ASTK18176U  Intersectional Relations: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in International Relations

Volume 2018/2019

Bachelor student: 10 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS


After an introduction to feminist IR theory and method, this course maps out the ways that gender is implicated in the conduct and study of International Relations. It will examine the ways that sex, gender, and sexuality structure understandings and practices of foreign policy, statehood, war, political violence, social movements, and the reproduction of the nation. Examples of the intimate link between sex, gender, and international relations include: controversies around international events like the Olympic Games, the justification and conduct of the Global War on Terror, historical (transnational) women’s suffrage movements and the more recent global women’s marches, denial of political agency to female suicide terrorists, and transnational LGBTQ+ oppression and movements.


Feminist Security Studies will be a main thread throughout the course and we will explore the contributions that feminist research has made to the widening-deepening debate in security studies as well as the insights gender- and queer-/sexuality-lenses offer IR scholars in relation to questions about state identity and foreign policy. Ultimately, students will learn how gender and sexuality are at the very core of IR, structuring the ways we understand international relations and our own position(s) in the world.


The course divides, more or less, into two asymmetrical parts. First, we start with an introduction to gender and feminist theories and methodologies. Here students will gain familiarity with the ways that one can study and ‘see’ gender in IR. Here, we will also explore how sex and gender are social constructions that have significant power attached to them; how, like race and class, gender and sexuality are used to construct and maintain power as well as to legitimize interventionist and aggressive/protectionist foreign and domestic policies. We will examine how those who wield power are assumed to be rational, aggressive, protectionist actors – all qualities traditionally linked to ‘masculinity’ and ‘men’ – and how ‘feminine’ individuals – the traditionally-assumed emotional, innocent, maternal, and passive individuals – are subjugated and dominated in international politics.


The second part of the course will be more ‘hands-on’ where we will look at key examples and cases to illustrate how gender, sexuality, and IR are intimately linked. Through various case studies, like the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and Russian Foreign Policy, as well as the use of images by the British women’s suffrage movement, this course illustrates – in some places literally – the power gender and sexuality hold over individuals’ lives and states’ practices.


Unpacking the many ways that socially constructed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Norms – which are infused with asymmetric power in favor of men, masculinized bodies, and those who read as ‘normal’ within society – structure international politics is important work that will leave students critical of sexed, gendered, sexualized, classed, and/or racialized power structures. Throughout the module, one question is central: how is differing being constructed as danger? The verb is intentionally used over and above the noun, difference. This reasoning will become clear by the end of the course.

Course structure: 

  1. Introduction: Gender and International Relations
  2. Feminism(s) and Methodologies
  3. Intersectionality
  4. Gender, Sexuality, and the State
  5. Security, Conflict, and Militarism
  6. Silence
  7. Seeing ‘the Little Mermaid’: Feminist Security Studies
  8. Gender and Terrorism
  9. Assignment Workshop I
  10. Women’s Social Movements and Political Violence
  11. LGBTQ+ Politics and the International
  12. Agency and Political Subjectivity
  13. Differing = Danger?: Challenging hegemonic identities
  14. Assignment Workshop II
Learning Outcome


Students will be able to…

  • Describe and discuss key debates and topics at the core of gender and IR studies
  • Provide an overview of feminist approaches to the study of International Relations
  • Locate nodes of agency, security, and power
  • Recognize that gender and sexuality intersect, often detrimentally, with other identifiers, including race, religion, and geopolitical location/origin
  • Articulate the discursive gendered nature of international relations, in theory and practice, as it pertains to credibility, legitimacy, and agency as a political subject
  • Link debates on gender and sexuality to key IR questions and debates



Students will be able to…

  • Analyse and critically approach popular culture, print and digital media, and government policy documents
  • Apply feminist and queer approaches to key debates in International Relations
  • Critically examine and identify gendered constructs, offer solutions to security issues pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity as well as the associated power structures
  • Apply knowledge and understanding of gender and sexuality gained from the course to examine the way gender and sexuality operate as tools for the maintenance of power
  • Situate knowledge contextually and locally, i.e. realise that power structures do not operate universally but must be locally interpreted
  • Communicate with local government to non-governmental organisations and/or international organisations regarding their sexual orientation and gender policies



Students will be able to…

  • Collaborate with those working on sexual orientation and gender identity issues from different disciplines including, but not limited to, sociology, philosophy, history, and media studies
  • Work effectively in groups
  • Prepare and receive peer-to-peer feedback
  • Take responsibility for their own preparation, planning, and time-management skills
  • Transfer their knowledge of gender and sexuality to ‘real life’ working environments, including those in an international environment like aid work or in international non-/governmental organisations

Week One – Introduction: Gender and IR

Essential Reading

hooks  bell (2000) Introduction: Come Closer to Feminism. In: Feminism Is For Everybody: Passionate Politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, pp. vii–x. Available at:  https:/​​/​​​​2010/​​03/​​bell_hooks-feminism_is_for_everybody.pdf. [4 pages]


