syllabi are available by request at laura dot sjoberg at rhul dot ac dot uk

PR3968: Gender and Armed Conflict (Fall 2021)

Despite the importance of gender in global politics, gender is still not fully integrated in the academic study of international politics. Feminist approaches are offering new views of a field previously defined as devoid of gender politics. Early IR feminists challenged the discipline to think about how its theories might be reformulated and how its understandings of global politics might be improved if gender were included as a category of analysis and if women’s experiences were part of its subject matter. IR feminists critically re-examined some of the key concepts in the field – concepts such as sovereignty, the state, and security. They began to ask new questions – such as whether it makes a difference that most foreign policy leaders, military personnel and heads of international corporations are men and why women remain relatively disempowered in matters of foreign and military policy. IR feminists have also sought to make women visible as subjects in international politics and the global economy. They draw attention to women’s invisibility and gender subordination in the theory and practice of international politics.

This particular module looks to explore the relationship between gender and armed conflict. As it does, it looks to show that ‘gender’ is not a euphemism for ‘women,’ and that women can be found many places in armed conflict other than on its sidelines or as its civilian victims. In its overview of gender and armed conflict, the module looks at armed conflict through ‘gender lenses’ (h/t Peterson and Runyan, Global Gender Issues), looking for gender and seeing what else is seen along the way. In this journey, it engages with how genders and sexualities matter in how ‘we’ see armed conflict; how armed conflict is lived and experienced; the conceptual and practical interdependence of genders, nationalisms, and militarisms; the dimensions of gender-based and sexual violence in/around armed conflict; women’s engagement in political violence; associations of femininities and peace; and a wide variety of gender-based insights about whether ‘post-conflict’ periods exist and how they can be understood.

INR 2001: Introduction to International Relations 
(taught at least twice a year, online only)

The study of International Relations (IR) looks to understand politics at a global level. The questions that IR theorists and practitioners ask are broad-ranging and complex. How do states relate? Do non-state actors affect the ways that states relate? Where should we be looking to see the operation of global politics? Do people matter in international relations? What are the major issues between states? Is there a place in global politics for security? For political economy? For the environment? Does ‘where you stand’ (what you think of global politics) depend on ‘where you sit’ (the state you are a citizen of and/or your political inclinations)? Are different perspectives on a question as basic as how the world works valid? If so, are they valuable, or confusing?

To think about these questions, you need two major tools. First, you need a basic familiarity with ‘the international’ – the states in the world, the international organizations to which they belong, their geographies, their relationships, and current events in global politics. Second, you need to know the theories that IR scholars have come up with to manage this complexity, which serve as shortcuts and tools to help us understand, explain, and predict what happens in global politics.

This course is an introduction to the contemporary analysis of international relations, and, as such, introduces students to both of these types of tools. It does so in two sets of modules running simultaneously. The first set, “Knowing Global Politics,” gives students a basic introduction to the international system, the ways that it operates, and the diverse set of states that it contains. The second set, “Theorizing Global Politics,” allows students to become familiar with the key theoretical approaches that scholars use to understand IR. Learning through these modules simultaneously, students will be expected to gain familiarity with what the global political arena looks like as well as gain literacy in the approaches to theorizing it.

INR 3333: Introduction to International Security 
(taught about every other year, sometimes fully online, sometimes in a classroom)

This course provides inherited understandings of the meaning and content of international security, and juxtaposes those understandings with critical perspectives which question whether Security Studies as traditionally constituted addresses the proper actors, the proper harms, and/or the proper scope.  In addition to asking questions about the nature of war, the dimensions of interstate conflict, and military threats from non-state actors, this course explores the possibility that security is appropriately theorized by looking at domestic violence, rape, poverty, gender subordination, and ecological destruction. It suggests that we should broaden not only what security means but who is guaranteed security.

Given these ontological interests, this course defines security broadly in multidimensional and multilevel terms – as the diminution of all forms of violence, physical, structural, and ecological; in terms of well-being and survival of the individual and her environment. It does so without ignoring or marginalizing the traditional content of security – states that fight wars. Still, it also recognizes that security as “states fighting wars” has been challenged from a number of directions since the end of the Cold War, with states; increasing interdependence, the development and proliferation of weapons technology, the increasing fluidity of borders, and the rise of non-state actors. In exploring the “war system” this course asks what security is, who merits being secured, how securing is performed, and how we know that security has been achieved.

