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Unit information: Philosopher Queens in 2021/22

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Unit name Philosopher Queens
Unit code POLI30041
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Alix Dietzel
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

Philosopher Queens provides an alternative, critical, history of political thought to the standard course on political philosophy, which is typically centred around white, Western, male scholars. Philosopher Queens focuses instead on the sexist and racist nature of political philosophy, ensuring students understand that women’s ideas being left out of the ‘canon’ is no accident. The first three weeks of the course centre around critical analysis of political philosophy by feminist and post-colonial scholars. This literature exposes the deep power structures that exist within the discipline and explores how this has marginalised and silenced women through the epochs. The focus of these first three weeks is on the nature of patriarchy, particularly the racist and sexist assumptions that underline the discipline of political philosophy.

The unit then turns to a critical engagement with female philosophers and their ideas – spanning from women in ancient times (Hypathia 300 BC), to middle ages (Lalla 1300s), to the early modern period (Mary Wollstonecraft 1700s), up to contemporary political philosophers (Angela Davis, Sophie Bosede Oluwole, Iris Marion Young, Azizah Y, Al-Hibri, 1900s and 2000s). These women have been chosen for two reasons: one, because of their critical engagement with patriarchy, whether explicit or implicit, and two, in the case of over half of the women, because they are non-white and and/or non-Western. The second reason is important because it aims to counteract the racist tendencies usually found in political philosophy. Each woman will be historically contextualized, focusing not only on the key ideas she put forward, but also what has been left unsaid and why. In addition, students will consider how each woman reached particular communities at distinct periods in time, in order to understand the power they held relative to the epochs they found themselves in. Finally, students will explore the nature of patriarchy at the time, to understand why her work has been marginalised from the ‘canon’. The final week of the unit allows students to reflect on what they have learned through this critical retelling of the history of political thought, allowing for discussion on how we might de-colonise the university curriculum as a whole.

Overall, then, unit aims to de-colonize the curriculum by exposing the deeply problematic nature of the discipline of political philosophy and putting the ideas of women, and in particular women of colour, at the forefront of learning, rather than relegated to one week on gender. It presents a critical retelling of the history of political philosophy, from ancient to present times. This retelling opens students up to discussing the wider issue of de-colonising the university.

The unit aims to:

  • Provide students with an in-depth understanding of the racist and patriarchal nature of political philosophy, ensuring they understand the power dynamics that have persisted through history
  • Engage students with the work of women that are typically cast aside in political philosophy courses, contextualising each woman in her historical time
  • Ensure students understand the shifting nature of patriarchy, focusing on how women have been marginalized in different epochs
  • Provide students with experience of retelling the history of political thought, allowing for a broader discussion on de-colonising the curriculum at university
  • Equip students with transferable skills, including the ability to evaluate advanced arguments and theories, employ both primary and secondary sources, present reasoned and effective arguments in written and oral form, to pursue independent learning, and to show critical judgment.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Understand the deeply racist and sexist nature of the discipline of political philosophy
  • Write confidently on the nature of patriarchy in political philosophy
  • Demonstrate an in depth understanding of the work of female philosophers, including a contextualized understanding of their work and how this relates to the shifting nature of patriarchy over the epochs
  • Be able to discuss an ‘alternative’ history of political philosophy and engage with debates surrounding the de-colonisation of the university

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Information

Essay 1 Summative – 1500 words (25%)

Essay 2 Summative – 2500 words (75%)

Both essays assess all learning outcomes.


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How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.