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Unit information: Contemporary Feminist Thought: Debates and Issues in 2015/16

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Unit name Contemporary Feminist Thought: Debates and Issues
Unit code POLI30001
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Carver
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines debates and issues in contemporary feminist thought as they relate to the central concerns of politics. Eschewing traditional typologies of feminism (liberal, socialist and radical feminism) it explores the ways in which different theorists theorize feminism, and conceptualize sex and gender. It also considers feminist epistemology and methodology. In the latter stages, it addresses particular debates and issues related to politics, such as equality and difference, and citizenship and democracy. Here readings from feminist thought are explicitly applied to 'real world' concerns, for example, maternity leave, pay and discrimination; Muslim young women, schooling and the veil; women's movement, civil society, and mass and elite participation in politics.


  1. To introduce students to contemporary feminist thought at an advanced level
  2. To introduce students to concepts of sex, gender and sexuality at an advanced level
  3. To apply feminist theory to ‘real world’ political concerns and questions
  4. To give students writing experiences outside the ‘normal’ essay/examination framework
  5. To develop analytical skills in close reading and independent research skills on self-chosen topics

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. An understanding of the main approaches to politics involving feminism, gender and sexuality studies
  2. An understanding of key issues in contemporary feminism as they pertain to politics
  3. An understanding of feminist theoretical perspectives as applied to ‘real’ world political questions and issues
  4. An ability to write clearly and analytically in genres other than essays and examinations
  5. An ability to find relevant material independently using electronic and other resources

Teaching Information

A 3 hr seminar

Assessment Information

Summative assessment:

  • ‘Feature Article’ on a feminist thinker – this is not a ‘normal essay’ (25%)
  • ‘Think-Tank Briefing’ on a feminist political issue – this is not a ‘normal essay’ (75%) Details and instructions about each piece of assessment are provided in the unit outline

The Feature Article assesses the achievement of learning outcomes 1, 3, 4 and 5. The Think-Tank Briefing assesses the achievement of learning outcomes 1, 2, 4 and 5.

Reading and References

  • Cynthia Enloe, The Curious Feminist (Berkeley and London: University of California Press paperback, 2004), ISBN 0-520-24381-1, especially the Introduction, 'Being Curious about our Lack of Feminist Curiosity', pp. 1-10.
  • Jonathan Dean, Rethinking Contemporary Feminist Politics (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), ISBN 9780230238923, On order.

Recommended film: 'Some Like It Hot', dir. Billy Wilder (1959), easily available to rent and available in the Library DVD PN1997.S5672. All the themes, concepts and issues in this unit can be found in, or read into, this film, which bears very careful watching. You may enjoy reading a forthcoming article in Contemporary Political Theory (March 2009), now posted on the Blackboard site for this unit: Terrell Carver, 'Sex, Gender and Heteronormativity: Seeing Some Like it Hot as a Heterosexual Dystopia'.