Enloe C (2014) Gender Makes the World Go Round: Where Are the Women? In: Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. 2nd ed. Berkley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, Ltd, pp. 1–37. [37 pages]


Steans J (2013) Gender in International Relations. In: Gender and International Relations: Theory, Practice, Policy. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 7–24. [17 pages]


Steans J (2013) Feminist International Relations. In: Gender and International Relations: Theory, Practice, Policy. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 25–46. [21 pages]


Shepherd LJ (2010) Sex or Gender? Bodies in World Politics and Why Gender Matters. In: Gender matters in global politics: A Feminist Introduction to International Relations. New York, New York: Routledge, pp. 3–16. [13 pages]


Total Pages: 93


Week Two – Feminism(s) and Methodologies

Essential Reading

Hansen L (2010) Ontologies, Epistemologies, Methodologies. In: Shepherd LJ (ed.) Gender matters in global politics: A Feminist Introduction to International Relations. New York, New York: Routledge, pp. 17–27. [10 pages]


Tickner, J. Ann. 2005. ‘What Is Your Research Program? Some Feminist Answers to International Relations Methodological Questions’. International Studies Quarterly 49 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1111/​​j.0020-8833.2005.00332.x. [22 pages]


Gunaratnam Y and Hamilton C (2017) the wherewithal of feminist methods. Feminist Review 115(1): 1–12. DOI: 10.1057/​​s41305-017-0023-5. [12 pages]


Hansen L (2006) Discourse analysis, identity and foreign policy. In: Security as practice: discourse analysis and the Bosnian war. The new international relations. New York: Routledge, pp. 17–36. [19 pages]


Bacchi, Carol. 2005. ‘Discourse, Discourse Everywhere: Subject “Agency” in Feminist Discourse Methodology’. Nordic Journal of Women’s Studies 13 (03): 198–209. doi:10.1080/​​08038740600600407. [11 pages]


Lazar MM (2007) Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis: Articulating a Feminist Discourse Praxis. Critical Discourse Studies 4(2): 141–164. DOI: 10.1080/​​17405900701464816. [23 pages]


Total Pages: 97


Week Three – Intersectionality

Essential Reading

Davis, Kathy. 2008. ‘Intersectionality as Buzzword: A Sociology of Science Perspective on What Makes a Feminist Theory Successful’. Feminist Theory 9 (1): 67–85. doi:10.1177/​​1464700108086364. [18 pages]


Nayak M (2006) Orientalism and ‘saving’ US state identity after 9/11. International Feminist Journal of Politics 8(1): 42–61. DOI: 10.1080/​​14616740500415458. [19 pages]


Yuval-Davis, Nira. 2006. ‘Intersectionality and Feminist Politics’. European Journal of Women’s Studies 13 (3): 193–209. doi:10.1177/​​1350506806065752. [16 pages]


Mohanty CT (1988) Under Western eyes: Feminist scholarship and colonial discourses. Feminist review 30: 61–88. Available at: http:/​​/​​​​stable/​​1395054. [28 pages]


Total Pages: 81


Week Four – Gender, Sexuality, and the State

Weber, Cynthia. 1998. ‘Performative States’. Journal of International Studies 27 (1): 77–95. doi:10.1177/​​03058298980270011101. [18 pages]


Hansen, Lene. 2000. ‘Gender, Nation, Rape: Bosnia and the Construction of Security’. International Feminist Journal of Politics 3 (1): 55–75. doi:10.1080/​​14616740010019848. [20 pages]


Sjoberg L (2014) Where Are the Men? In: Gender, War, and Conflict, pp. 61–86. [25 pages]


Steans J (2013) States, Nations, and Citizenship. In: Gender and International Relations: Theory, Practice, Policy. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 47–69. [22 pages]


Enloe, Cynthia. 2004. ‘Wielding Masculinity inside Abu Ghraib: Making Feminist Sense of an American Military Scandal’. Asian Journal of Women’s Studies 10 (3): 89–102. doi:10.1080/​​12259276.2004.11665976. [13 pages]


Total Pages: 98


Week Five – Security, Conflict, and Militarism

Essential Reading

Hansen L (2013) Security, Conflict, and Militarization.In: Waylen G, Celis K, Kantola J, et al.(eds) The Oxford handbook of gender and politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 829–847. [18 pages]


Hutchings, Kimberly. 2008. ‘Making Sense of Masculinity and War’. Men and Masculinities 10 (4): 389–404. doi:10.1177/​​1097184X07306740. [15 pages]


Cohn C (1987) Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 12(4): 687–718. DOI: 10.1086/494362. [31 pages]


Basham VM (2016) Gender, race, militarism and remembrance: the everyday geopolitics of the poppy. Gender, Place & Culture 23(6): 883–896. DOI: 10.1080/​​0966369X.2015.1090406. [13 pages]


