BASS Sociology and Criminology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Capitalism and Sexuality

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI32182
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Why do states and markets matter for sexual identities, behaviours, and desires? What role do governments, transnational corporations, and global development actors play in regulating our most intimate lives? Is sexuality a cultural issue or an economic one (or is it both)? And why does sexuality – from reproductive freedom to LGBTQ+ identities - remain a key terrain of political struggle in the contemporary juncture? The aim of this course is to explain and critically evaluate the relationship between capitalism and sexuality. It will be structured thematically to look at four key “sites” of political economic power: the state; work; corporations; and global development. It will conclude by looking at contemporary sexual struggles and the politics of resistance.


The course unit aims to enable students:

  • To critically assess the relationship between capitalism and sexuality
  • To develop their knowledge of feminist political economy, queer theory and other materialist feminist scholarship on sexuality and political economy
  • To identify some of the political economic power relations that shape sexuality
  • To reflect on how sexuality shapes political economic power relations
  • To evaluate some of the key approaches and concepts advanced by scholars to study sexuality and political economy
  • To critically apply the theoretical approaches and conceptual lenses covered in the course to specific empirical issues

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be organised into a series of 3-hour workshops (x 10). The first workshop will begin with a 2-hour lecture that will introduce the course, the broad theoretical approaches that will be used – namely feminist political economy and queer theory – and define key concepts, such as sexuality, followed by a Q and A and small group discussion activities. This lecture will provide an overview of mainstream and critical IPE’s historical neglect of sexuality and begin to trouble this framing by highlighting how states and markets are sexualised (as well as gendered). For the following 9 weeks, the first half of each workshop will comprise an interactive lecture and the second half various learning activities, including small group work, plenary discussions, and other activities. The lecture is intended to scaffold the readings theoretically, to locate their intellectual origins, and to highlight how they relate to each other and to the core themes of the course. The workshop activities will facilitate students to better understand the key concepts and arguments put forward in the readings, how to analyse them critically, and how they can be applied to specific empirical examples. The workshops will also provide students with an opportunity to develop their own perspectives and ideas on the readings and topics and to give each other feedback, as well as receiving it from the course convenor. Students will be expected to have read the core readings and prepared some comments/notes ahead of each workshop.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between capitalism and sexuality
  • Demonstrate an understanding of feminist and queer approaches to the study of sexuality and political economy
  • Demonstrate an understanding of key conceptual frameworks in the study of sexuality and political economy and their intellectual origins
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the role of empire and colonialism in constructing and regulating sexualities, in addition to capitalist political economy
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how theory and concepts relate to specific empirical issues
  • Evaluate different feminist perspectives on the relationship between sexuality and capitalism

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse sexuality from a political economy perspective
  • Critically engage with and critique scholarly texts
  • Construct well-reasoned and well-evidenced arguments
  • Apply theory to empirical examples

Practical skills

  • Independent research skills
  • Writing skills
  • Analysing texts
  • How to use and give constructive feedback
  • Group work and collaboration sills

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Critical thinking
  • Constructive criticism and collaboration skills
  • Collegiality
  • Independent working and research

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%
Set exercise 30%

Recommended reading


Agathangelou, A. 2006. The global political economy of sex: desire, violence, and insecurity in Mediterranean nation states. London: Palgrave MacMillan.


Bhattacharya, T. (ed.) 2017. Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering oppression. London: Pluto Press.


Bergeron, S. and Puri, J. 2012. ‘Sexuality between State and Class: An Introduction’. Rethinking Marxism 24 (4), 491–98.


Butler, J. 1990. Gender Trouble. London: Routledge.


———. 1998. ‘Merely cultural’. New Left Review, 227, 33–43. doi:10.2307/466744.


Davis, A.Y. 1983. Women, Race and Class. New York: Vintage Books.


D’Emilio, J. 1983. “Capitalism and gay identity”. In: A Snitow, C Stansell and S Thompson (eds.) Powers of desire: The politics of sexuality. New York: Monthly Review Press. pp.100–113.


Drucker, P. 2015. Warped: Gay Normality and Queer Anti-capitalism. Leiden: Brill.


Duggan, L. 2003. The twilight of equality? Neoliberalism, cultural politics, and the attack on democracy. Boston: Beacon Press.


Federici, S. 2004. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia.


Ferguson, R. 2004. Aberrations in black: Toward a queer of color critique. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.


Floyd, K. 2009. The Reification of Desire: Towards a Queer Marxism. Minneapolis, MN:

Minnesota University Press.



Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Eleanor Gore Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Essay 1 (1500 words)

The first assignment will entail a short essay on one of the topics covered in the first four weeks of the course. The essay questions will require students to critically reflect on and analyse the topic in relation to the course’s overarching themes and central provocations. This assignment (along with assignment 2) will be explained in the introductory lecture, with further guidance provided on Blackboard and in a Q&A session at the end of week 3. Students will receive feedback on this assignment before they submit the second assignment.


Essay 2 (3000 words)

The second assignment will entail a longer essay on one of the topics covered in weeks 5-10 of the course. A list of essay questions will be provided by the course convenor but students will also have the opportunity to come up with their own question, as long it relates to the core questions/themes of the module, subject to the approval of the course convenor. For this assignment, students will be required to apply (some of) the general theoretical approaches and specific concepts covered in the course to an empirical example (or examples).

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