Feminist Activism, NGOization and the Global Gender Equality Regime: Transnational and Regional Perspectives (2017/18)

Course Description: 

This course is about the making of the global gender equality regime and the ways in which it shapes and is shaped by feminist activism in different world regions that are hierarchically positioned vis-à-vis each other. It covers the period starting with the UN International Women's Year in 1975 until the present day. Specifically, it explores NGOization as a key theme in feminist activism in the era of globalization and neoliberalism. The course is divided in two parts. The first part focuses on the historical formation of the global gender equality agenda as led by UN World Conferences on Women (1975 Mexico, 1980 Copenhagen, 1985 Nairobi and 1995 Beijing), processes of NGOization and feminists' engagement in gender politics within a state-civil society transnational governance framework, and main developments in gender equality and global governance in the 21st century.  The second part offers recent perspectives from three world regions, namely Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa, and Central and South America. Examples from these regions will provide students with in-depth understanding of how feminist activists negotiate the terms of gender politics by mediating between their local, national and regional contexts and global frameworks. 

Learning Outcomes: 

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Have a basic knowledge on the formal mechanisms of and the discurses around the global gender equality regime (from 1975 until the present day) and be able to situate it in a politico-historical context,
  • Have an understanding of feminist theoretical and empirical contributions to the debates on activism and NGOization in the context of globalization and neoliberalism,
  • Be equipped to analyze and problematize feminists' participation in global processes and their strategic use of the mechanisms of global governance across different world regions,
  • Have an understanding of how transnational processes as well as processes of gender, sexuality, class, nation/ethnicity and culture/religion influence the ways in which feminist activists relate to other (state, non-state and global) actors in the complex field of gender politics,
  • Gain more in-depth knowledge on a concrete case and develop their research and analytical skills by writing a source-based essay.

Attendance and participation.

Attendance and participation are an important part of students' learning process as well as their grade. The format of each class will be a short, 10–15 minute introduction by the instructor followed by class discussion. The introduction will provide historical and contextual information on the theme of each week. Students are expected to come to class having carefully read the required readings assigned for the week and to summarize as well as critically engage with the theoretical insights, key arguments and the evidence presented in the texts. Students are encouraged to bring in discussion questions and to reflect on the relevance of the texts to the topic of the course. Each student is allowed to miss one class throughout the term without an excuse. In the student is absent more than once they need to inform the instructor in advance and write an additional review essay based on the required reading of the missed class.

Review essay.

Each student should write two review essays throughout (during) the term. The first essay is due no later than Week 6 and the second essay is due no later than Week 11. The review essay should be 1000 words long (around 4 pages double-spaced) and provide a brief summary of the theoretical insights, key arguments and the evidence presented in the required readings assigned for the specific week. In addition, the essay should discuss, from a critical perspective, how the readings relate to each other and how they contribute to the understanding of the theme of the week in particular and to the topic of the course in general. Review essays should be emailed to the instructor on the day before the related session(the latest by midnight). Late submission will result in 3 points (for each day) off of the final grade.

Term paper.

Students are expected to write a source-based essay of 2500–3000 words (around 10–12 pages double-spaced) to complete the course. The essay should prove the student's ability to critically engage with an original source (policy or activism-related) by putting this material into historical context and relating it to some of the relevant literature provided in the course reader. The use of further literature will be additionally valued. Term paper proposals are due Week 6. Each student will have a consultation session with the instructor on their chosen topic after submitting their proposal. Term papers are due (TBA) and should be sent via email to the instructor. Late submission without excuses will result in 5 points (for each day) off of the final grade.


Attendance and participation 25%

Review essays (2) 30%

Term paper 45%