Megan MacKenzie and Alana Foster (2017) Masculinity nostalgia: How war and occupation inspire a yearning for gender order. Security Dialogue 48(3): 206–223. DOI: 10.1177/​​0967010617696238. [17 pages]


Kirby, Paul, and Marsha Henry. 2012. ‘Rethinking Masculinity and Practices of Violence in Conflict Settings’. International Feminist Journal of Politics 14 (4): 445–449. doi:10.1080/​​14616742.2012.726091. [4 pages]


Total Pages: 80


Week Six – Silence

Parpart, J. 2010. ‘Choosing Silence: Rethinking Voice, Agency, and Women’s Empowerment’. In Secrecy and Silence in the Research Process: Feminist Reflections, edited by Róisín Ryan-Flood and Rosalind Gill, 15–29. London: Routledge. [14 pages]


Hansen, Lene. 2000. ‘The Little Mermaid’s Silent Security Dilemma and the Absence of Gender in the Copenhagen School’. Millennium - Journal of International Studies 29 (2): 285–306. [21 pages]


Dingli, Sophia. 2015. ‘We Need to Talk about Silence: Re-Examining Silence in International Relations Theory’. European Journal of International Relations 21 (4): 721–742. doi:10.1177/​​1354066114568033. [21 pages]


Bargu B (2017) The Silent Exception: Hunger Striking and Lip-Sewing. Law, Culture and the Humanities: 1–28. DOI: 10.1177/​​1743872117709684. [28 pages]


Ahmed, Sara. 2010. ‘Foreword: Secrets and Silence in Feminist Research’. In Secrecy and Silence in the Research Process: Feminist Reflections, edited by Róisín Ryan-Flood and Rosalind Gill, xvi–xxi. London: Routledge. [5 pages]


Total Pages: 89


Week Seven – Seeing the Little Mermaid: Feminist Security Studies

Stern, Maria, and Annick T. Wibben. 2015. ‘A Decade of Feminist Security Studies Revisited’. Security Dialogue.http:/​​/​​​​page/​​sdi/​​collections/​​virtual-collections/​​feminist-security-studies-revisited  .


Hansen, Lene, and Louise Olsson. 2004. ‘Guest Editors’ Introduction’. Security Dialogue 35 (4): 405–409. doi:10.1177/​​0967010604049519. [4 pages]


Sylvester, Christine. 2010. ‘Tensions in Feminist Security Studies’. Security Dialogue 41 (6): 607. doi:10.1177/​​0967010610388206. [8 pages]


Hoogensen, Gunhild, and Svein Vigeland Rottem. 2004. ‘Gender Identity and the Subject of Security’. Security Dialogue 35 (2): 155–171. doi:10.1177/​​0967010604044974. [16 pages]


Shepherd, Laura J. 2007. ‘'Victims, Perpetrators and Actors’ Revisited: Exploring the Potential for a Feminist Reconceptualization of (International) Security and (Gender) Violence’. British Journal of Politics and International Relations 9 (2): 239–256. doi:10.1111/​​j.1467-856x.2007.00281.x. [17 pages]


Tickner JA (1996) Re-visioning Security. In: Booth K and Smith S (eds) International Relations Theory Today. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, pp. 175–196. [21 pages]


Hudson, Heidi. 2005. ‘“Doing” Security As Though Humans Matter: A Feminist Perspective on Gender and the Politics of Human Security’. Security Dialogue 36 (2): 155–174. doi:10.1177/​​0967010605054642. [19 pages]


Cooper-Cunningham D (2018) Seeing the Little Mermaid: On Posters as Security Speech in Visual Form. [18 pages]


Kearns, Matthew. 2017. ‘Gender, Visuality and Violence: Visual Securitization and the 2001 War in Afghanistan’. International Feminist Journal of Politics 19 (4): 491–505. doi:10.1080/​​14616742.2017.1371623. [14 pages]


Total Pages: 117


The remaining course material will be available on Absalon.

Teaching will include lectures and group discussions, as well as more innovative approaches that include, for instance, ‘mapping’ the students’ understandings of ‘security’, ‘sexuality’, and ‘gender’.

The mandatory text(s) will provide a broad overview of the topic for the week, with the optional readings providing more in-depth, specific contributions. On this, each student will be able to participate in/contribute towards an optional class reading journal. This journal will take form as a Google Docs Workbook where students, if they wish to participate, should select two of the mandatory readings from any week and upload notes for this text. The purpose of this is to provide a key, pooled, learning resource that all participating students can access and take away at the end of the course.

The general format of the combined document will be to include: 1) key concepts, debates and ideas covered in the text; 2) the student’s response to the text (i.e. do they agree or disagree with its core argument?; 3) identify the text’s strengths and weaknesses; and 4) to pose questions to the text and clarify (in collaboration with teacher and fellow students) problems with understanding the text.

By having a variety of reading and understandings of texts in the class, students will be able to share ideas and engage in critical discussions with one another, enabling co-learning and ownership of their own education.
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28