What's Queer About Political Science?

Nicola J. Smith, Donna Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
240 Downloads (Pure)


The study of gender, sexuality-and, in particular, queer theory-is central to the social sciences and humanities. Our analysis of citation practices shows that queer theorist Judith Butler is one of the most cited social theorists of all time. Yet political science remains distinctly untroubled by queer theory, and gender and sexuality are frequently treated as marginal (not central) concerns. We argue that queer theory has much to offer political science, not only by highlighting the importance of sexuality and the body but also in analysing 'power' and in politicising 'the political' itself. We suggest that the 'queering' of political science is long overdue, not least through politicising processes of knowledge-production in the discipline. There is something queer (by which we mean strange) going on in the scholarly practice of political science. Why are political science scholars continuing to disregard issues of gender and sexuality-and in particular queer theory-in their lecture theatres, seminar rooms, textbooks, and journal articles? Such everyday issues around common human experience are considered by other social scientists to be central to the practice and theory of social relations. In this article we discuss how these commonplace issues are being written out of (or, more accurately, have never been written in to) contemporary political science. First, we present and discuss our findings on citation practice in order to evidence the queerness of what does and does not get cited in political science scholarship. We then go on to critique this practice before suggesting a broader agenda for the analysis of the political based on a queer theoretical approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-63
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number1
Early online date20 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2015


  • Gender
  • Political science
  • Queer theory
  • Sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Political Science and International Relations


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