Gender and Politics

Course Description: 

This course aims to introduce the students to selected issues of the "Gender and politics" literature that has evolved considerably over the last 20 years and now permeates all sub-fields of political science, from political theory to comparative politics, public policy, political economy and international relations.

The course is structured into two main parts: in the first part we aim to understand the importance of gender as a key structuring dimension of power relations across time and space. We start out by reading some key authors of modern liberal political thought, before looking into how gender is constructed today socially, institutionally (through institutional rules and framework, policies, political agendas, and through the definition of core concepts) and academically (through the ways in which gender issues are (not) incorporated into research agendas and curricula). Based on this first part, the students develop their own ideas about a topic that they would like to explore in more detail (by mid-semester).

The second part of the course is then devoted, on the one hand, to the progressive elaboration of these small projects (in small groups), on the basis of the available literature and documentation (or, if feasible, some small-scale collection of original data). On the other hand, we will continue our overview of gender and politics issues with some additional common readings and possibly one or two guest lectures.
These group projects will be synthesised in the form of a (loosely structured) final paper that will account for the gained knowledge as much as for the reflections developed in the process of doing the projects. The projects will also be presented orally to the other students towards the end of the semester.

The course leaves ample space for the participants to explore their own topics and contexts of interest. It aims to raise awareness for the importance of gender as a central dimension of politics, and encourages critical debates over how societies and political systems deal with the gendered aspects of politics, and how we, as social scientists, should best approach them. Throughout the course we will keep an eye on how gender intersects with other dimensions such as ethnicity, religion, age or (dis)ability, to create complex webs of inequality.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the semester, the participants will have acquired an awareness of the relevance of gender issues in politics and political science, and in particular:

  • a capacity to identify gender-relevant issues in various contexts and to reflect upon them critically;
  • theoretical and practical knowledge on selected themes in the field of gender and politics;
  • practical research skills (documentary research in particular);

They will also have acquired some group-work competencies.


The assessment will be based on the following:
Active participation and small assignments (20%).
Assignments will be set from week to week (sometimes from session to session) during the first 9 weeks of the semester, generally in connection with (or in extension of) the required reading(s). They will require some reflection (short comments on the required readings) or a bit of practical work (collection of relevant information or illustrations). They should be handed in in printed format at the very beginning of each class and be uploaded to e-learning. A total of 10 such assignments will be set. Each student has to hand in 8 of them. These assignments are graded on a pass/fail basis only. Failed assignments have to revised until they are of sufficient quality to pass.
Individual written essays (30%)
Of the small assignments mentioned under the previous point, two should be developed further in the form of short, well structured written essays (2 pages/800 words each max.). These are formally graded (on the full CEU grading scale). They are due by Friday 18th November in printed form and upload to e-learning.
Group project (50%)
In groups of 2-4 students, the participants will elaborate a small research on a topic of their choice within the field of gender and politics and present it in the form of (a) a written document, (b) an oral presentation for the other participants. To facilitate the elaboration of this project, several class sessions will be devoted partly or entirely to group work, especially in the second half of the semester.

The written paper does not need to be a fully structured research paper, but will consist of various components (such as reading notes, empirical elements, reflexive components) that can first be elaborated by the students individually and will then be put together and processed during the group work sessions. Only some components need to be elaborated in common: those can mostly be discussed during the sessions devoted to group work.
Some coordination among the group member outside class hours will be necessary, but the students are not expected to be available for a lot group work outside class.
The oral presentations will take place in the last few sessions of the course (exact schedule to be decided later).
The grade for this group work will be usually be the same for all group members. However, if it should turn out that a group member contributed significantly more, or less, than the others, his/her grade might be different. The instructor will monitor the group work as far as necessary to ensure that everyone is participating equitably.
Deadline for submission of short essays and final paper: Thursday 8th December 12pm (to be confirmed)

Late submission, word limits and poor writing policy:
Occasional and reasonable late submissions of assignments are not sanctioned. Recurrent late submissions (of any of the requested tasks) result in a reduction of the final grade of up to 7 points (on a 0-100 scale), i.e. one full CEU grade point (from B+ to B for example).
Word limitations are generally indicative; reasonable violations of word limits are not sanctioned. Unreasonable recurrent violations of word limits will be discussed with the student and may result in a penalty on the final grade.
Poor writing in the short weekly assignments will be signalled to the students in question, but is not sanctioned. Poor writing in the two individual essays due in November and in the final collective paper due in December may entail a penalty of up to 5 points on the final grade. Students having issues with writing are advised to consult with the Academic Writing Centre.

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