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Critical Philosophy: Feminism, Gender and Race


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Filosofie, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including History of Modern Philosophy, Cultuurfilosofie, Continentale filosofie, Philosophy of Mind.

  • BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including World Philosophies: Modern Europe, Philosophy of Culture, Concepts of Selfhood, and at least one of the courses World Philosophies: China, World Philosophies: India, World Philosophies: Africa, World Philosophies: Middle East.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement and who have to complete an advanced seminar, to be selected from package A.


How to speak philosophically of humanity, which is expected to be the universal condition shared by all, and which nonetheless turns out to be conditioned by particular situations referred to the body, especially by sex, gender and race? How to deal with the epistemic and political injustices associated to sex, gender and race? How to make them visible, in the first place; how to resist to altering; and also, how to turn difference into a resource?

During this lecture course, we will study different ways of conceptualising the questions of sex, gender and race starting from their historical formulations. We will start by the ideal of universal humanity manifested by the 1789 Declaration of Human Rights and by its criticisms formulated already by Olympe de Gouges and Toussaint Louverture, but we will also see the force of the demand of freedom and equality (Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill).

We will discuss the "three (or four) waves of feminism" that have addressed the question of feminism in terms of equality, of feminine essentiality, and in relation to postmodernism. We will examine the differences between sex, gender, and sexuality, and study gender as it is articulated today especially in terms of male/female, hetero/homo, cis/trans, and others, and that must also be thought in terms of intersectionality. Among our references are Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray, Shulamith Firestone, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Sara Ahmed.

We will discuss the question of race as a question of colonisation and post-colonial forms of racism (from Franz Fanon and Mahatma Gandhi to Edouard Said and Gloria Wekker), as the question of non-western ways of thinking (Achille Mbembe), and as the question of one or many cultures (e.g. Claude Lévi-Strauss, Race and History; Michel Leiris, Race et civilisation; Philippe Descola, Beyond Nature and Culture, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Cannibal Metaphysics).

Our ultimate objective is to see how the ideal of equality, the respect of alterity and the necessity of living together can be conjugated in the globalized world.

Course objectives

This course aims to give students a solid understanding of the principal historical and contemporary philosophical discussions concerning feminism, sex, gender, race, colonialism and postcolonialism.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a clear understanding of:

  • the classical authors and arguments of feminist philosophy, as well as philosophical questions of sex and gender;

  • the most important philosophical positions concerning race, colonialism, and postcolonialism.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • construct many-sided and balanced philosophical analyses and arguments questions concerning sex, gender and race.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Active participation in class

  • Class presentation: pass/fail, required to pass the course

  • Written examination with essay questions


  • Written examination (100 %)


Written examination with essay questions.

Attendance and active participation in class is required for admission to the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Some literature that will be discussed during the course (extracts):

  • John Stuart Mill: The Subjection of Women;

  • Simone de Beauvoir: Second Sex (Le deuxième sexe);

  • Franz Fanon: The wretched of the earth (Les damnés de la Terre);

  • Shulamith Firestone: The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution;

  • Luce Irigaray: This Sex which is not One (Ce sexe qui n'en est pas un);

  • Michel Foucault: The History of Sexuality vol 1: The Will to Knowledge (Histoire de la sexualité tome 1: La volonté de savoir);

  • Judith Butler:* Gender Trouble*;

  • Eduard Saïd: Orientalism;

  • Iris Marion Young: Justice and the Politics of Difference;

  • Achille Mbembe: Necropolitics;

  • Sara Ahmed:* Living a Feminist Life*;

  • Gloria Wekker: White Innocence, Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race.

Further literature will be published via Brightspace. Literature will be studied at home and discussed in class. Each student will also make a presentation of a short text (probably in groups of two).


Enrolment through MyStudymap is not possible for this course. Students are requested to submit their preferences for the third-year electives by means of an online registration form. They will receive the instruction and online registration form by email (uMail account); in June for courses scheduled in semester 1, and in December for courses scheduled in semester 2. Registration in uSis will be taken care of by the Education Administration Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga


Not applicable.