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Backlash & Co-optation: Feminist, Queer & Trans* Politics - POL00100M

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  • Department: Politics
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Sara De Jong
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2024-25

Module summary

This module will explore the ‘dark side of the politics of gender’. We will discuss both the backlash against
feminist and LGBTQ+ movements and their co-optation, that is, the deradicalisation of gender and sexual
emancipation by different actors that promote different non-emancipatory goals. In this context the module
explores how the rights of women, women of colour, LGBTQ+ people, and trans* people are mobilised by
different social groups for different political ends. For example, this may include how women’s rights are used
to justify anti-immigration policies or the protection of LGBTQ communities is used to justify police violence.
The module explores highly relevant contemporary events as well as providing students with indepth
knowledge of feminist, queer and trans* politics. The key cases covered in the module will be: state, carceral,
and neoliberal feminisms, homonationalism, men’s rights movements, and the adoption of sexual violence as
a key concern by right-wing movements such as those opposed to immigration.

Professional requirements


Related modules


Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module explores movement politics by focussing on the contemporary politics of co-optation
and backlash of and against feminist, queer and trans* social movements. In the context of rising
right wing populism, neoliberalism and the questioning of hard won gains by sexual, racialised
minority communities and groups, feminist, queer and trans* social movements face a moment of
historical crisis. Different social actors - including right wing parties, states, corporations - seek to
depoliticise radical claims to social justice and emancipation (co-optation) and at the same time
feminist and LGBTQ+ movements face mounting forms of often violent confrontation (backlash).
This includes for example, the commodification of gay activism, gender mainstreaming, the
pacification of black power and black feminism, the rise of Men’s rights campaigns and ‘#All Lives

Module learning outcomes

Subject content
At the end of the module students should be able to:

¿ Have a deep and systematic understanding of the political phenomena of backlash and co-
optation and of their relation to the broader field of politics and gender studies.
¿ Demonstrate a detailed understanding of current theoretical and methodological approaches
to the study of backlash and co-optation and creatively apply them to different cases and
contexts in contemporary politics.

Academic and graduate skills
¿ Develop their ability to evaluate a range of literatures and sources covered in the module to
formulate academically-informed views on a range of cases of backlash and co-optation.
¿ Use ideas at a high level of abstraction. Develop critical responses to existing theoretical
discourses, methodologies or practices and suggest new concepts or approaches.
¿ Flexibly and creatively apply the deep knowledge acquired in the module to unfamiliar
contexts, synthese ideas in innovative ways, and generate original solutions.
¿ Use personal reflection to analyse one’s own possible complicity with the phenomena of
backlash and co-optation.
¿ Develop their capability to support effective communication and respond to challenges in
seminar classes.

Module content

Students taking the module will be introduced to the central issues surrounding the politics of both backlash
and co-optaton in contemporary feminist, queer and trans* movements, and in doing so explore what this
tells us about wider politics of social movements, civil society and the state, hegemony and the ubiquity of
liberal power, as well as debates on depoliticisation/politicisation. Each week will explore a different case
which speaks to the evolving politics of backlash/co-option and students will be introduced to key theoretical
debates and concepts developed by both scholars and activists.


Task Length % of module mark
4000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information



Task Length % of module mark
4000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the
opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 20 working days; and the
module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will
also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s regular feedback and guidance

Indicative reading

- Jordan, A. (2016). Conceptualizing Backlash: (UK) Men's Rights Groups, Anti-Feminism, and
Postfeminism. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 28(1), 18-44.
- Faludi, Susan (1991), Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women (Vintage)
- Paternotte, D., & Kuhar, R. (2018). Disentangling and locating the “global right”: Anti-gender
campaigns in Europe. Politics and Governance, 6(3), 6-19.
- Puar, J. (2013). Rethinking homonationalism. International Journal of Middle East Studies,
45(2), 336-339.
- Lisa Duggan (2002) ‘The New Homonormativity: The Sexual Politics of Neoliberalism’, in Russ
Castronovo and Dana D. Nelson (eds) Materializing Democracy: Toward a Revitalized Cultural
Politics, pp. 175–94. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
- Cathy Cohen (2019) ‘The Radical Potential of Queer? Twenty Years Later’ GLQ: A journal of
lesbian and gay studies 25(1): 140-144.
- Bernstein E. (2010) ‘Militarized Humanitarianism Meets Carceral Feminism: The Politics of
Sex, Rights, and Freedom in Contemporary Antitrafficking Campaigns’, Signs, 36(1):45-71.
- Farris, S. R. (2017). In the name of women’s rights: The rise of femonationalism. Duke
University Press.
- Ferguson, M. L. (2005) ‘“W” Stands for Women: Feminism and Security Rhetoric in the Post-
9/11 Bush Administration’, Politics and Gender, 1: 9-38.
- Fraser, N. (2009) ‘Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History’, New Left Review, 56.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.