Theorising Gender

Submitting Institution

University of Hull

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Sociology, Other Studies In Human Society
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

Innovative research into gendered identities at the University of Hull, under the auspices of the Centre for Gender Studies and the Centre for Research into Embodied Subjectivity, led to the design and delivery of new curricula in higher education internationally including the European Union, the US and in Chile, India and Pakistan. Research on gendered identities provides the philosophical core of the curriculum for GEMMA (Erasmus Mundus Master's Degree in Women's and Gender Studies) delivered by a consortium of 7 universities within the AtGender (previously ATHENA) network. The relevant impact has been primarily on education (at an international level and especially in the area of curriculum development and knowledge transfer) and on public discourse. The beneficiaries are academics and students internationally, as well as pressure groups and artists concerned with gender identity. This impact is ongoing (the 7th edition of GEMMA commenced in 2013).

Underpinning research

The research into gendered embodiment was undertaken at the University of Hull from 1996 and is ongoing. It was facilitated by the Centre for Gender Studies, founded in 1996 and later also by the Centre for Research into Embodied Subjectivity founded in 2007. The key researchers for gender theory include an interdisciplinary group of academics based in Philosophy and the Social Sciences: Kathleen Lennon (Senior Lecturer, 1979 to 2007; Professor, 2008 to 2014), Stella González Arnal (Lecturer, 2002 to present), Gill Jagger (Lecturer, 2007 to present), Rachel Alsop (Lecturer, 1996 to present), Suzanne Clisby (2000 to present), Annette Fitzsimons (Lecturer, 2002 to 2012), and Mark Johnson (Lecturer 1996 to 2000, Senior Lecturer 2000 to 2011, Reader 2011 to present).

At a time when feminist research into sex differences nationally and internationally was concentrated within Women's Studies and foregrounded the experiences of women, the Centre for Gender Studies at Hull viewed gender as a relational phenomenon and paid attention to both masculinity and femininity and, crucially for the theory that developed, put the experiences of transgendered, transsexual and intersex people at the centre of theory. Theories of gender were developed which thereby scrutinised the phenomenology of gendered embodiment, and interrogated the importance of biology; the role of psychoanalysis; difference and diversity within masculine and feminine experiences; and the intersection of gender and sexuality from these multiple perspectives. This led to an exploration of the relation between naturalism, phenomenology and post-structuralism (including crucially Queer Theory). The research was informed by the speakers at a continuous series of seminars and workshops in which gendered experiences and their impact on everyday life were the focus of attention. Many speakers, who generously shared their personal experiences or their empirical and theoretical work with us, also came into the classroom to share these with our students, who recognised that they were engaged in pioneering thinking. The establishment of the Journal of Gender Studies (1991-present) was an important part of the research and whose editors and editorial board include members of the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Hull (currently Alsop, Clisby, González Arnal and Jagger). A special issue on Transgendering (November 1998) was guest edited by Stephen Whittle from Press for Change and at that time introduced issues surrounding pregnant (transsexual) men which has in the last two years been a focus of much media attention.

The research led to publications (see selection below) and informed the development of the modules `Theorising Gender' and `Gender Science and Knowledge' at the undergraduate level and `Feminist Theory: between Difference and Diversity' at the masters level at Hull. These modules informed curricula development in Latin America, India and Pakistan through British Council visits and the development of the international GEMMA masters degree, for which `Feminist Theory: between Difference and Diversity' is a core module.

References to the research

1. Mark Johnson. Beauty and Power: Transgendering and Cultural Transformation in the Southern Philippines. Oxford: Berg, 1997.


2. Rachel Alsop, Annette Fitzsimons and Kathleen Lennon, Theorizing Gender, Oxford: Polity 2002 (widely used throughout English speaking world for courses concerned with gender)

3. Kathleen Lennon 'Making life Livable', Radical Philosophy 140, 2006.

4. Gill Jagger Judith Butler :Sexual Politics, Social Change and the Power of the Performative London and New York: Routledge, 2008.


