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Vulnerability, Gender and the Politics of Care


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

This course is not for first-year students. You should ideally have completed a relevant 200-level course. The Introduction to Gender Studies course is also recommended, though not required.


Vulnerability and care are omnipresent. The experiences of Covid, ongoing wars, daily environmental and human emergencies make these clear. Besides, in personal terms, most of us have been and/or felt vulnerable at some point, and certainly all of us need care, have been cared, have given care, in one way or another. Gender (and the inequalities derived from it) expose both the prevalence of vulnerability associated with identity and family norms (for instance LGBTIQA+ discrimination, domestic abuse, sexual and gender based violence), as well as the precarious condition affecting care workers (often women, often racialized). In contexts of increasing vulnerability due to the pandemic, increasing global and national level inequalities, and the spread of systemic risks (from domestic violence to civil wars to environmental disasters), there is an urgent need to reflect about the intersections between vulnerability, gender and care as key axes to imagine political alternatives to navigate and adapt to this uncertain times in more humane ways. This course, in the words of a former student, “serves as a starting point, but not an end point, for rethinking care” and why that is an fundamentally political exercise.

The course is a systematic examination of current scholarly debates about vulnerability and care, using gender as analytical lens. Against the dominant liberal premise of individual autonomy, this course explores how inter- and eco-dependence are core tenets of individuality and sociality. Gender is approached from different perspectives ranging from feminism to ecofeminism, including readings from post-structuralist and post-humanist thinkers. The aim of the course is to engage in these scholarly debates in connection to concrete case-studies and the ethical and political dilemmas derived from them.

Course Objectives

The main objective of this course is to develop in students an analytical capacity to think about gender, vulnerability and care critically, and connect that to the ways in which all three manifest concretely in daily life.

In terms of contents, upon completion of the course you will:

  • Identify the connections between violence and vulnerability, particularly using gender as a key descriptor of this relation.

  • Explore and understand the relationship between gender and the embodiment of vulnerability and care.

  • Learn the relevant theoretical perspectives in the study of vulnerability and care (politically as ethics and practice), from feminist to eco-feminist and post-humanist perspectives.

In terms of skills, this course will serve you to:

  • Develop the capacity to elaborate a solid and sound argumentative position regarding issues related to the course content.

  • Learn to communicate your position in speaking and writing.

  • Connect and use abstract concepts and theories to understand concrete situations.

  • Practice team-work skills to effectively conduct and present a research-based case-study with others, and do so with care.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will be taught as a seminar in person if the regulations allow it. As a 300 level course, the course is run as a seminar, highly dependent on students participation. This means your critical engagement with the readings and weekly material is essential part of the course and its developments. The sessions are fundamentally organized based on the student’s discussion of the scholarly work assigned for that session and their applicability to daily examples.

Assessment Method

  • Mid-term assigment: 25%

  • Case-study research & presentations: 30%

  • Final assigment: 45%

Reading list

A reading list is designed and available to all students prior the beginning of the course via the syllabus and if needed Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Daniela Vicherat Mattar,