Engendering Politics:Feminist Contributions to Political Theory - PO593

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) DR I MacKenzie







In western countries feminism has had a considerable impact on the conduct of practical politics. The purpose of this module is to consider the ways in which feminist thought has influenced political theory. Returning to some of the earliest feminist critiques of modern politics by Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill, we examine a range of feminist approaches to politics, asking what unifies them and where and why they diverge from one another. Throughout, we ask how meaningful it is to speak of feminism in the singular: given the immense variety displayed by feminist thinking, should we talk about feminisms? Another guiding question will be the extent to which these approaches pose a fundamental challenge to traditional political theory. Can feminist theories of politics just 'add women and stir'? Or do feminist approaches compel us to new or different methodologies, conceptual tools and even definitions of politics?


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Schedule: 11 contact hours; one lecture per week for 11 weeks
Learning outcomes: Lectures will aim at introducing the key aspects of feminist political theory, and related them to the main positive and normative debates in Politics and International Relations.

Schedule: 11 contact hours, one seminar per week for 11 weeks. Seminars will be based on discussions of the topics introduced in the lectures and the reading done independently by students.

Method of assessment

Reconstruction - Students reconstruct the argument of a core text in their own words (20%)
Essay - Students write one essay of maximum 4000 words (80%)

Indicative reading

Rosemarie Putnam Tong, Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction, 3rd Edition, Boulder and Oxford: Westview Press, 2008.
Tina Chanter, Gender: Key Concepts in Philosophy, London: Continuum, 2006.
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, London: Penguin, 2004.
Catherine McKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge, 1999.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

• 12.1: Knowledge of the main questions and concerns of feminist approaches to politics;
• 12.2: Interpretation of some of the key texts by feminist writers;
• 12.3: Discussion of feminist debates in their own words;
• 12.4: Critical evaluation of different feminist perspectives and ability to situate them vis-à-vis one another;
• 12.5: Assessment of the challenges feminism poses to mainstream theories of politics;
• 12.6: Evaluation of the relationship between feminist theories and developments within practical politics.

The module will contribute to the following learning outcomes of all single and joint honours programmes in Politics and International Relations (for example the BA in Politics and International Relations):

Knowledge and understanding of:
• PLO A1: key concepts, theories and methods used in the study of politics and international relations and their application to the analysis of political ideas, institutions, practices and issues in the global arena. (12.1, 12.4, 12.5, 12.6)
• PLO A6: the contestable nature of many concepts and different approaches to the study of Politics and International Relations. (12.1, 12.2, 12.3, 12.4, 12.5)
• PLO A7: the normative and positive foundations of political ideas (12.1, 12.2, 12.3, 12.4, 12.5, 12.6)
• PLO A8: the reliance of Politics on knowledge from cognate disciplines (12.1, 12.2, 12.3, 12.4)
• PLO A11: different interpretations of world political events and issues (12.4, 12.5, 12.6).

Subject-specific skills:
• PLO C1: understanding the nature and significance of politics as a human and global activity. (12.1, 12.2, 12.3, 12.4, 12.5, 12.6)
• PLO C2: application of concepts, theories and methods used in the study of politics and international relations to the analysis of political ideas, institutions, practices and issues in the global arena. (12.4, 12.5, 12.6)
• PLO C3: evaluate different interpretations of world political events and issues. (12.1, 12.4, 12.5, 12.6)
• PLO C5: knowledge of competing approaches to theories and concepts of politics and international relations. (12.1, 12.2, 12.3, 12.4, 12.5, 12.6)
• PLO C6: understanding the nature of political conflict between and within states. (12.1, 12.5, 12.6)

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