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Passing as someone else is based on hiding your true identity, and pretending to be someone you are not. Yet, the standard reasons for passing—fear, status, love, money—fail to tell the whole story. From gender, to race, to sexual orientation, to class, individuals throughout history have adopted identities in complete opposition to their own true identity. In our culture, there are a few examples of successful passing, but most popularized examples of passing end in tragedy when the passer’s ‘true identity’ is discovered. With so much at stake, including emotional and physical danger, why would anyone try to pass in the first place? What strong motivating forces would induce someone to pass? These are questions central to the course. This interdisciplinary course explores questions of disguised or hidden identity and its relationship to gender, race, sexual orientation, and class. Students will examine the mythological and historical context of “the pretender.” They will examine the motivators for leading ‘a double life,’ the ethics of misleading the public, and the forces that lead an individual to pass. Students will also examine the psychological and socio-economic factors that lead individuals to pass on a grand scale, or to engage in everyday types of passing.

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