5. Kathleen Lennon `Biology and the Metaphysics of Sex Difference' in Stella González Arnal, Gill Jagger and Kathleen Lennon (eds) Embodied Selves, London: Palgrave, 2012, pp. 29-45.


6. Stella González Arnal `Personal identity and Transsexual Narratives' in Stella González Arnal, Gill Jagger and Kathleen Lennon (eds) Embodied Selves, London: Palgrave, 2012, pp. 66-83.


Details of the impact

1. Curricula development and knowledge transfer:

a. via the GEMMA Masters Degree in Women's & Gender Studies

Hull was one of the founding partners of the GEMMA Programme in 2006. Staff from Hull played a key role in designing the programme. The underpinning research and the undergraduate and postgraduate modules developed at the University of Hull and informed by that research provided the model for the core GEMMA module `Feminist Theory: Between Diversity and Difference'. Publications arising from research at Hull, especially the book Theorising Gender, are used as reading material on this module.

The GEMMA programme was the first MA of its kind and carries high prestige within the European Union, recognised as a `Masters of Excellence' and sponsored by the European Commission. GEMMA is a joint multinational interdisciplinary programme that provides high quality academic education and professional competencies for personnel working or intending to work in the areas of Women's Studies, Gender Studies and Equal Opportunities across Europe and beyond. It brings together high quality academic provision from the humanities, social sciences and health sciences, making it attractive to students worldwide and offering a wide span of options and combinations. GEMMA was the first Erasmus Mundus Masters in Women's and Gender Studies in Europe, taught by a consortium formed by 7 European universities, including Hull.

In July 2011, GEMMA was once again selected for funding under the prestigious Erasmus Mundus brand and distinguished from amongst 177 submitted project proposals as "a pilot project and model in the field of Women´s Studies and Gender Studies in a European and global perspective" (see GEMMA website). Since 2011 Rutgers University in the USA has joined the consortium as a full partner and seven other North, Central and South American institutions also have associated themselves with GEMMA — Universidad de Buenos Aires, Universidad Estatal de Campinas en Sao Paulo, Universidad de Chile, Florida International University, Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

GEMMA's mission is to train much needed gender experts who will be able to contribute to greater equality between men and women, taking into account the intersections of ethnicity, race, class and sexuality and contributing to citizenship in the broadest sense of the word (see Gender Studies Tuning Brochure

GEMMA is unique in the way it brings together approaches to feminism from all cardinal points in Europe and now the USA. Created as result of the concerted efforts of several universities working together within the European women's and feminist studies academic network ATHENA (now AtGender) of which Hull is a member, the GEMMA consortium represents the harmonization of seven different institutions from six European countries and now an additional North American partner:

  • University of Granada (coordinator),
  • University of Bologna,
  • Central European University (Budapest),
  • University of Hull,
  • University of Lodz,
  • University of Oviedo,
  • University of Utrecht,
  • Rutgers, State University of New Jersey (since 2011).

During the assessed period, 271 students have enrolled on the programme and 193 have graduated. (The complete set of data on GEMMA students and graduates from across 7 partner universities is available as testimonial.)

Graduates of GEMMA have achieved prestigious professional positions in their countries and many have been actively engaged with NGOs. They have appreciated the intellectually challenging experience the programme has offered to them, which one graduate characterizes as `wonderful and enriching'. The programme has also inspired them to find innovative ways of bridging the gap between theory and practice as confirmed by a recent GEMMA graduate statement

b. via British Council sponsored visits to universities in Chile, India and Pakistan

