UC Berkeley to Offer Class on Bathroom Politics

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By Andrew Stiles | 4:04 pm, December 14, 2016
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Bathroom politics swept the nation in 2016, thanks to the North Carolina legislature and its controversial HB-2 bill, which mandated individuals use public restrooms that correspond to the genders on their birth certificates.

The bathroom debate is likely to continue in the coming year. Students at the University of California-Berkeley, for example, will soon be able to enroll in a course examining “public restrooms and the politics of needing to go.”

The course, which is being offered by the university’s department of theater, dance, and performance studies, will force students to confront the public restroom as a “charged social site,” and consider compelling bathroom-related questions, including:

Who has access to it? Who cleans it? How have public restrooms segregated people into strict categories of gender, race, class and ability? What does it mean for a public space to be designed for private activities? Who are we socially when our bodies need to go?

Students will augment their study by reading “academic texts in the fields of performance studies, queer and transgender studies, disability studies, critical race studies, homelessness, civil engineering, and design, as well as works of dramatic literature.”

Other courses offered by the theater department in spring 2017 include:

  • Undocumented Subjects: Performance and Immigration in/outside the US
    • Students will consider “literary and visual materials representing violence, death, and sex.”
  • What a Body Can Do
    • Invites students to “consider how we choreograph our humanity and explore the physical qualities of our contemporary moment.”
  • Performance Workshop: Performing the 1960s 
    • Offers students a “better grasp [of] that profound, complex and influential decade,” and its influence on current movement such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter.