PLCP/PT 8500 Feminist Theory, Feminist Practice Spring 2017, co-taught with Lawrie Balfour This seminar approaches feminist theory and practice as a series of political questions. What is a woman? What is gender? What is theory, and who can theorize? What is the relationship between theory and political struggle? These questions have generated a range of answers across multiple fields of political action, activism, and scholarship. The seminar will begin with an examination of classic answers to these questions and a survey of feminist methods through exemplary recent works in feminist theory, both within and beyond political theory and empirical political science. The remainder of the course will focus on key political concepts and topics—e.g., women’s movements, the boundaries of the state and citizenship, development and neoliberalism, and war and imperialism—through readings drawn from multiple disciplines.
WGS 3810 Feminist Theory Spring 2017 This course provides an overview of the historical bases and contemporary developments in feminist theorizing. We analyze a range of feminist theories, including liberal, Marxist, radical, and postmodern feminism. The course explores how these feminist theories apply to a number of themes, including the body, sexuality, imperialism, globalization, and transnationalism. Throughout the course we address race, class, national, and cultural differences among women. One of the most significant contributions of feminist theory has been to critically investigate how structures of power oppress, dominate, and exploit “others,” with a focus on women. Through the assigned readings and class discussions, students will learn how to use feminist tools from different traditions to analyze these multiple and intersecting forms of injustice. The objectives of this course are 1) to provide an overview of contemporary feminist theories; 2) to examine competing foundations, arguments, and positions within these theories; 3) to develop the analytical skills needed to critically evaluate the assumptions, arguments, and debates among contemporary theorists; and 4) to apply this knowledge to a final research paper
PLCP 7500 Identity and the State Spring 2016 What is identity? How are identities made? What are some of the challenges and consequences of identity and identity politics? This course investigates these questions through comparisons of class, race, gender, ethnicity, and nation during each class session. We begin with how social scientists define identity, the types of issues they study related to identity, and the shift at the turn of the century from treating identity as a given to studying it as a process. The second section of the course considers two dominant and one emerging approach to identity formation in the social sciences—constructivism, instrumentalism, and neo-primordialism—and research that integrates a variety of approaches. We then turn to two pressing challenges for students of identity: how to measure it and the relationship of identities to one another. The final section of the course addresses the consequences of identity politics, exploring how and why identity groups mobilize; violence, conflict, and war among identity groups; and the relationship of identity to democracy, political parties, voting, representation, and social policy.
PLCP 4500 Culture and Human Rights Fall 2015 Disagreement over culture and human rights is intense. At its worst, this controversy has led cultural conservatives in the Global South to label human rights as imperialist, cultural conservatives in the Global North to reject minority rights as threats to national unity and social democrats, feminists and sexuality rights activists to attack culture as irredeemably retrograde and oppressive. The result has been contestation that crosscuts people’s lives in a struggle that pits the nation, family, and faith against expanding demands for human rights.The course begins with the emergence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the human rights revolution that brought newly framed demands for social and economic rights, women’s rights, minority rights, and sexuality rights. Next, we examine how challenges to the universality of human rights intensified while obstacles to expanding rights claims proliferated. The core of the course focuses on a series of contemporary human rights controversies from around the globe. Case studies include income inequality within nations, indigenous rights in Latin America and Muslim women’s rights in Europe and India. We conclude with student presentations addressing these controversies.
PLCP 7500 Democratic Theory and Democratic Practice Spring 2014, co-taught with Jennifer Rubenstein What does political theory have to say to comparative politics? What does comparative politics have to say to political theory? How might answers to these questions inspire better research in—and across-- both fields? To address these issues, we will read work by political theorists and comparativists (and, occasionally, scholars in other subfields) writing about democratic theory and the practice of democracy. The course begins with a discussion of theory and methods. We then turn to a series of themes in democratic politics, including representation, conflict, and human rights. We ask how authors in each subfield tackle these issues and how their approaches might inform one another: what insights do theoretical arguments about power, agency, domination and injustice offer comparativists? What do insights in comparative politics about conflict, quotas, human rights, and social movements offer political theorists? We will read a wide range of mostly contemporary theorists, such as Charles Taylor, Sheldon Wolin, Anne Phillips, Jane Mansbridge, and Ian Shapiro, and draw on comparative politics readings from a number of regions, including the Americas, the Middle East and Africa, that use single case studies, large-n cross-national studies, and natural experiments.
WGS 4559 Violence & Inequalities Fall 2014 As a result of efforts by feminists and their allies, the issue of violence against women is now a concern of states, governments, communities, and individuals in the United States and around the world. The large and growing literature on gender violence is the basis for the course of study proposed here. We know that violence affects people of all classes and races. We know that some societies are less violent than others. We know that institutions vary in their responses to violence. Scholarly research across disciplines and countries helps us to see how individual motives and actions intersect with institutions like the family and the military, and structures like labor markets, to create environments where violence occurs and where it does not. This course will begin by exploring how scholars define the problem, its prevalence, causes, and consequences. Next, we focus on several areas where gender violence is pervasive: in universities, urban settings, during war, and in the global economy. The final section of the course examines prevention efforts by the health sector, feminists, and the US government. Throughout the semester class discussion will link academic research to praxis by explicitly addressing how, in our own lives and in our own community, gender violence has affected and continues to affect each one of us. This course is dedicated to the memory of those we have lost, to the wellbeing of those affected by violence now, and to our aspiration to build a world where gender violence is a thing of the past.
PLCP/WGS 3350 Gender Politics in Comparative Perspective Fall 2013 The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the field of Gender and Comparative Politics. Our focus will be on the state, how power is gendered, and the effects on women and men in the global South. Students will develop skills in comparative political analysis, gain a deeper understanding of politics in the global South and how these states construct gender, and strengthen their research and writing skills. We begin with a discussion of feminist theory and methodology, gender, and the state. We then investigate core issues in comparative politics, including democratic transition, citizenship, electoral systems, and migration, through a gender lens. Case studies include the prospects for women’s rights in North Africa, quotas for women in politics in Argentina, and the gendered impact of globalization in China. Readings are drawn from a number of disciplines, including politics, anthropology, political economy, and women’s studies.
PLCP/WGS Gender Politics in Africa Spring 2013 This course focuses on the ways social structures and institutions shape gender in sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on the state. It begins with the highly contested conceptions of gender and feminism in Africa. Next, we turn to nationalism and gendered colonial African states. With the success of national liberation movements and the rise of African women’s movements, many African countries liberalized; some became democracies. These political transformations and the spread of a human rights culture meant women in much of Africa won a greater role in politics, the third theme of the course. Their success increased hopes among feminists that the state would attack sexism. Those hopes have yet to be realized, as can be seen from an investigation of the region’s most contemporary pressing problems, including war and gender-based violence, homophobia, and HIV/AIDS.
WGS 4050 Gendered Imaginaries: the Public and Private Spheres 2008 What are the different roles of women and men in public and private life, and how do these differences vary over time and place? Why does the myth of gendered public and private spheres persist? What are its origins? How can these discriminatory imaginaries be challenged to create a more just society? This course addresses these questions by examining the public and private spheres in philosophy, and in a wide array of historical and contemporary contexts. We begin with philosophical approaches to the public and private spheres, and then study their emergence over several centuries in Western Europe. The second section of the course considers feminist critiques of these gendered imaginaries, beginning with feminist theorists. Next, through a series of case studies that include the French Revolution, colonial Africa, the “new” Australian woman, and the rise and fall of Chinese socialist feminism, we trace their historical evolution and variations. We then examine how the state, public culture, and women’s activism shape contemporary public and private imaginaries. We conclude with a discussion of the transnational public sphere and its emancipatory potential.