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Teaching gender and politics: Feminist methods in political science

Krook, Mona Lena

Feminist research in political science is marked by two major contributions: (1) introducing the concept of “gender” and (2) expanding the definition of “politics.” Given its origins in feminist theory and activism, it is guided by scholarly and political aims to transform the study and the practice of politics (cf. Hawkesworth 2006). These commitments enable feminist scholars to identify new research questions, as well as to approach traditional topics in novel ways, using a variety of research tools. However, rethinking the content and methods of political analysis has important implications for how to teach political science by raising questions about what political scientists study and how and why they study these particular topics. It also poses certain challenges, or presents new opportunities, for political science pedagogy by compelling professors to devise innovative techniques for communicating material and fostering self-reflection among students, who may resist or embrace central tenets of feminism. To explore how feminist scholars have met these challenges, this article examines 45 syllabi for courses on women, gender, and politics taught at various universities in the United States and Western Europe between 2002 and 2008. The analysis begins with a short introduction to trends in gender and politics research and interdisciplinary debates on feminist research methods. It then takes a closer look at the syllabi to illuminate some shared features of course content, as well as to make note of course readings, formats, and assignments that reflect feminist commitments to learning and personal transformation. The goal is to raise awareness of feminist tools and teaching techniques as a means for assessing their potential contributions for other areas of political science.

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