender history as your “second field,” or by taking a segment of your comprehensive examinations specifically on women’s and gender history).
Students may designate women’s and gender history as their major field when they apply for admission to the program. Those more comfortable within a traditional and regionally-defined field, may decide to select the second option but to indicate a strong interest in gender and women in their statement of purpose. Students who change their mind after a year or two of study, may do so without penalty. Prospective students interested in our program and in discussing the suitability of this department for their interests are encouraged to contact faculty members whose interests are closest to their own.
For information on the women’s and gender history field graduate comprehensive exams, consult the Graduate Student Handbook.