INR 4085/WST 4930: Gender in International Relations 
(Spring 2013; Spring 2012)

Around the world, despite women’s progress, there continues to be a relatively rigid gender division of labor, between paid and unpaid work, according to economic sector, and along hierarchies. Though women do participate in the political process in most states, they are underrepresented in governments and their decision-making.  Around the world, men dominate international security apparatuses and the making and fighting of wars. The global gender order makes possible the global political order. This course explores feminist work on that gendered global political order, methodologically and substantively, with focuses on political economy, security, foreign policy, and international organizations.

PSC 3616: International Relations/International Law 
(Summer 2009, Virginia Tech)

Political Science 3616 explores the legal dimensions of international relations, including the nature and development of international law, the subjects of international law, human rights, state and individual responsibility, recognition, territory, jurisdiction, immunity, treaties, the International Court of Justice, the use of force, and the United Nations.

This course is intended to help students be able to:

  • Gain a general knowledge of the forms and tenets of international law
  • Address the “pros” and “cons” of various international legal structures and developments
  • Apply international legal principles to particular situations in global politics
  • Understand the relevance of culture, gender, and politics to the nature and meaning of international law
  • Have a basic understanding of the major concepts in international law, including jurisdiction, territory, recognition, and force

PSC 3615: International Relations Theory 
(Fall 2007; Fall 2008, Virginia Tech)

The global political arena is expansive, complicated, and often confusing. What counts as “international relations”? Which problems are “political”? How do the choices of people in one nation affect others around the world? Why do states behave the way they do? Do individuals have any influence in global politics? Is the world governed by norms, or power, or some combination? This course aims to show you that this perception is inaccurate: we all have a role in international relations. It is in this spirit that this course serves as an advanced undergraduate level introduction to international relations and international relations theory. It introduces students to the main theoretical approaches and debates in the academic field of international relations, and pushes the boundaries of the discipline. Like the international arena the discipline studies, International Relations is multi‐faceted and dynamic. You will see that there is no consensus on the purpose and meaning of theory, what international relations is, the causes of or solutions to problems in global politics, or the core assumptions of political scientists. You will be expected to gain a mastery of the core assumptions and models of each school of thought, how they relate to each other, and how they relate to the world around us.

This course is also about critical thinking – the analysis and evaluation of theoretically and empirically grounded arguments about the world. It presents the material of international relations theory through a number of different lenses: introductory explanations, sophisticated debates, book reviews, movies, and our own debates, simulations, and interactive activities. Combining the knowledge that you gain from these approaches, you will be expected to critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the myths, descriptions, interpretations, explanations, predictions, evaluations, and policy prescriptions that various theories support.

PSC 1024: Introduction to Comparative Politics 
(Summer 2008, Virginia Tech)

Political Science 1024 is designed to introduce students to the notion of comparing political systems with the hope of increasing our understanding of them. This course will provide students with knowledge about what politics is, why we have governments, how governments are run, and what influences them. We will explore a number of analytical concepts and will try to understand these in light of the experience of a variety of countries across different geographical areas, economic situations, population sizes, power and resources, and cultural proclivities.

WST 399: Gender and the Law 
(Spring 2006, Merrimack College)

This course focuses on the gendered aspects of American (and, very briefly, international) law.  It explores the history of gender bias in laws and legal decisions.  It asks hard questions about what equality looks like and (if and) how the law can achieve it.  Specific topics include: employment law, education and athletics, pregnancy, family, rape, sexual harassment, reproductive control, lesbian/gay/transgender legal issues, prostitution, and pornography.

Politics 128a: Women in Politics 
(Fall 2005, Brandeis University)

This course provides an overview of women and gender in the theory and practice of politics.  We begin by examining the historical evolution of women’s participation in American politics, from the suffrage movement through the present day.  The next section of the course examines where women are in current politics.  In this section, we read the stories of the visible women in politics – national and international elected and bureaucratic leaders, as well as the women that are less visible – from the homemakers to the homeless.  As we proceed through these stories, we synthesize stories with theories of women in politics.  We look at questions of the roles that women play in politics and the ways that gender affects and is affected by political participation.  The course concludes by addressing questions about how gender affects both participation in and thinking about politics.

Politics 163b: Gender/IR 
(Fall 2005, Brandeis University)

This course introduces students to “gendered lenses” used to observe and study international politics.  It addresses the (separate but related) questions of women’s experiences in international politics and of the influence of gender on international political relations.  In the first section of the course, we look at the roles that women play in international politics, critically evaluating both how those roles came to be and how they are studied.  In the second section of the course, we study the evolving literature on feminist international relations.  In this literature, a group of feminist scholars theorize how gender (as social fact and social construction) affects international politics generally and the lives of women around the world specifically.  The course concludes with a section on feminist international activism, which critically interrogates the line between “theory” and “practice”of gender in politics.

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