Members of the Centre for Gender Studies successfully applied to the British Council for a project of bilateral cooperation with the University of Chile. This bi-lateral cooperation extended from 2002-2005. Its primary aim was to reinforce and enrich the postgraduate curricula of the University of Chile in the area of Gender Studies utilising as a model the postgraduate modules developed in the University of Hull. The co-operation involved extensive visits to Chile by González Arnal who communicated in lectures and seminars the distinctive features of the research in Gender Studies undertaken in the University of Hull and explained in pedagogic terms the structure of the postgraduate provision of Gender Studies in the University of Hull. She also provided a wide range of research and educational material (for example, books and papers authored by members of the Centre of Gender Studies and module handbooks and handouts). These lectures, seminars and the provided educational materials led to the development of a curriculum for the Master Programme of Studies in Gender and Culture at the University of Chile which is still running. Similar bi-lateral co-operations funded by the British Council during the period 2000-2005 were established with the Haryana Agricultural University (India) and the University of Peshawar (Pakistan) that led to similar developments in postgraduate provision including at the latter institution the founding of a Department of Gender Studies as part of the Institute of Social Work, Sociology and Gender Studies.

2. Increase in knowledge and understanding of gendered body identity and its relation to ethical and social issues of body modification.

This impact has been achieved in two ways. First, it has been achieved locally in relation to the non-academic participants of a wide range of activities organised by the Centre for Gender Studies and the Centre for Research in Embodied Subjectivity. As explained in the impact template the organisation of impact related interdisciplinary conferences, seminars, and talks has been an essential feature of the approach to impact adopted by Philosophy at Hull. During the assessed period, 6 main related activities have been organised: a conference on Embodiment and Subjectivity (May 2008), a conference on the Phenomenology of Illness (May 2010), and a series of seminars on Feminism Now (2011/12), Reading the Vulnerable Body (2010/11), New Directions in Biology (2009/10), Issues of Transgender and Intersex (2008/9). All these activities were open access and attracted a diverse audience ranging from pressure groups concerned with gender identity, including transgender groups to health care professionals and artists. Each one of the two conferences attracted approximately 50 non-academic participants while each of the seminars had a regular number of approximately 20 non-academic participants.

Second, this impact has been achieved by the delivery of modules, throughout the English speaking world, devised with reference to the research undertaken at Hull. This concerns primarily the book Theorizing Gender co-authored by Kathleen Lennon which provides a theoretical overview of approaches to gender. It discusses the major theories concerned with the ways in which we become engendered, and explains and evaluates naturalist, psychoanalytic, materialist and post-structuralist accounts. Theorizing Gender has been the basic textbook for undergraduate and postgraduate modules on Gender Theory in both the UK and the US. It is also the basic textbook for the core module `Feminist Theory: Between Diversity and Difference' of the GEMMA programme.

Sources to corroborate the impact

(all available on request)

  • The GEMMA website ( — corroborating that the programme is ongoing (7th Edition commencing 2013) and confirming the list of partner-institutions.
  • Details of the GEMMA programme — corroborating that the core module `Feminist Theory: between Difference and Diversity' is modelled on the module developed at Hull.
  • Complete set of data on the numbers of students who have enrolled on and graduated from the GEMMA masters for the period 1st January 2008- 31 July 2013.
  • Public statement from a graduate of the GEMMA Master's programme corroborating that she have gained prestigious employment in a related field of work as a result of her degree
  • Testimonial from the scientific co-ordinator of the GEMMA programme at the University of Granada corroborating that research undertaken in the University of Hull had significant impact on the development of the GEMMA programme and that the book Theorizing Gender has been the basic textbook for the module `Feminist Theory: between Difference and Diversity'.
  • Testimonial from the vice-rector of the University of Chile corroborating research undertaken in the University of Hull had significant impact on the development of a curriculum for the Master's Programme of Studies in Gender and Culture.
  • The University of Peshawar's Institute of Social Work, Sociology & Gender Studies (ISSG) website ( confirming international links with Gender Studies at Hull, establishment of Department of Gender Studies and Feminist Theory as core MA module.
  • Testimonials from a professor at the Centre for Gender Studies of the University of York corroborating that the book Theorizing Gender has international reach.
  • Testimonial from a lecturer at the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics of the University of Newcastle corroborating that the book Theorizing Gender has international reach.
  • Testimonial from a visual artist and research associate at the Slade School of Fine Art corroborating that the outreach activities of the Centre for Gender Studies have impact on her work with respect to increasing her understanding of gendered body identity and body modification.