Professor of Gender and War. University of Sydney

Feminist Solutions for Ending War and Political Violence

Honours 2018

Instructor: Megan MacKenzie

Description: In an era of Trump bragging about the size of his nuclear arsenal, global women’s marches, sexual abuse scandals within Oxfam and UN peacekeeping missions, US mass shootings and Australia’s decision to become a ‘major arms exporter,’ it seems that a feminist and gender perspective on war and political violence is more relevant than ever. The two goals of this seminar are to study war and political violence from feminist perspectives AND to examine what solutions these perspectives offer for ending or reducing war and political violence. The unit will cover topics including drones, military suicide, Black Lives Matter, nuclear weapons, and war photography. Whilst engaging with these important topics, students will gain a deep foundation in several theoretical traditions, including feminist, gender, queer, decolonial, black feminism, womanism, and Indigenous feminisms. A ‘deep’ foundation means engaging with primary theoretical texts…like, really engaging. In addition, students taking this seminar will gain an in-depth knowledge of key international relations and political studies concepts, including militarism, militarization, securitization, decolonization, de-militarization, and human security. Key questions that will be considered include: do women experience, and participate in, war differently to men?; what kinds of gendered conflicts exist post-war?; how might a feminist understanding of security and securitization change defence, foreign policy, and national security priorities?; are there actually solutions out there for ending or reducing war? As with all honors units, the reading load will be rigorous, but rewarding. Expectations are high, and the assessments will be unique and challenging.


Core concepts:




Black feminism





Feminist methods and ethics

Human Security



  1. essay proposal (15%) April 16th
  2. Major essay (40%) June 4th
  3. Honours conference presentation (15%) May 4th
  4. Lead class reading and blog post 15% TBA
  5. Participation 15% (in class discussions, commenting on blog posts, twitter)



When it is your week to take the lead on a reading, you have three tasks. First, you give a short presentation in class and introduce 2 discussion questions. Second, you write a short blog post to share. Third, you are responsible for writing the first draft of the ‘thank you’ note to the author, which may include summarizing the key points and debates discussed in class.

PRESENTATION: You will being the discussion of your assigned reading by giving a five minute presentation. This presentation should a) identify the core argument of the reading (highlight quotations if you think it is useful) b) relate the reading to other readings covered in class (if applicable) c) relate the reading to a current event d) talk about what solution to ending war and political violence we might draw from the reading.

BLOG: In addition to leading the class discussion, you will write blog post (800 words) that includes each element of the presentation. Remember to try and link your blog to other posts and articles and to keep the tone of the post ‘light’.



UNGRADED CLASS ACTIVITIES (included in participation grade)

  1. THANK YOU NOTES: At the end of each class we will make a thank you note or video for each author we read. The video or note will point out what we took from the reading, what type of conversation/debate it generated and why we are grateful for it. Please come to class with some sense of what we might include in the video.
  2. REORDERING IR SYLLABI: One week each student will be expected to come to class with 5 printed outlines/syllabi to an introduction to IR unit that they find online. These can come from anywhere in the world, but must be an introduction to IR. During class, students will cut up the reading lists and design their own ‘ideal’ unit, based on the available readings. The exercise is meant to get students to think about the politics of what/when/and how we teach IR.
  3. COLLABORATORS AT FIRST SIGHT: As a unit review, student groups will be assigned two authors and expected to come up with a ‘collaboration at first sight’ (a la Married at First Sight). What project would these authors work on? What research question might they agree to focus on? How would they possibly work together on a project? Winners get a day extension on the final essay.
  4. SKYPE AN EXPERT: Depending on availability, we will Skype one or two authors we read. Before doing so, we will discuss the reading and come up with 3-5 specific and focused questions for the author, as well as a thank you note/message.
  5. MASTER LIST OF FEMINIST SOLUTIONS TO ENDING WAR: Through the semester, we will draw out one or two solutions to ending war from each of the readings. As part of a unit review, we will create a master list of these solutions and discuss which are most feasible.
  6. PROJECT MANAGEMENT: During this group activity, students are assigned a single global issue (ie the refugee crisis in Naru, military build-up in Norther Australia), they are then assigned one author and asked to imagine how to create a project addressing this issue, using the theory and logic of the article. Students present their research question, the design of the project, and the possible outcomes of the project. Winners get a day extension on their essays.



Required full texts: Patrisse Khan Cullors & Asha Bandele, When they call you a terrorist: a black lives matter memoir


bell hooks, Feminism is for Everbody


Most of the remaining weekly readings are available online through the university library. Some readings that are not at the library will be made available to you in PDF form.



Week 1: Introductions, vision for the class, assign readings, set expectations.

Homework: studying IR outlines


Week 2: The ‘field’ of international relations

Required readings

  1. Ann Tickner, A Feminist Voyage Through International Relations, Introduction and Chapter 1 (will be provided to you)


Anna M. Agathangelou and L. H. M. Ling, The House of IR: From Family Power Politics to the Poisies of Worldism

International Studies Review


Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (2014 edition), Introduction


Exercise: How do we teach and study international relations and war? Studying IR outlines.


Week 3: Feminist Theory

Required readings:

Bell hooks ‘Feminism is for Everyone.’


Week 4: Is Feminism for Everyone?

Donna Haraway, Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3. (Autumn, 1988), pp. 575-599.


Feminism and US wars: confronting US imperialism, Robin riley, Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Minnie Bruce Pratt (eds). Introduction, Chapter 1 and 2. (will be provided)


CT Mohanty, – Feminist review, 1988 – JSTOR [PDF] Under Western eyes: Feminist scholarship and colonial discourses


NO CLASS APRIL 3rd and 10th


APRIL 17th
Week 5:
Womanism, Black Feminism and Rethinking Political Violence

Required readings:

Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, Introduction. (will be provided)


Carolette Norwood, Perspective in Africana Feminism; Exploring Expressions of Black Feminism/Womanism in the African Diaspora, Sociology Compass 2013


Dangerous Brown Men: Exploiting Sex, Violence and Feminism in the ‘War on …

By Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, Introduction (will be provided)


April 24th

Week 6: Queer theory, war and violence

Required readings:

Cynthia Weber, Why is there no Queer International Theory? Volume: 21 issue: 1, page(s): 27-51


Laura Shepherd, Laura Sjoberg, “Trans- bodies in/of war(s): cisprivilege and contemporary security strategy,” Feminist Review July 2012, Volume 101, Issue 1, pp 5–23|Cite as.


Cai Wilkinson (2017) Are we winning? A strategic analysis of queer wars, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 71:3, 236-240, DOI: 10.1080/10357718.2017.1290049


May 1st

Week 7: Indigenous feminisms

Required readings:

Makere Stewart-Harawira, Practicing Indigenous Feminism: Resistance to Imperialism


Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Talkin’ Up to the White Woman: Aboriginal Women and Feminism

By, Chapter 1 and Chapter 4


Kristen Gilchrist, “Newsworthy” Victims? Exploring differences in Canadian local press coverage of missing/murdered Aboriginal and White women

Pages 373-390 | Published online: 10 Dec 2010


May 8th

Week 8: Black Lives Matter, Feminism and Violence

Required reading:

Patrisse Khan Cullors & Asha Bandele, When they call you a terrorist: a black lives matter memoir



Week 9: Topic TBA

First reading TBD after vote by students





Post-conflict reconstruction

Women in Combat

Nuclear weapons

Gun violence

Women in combat



2018 Students chose: INCEL, Post-Feminism, Torture