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School of Law

Feminist legal theory

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Full Year

This course introduces students to the field of feminist legal theory through reading and discussions of feminist engagements with law, feminist judgement projects and feminist methodologies. Students read from different strands and approaches to feminist legal theory, across jurisdictions, focusing on key tensions, including the relationship between sex and gender, essentialism, praxis and the value (and unpredictability) of legal reform. Students are encouraged throughout the course to assess different writing and analytical methods in feminist legal scholarship and the benefits for legal reform strategies. In each academic session three to four specific topics are chosen for in-depth study. In past years these have included gender and conflict, sexuality, violence, care, labour and economic rights. Throughout the course transnational feminisms and non-Western feminist writing, as well as critical feminist thinking on race, class and sexuality, provide the base for critical analysis of the law and feminist law reform.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • Enable students to become well versed in the canonical texts of Anglo-American and postcolonial feminist legal theory;
  • Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the theoretical insights of different schools of feminist legal theory and their application to concrete feminist struggles for law reform;
  • Explain specific feminist legal approaches in detail and in application to specific legal issues;
  • Analysis tensions across feminist legal approaches and strands, while situating these debates within larger legal issues around authority, power and interpretation, as well as the impact of legal enforcement, legal actors and legal pluralism;
  • Demonstrate competence in 1-4 through the submission of written assessments.

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 50% (5000 words) and 50% (5000 words)

Suggested reading

  • Fareda Banda, Law and Human Rights: An African Perspective, Hart, 2005, preface and chapter 3
  • Davies,M., ‘Flat Law Theory’ (2008) 16 Feminist Legal Studies, 281-314
  • Ratna Kapur, Erotic Justice: Law and the New Politics of Postcolonialism, Taylor and Francis, 2005
  • Naffine and Owens, Sexing the Subject of Law, LBS, 1997