The Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government (CCCG) hosted a conference for early career women in political theory on January 13 in tandem with the Southern Political Science Association’s concurrent conference. “The Future Before Us: Early Career Women in Political Theory and Constitutional Studies” was co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin’s Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy. Rick Avramenko, the CCCG’s visiting faculty fellow, organized the conference.
“There are unique challenges for young female faculty who are seeking to advance their careers and find a work-life balance,” Avramenko said. “We wanted to create a space where these challenges—which could otherwise be seen as barriers—were embraced, celebrated, and incorporated into the conference.”
Each attendee presented an abstract of her paper, which had been previously circulated to discussants and fellow participants. Following this presentation, the author received feedback on her paper, first from an assigned discussant, and subsequently from other attendees.
Debbie O’Malley, the associate director of the CCCG, served as a discussant for several papers.
"The purpose of an academic conference is to provide an opportunity for scholars to receive constructive feedback on their work. This conference certainly fulfilled that purpose, but it also allowed these young scholars to develop friendships with one another in the process,” O’Malley said. “We were able to spend the entire day getting to know one another, discussing ideas, and exchanging advice about writing and teaching. It was an invaluable experience, and I'm so inspired by these women.”
The conference drew attendants from various universities in career stages ranging from all-but-dissertation graduate studies (ABD) to professorship. Several participants have previous or current ties to the CCCG.
Christina Bambrick, a CCCG faculty fellow and assistant professor of political science at Notre Dame, presented a paper about the concept of virtue in liberalism. Abby Staysa, who recently completed her PhD in political science at Notre Dame, is currently a postdoctoral research fellow of Princeton’s James Madison Program. Veronica Ogle is an assistant professor of philosophy at Assumption University. She received her PhD in political science from Notre Dame in 2014.
The conference was chaired by Arlene Saxonhouse, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan. In addition to chairing paper discussions, she also presented a keynote lecture for the conference.
“The contents of a field change over time, as do the resources used to explore the field,” Saxonhouse said in her lecture, reflecting on the ways that political theory changed during the 1970s as women not only became scholars, but also eventually became a real subject of study within politics.
Discussing the advent of feminist scholarship, Saxonhouse explained that she decided not devote her research to reading female authors neglected by previous scholars, but instead set out to bring the experience of women and children out of canonical texts of political theory.
“The liberal perspective of modern scholars has blinded them to the presence of women in these texts,” she said. The paradigm of liberalism, with its emphasis on equality and misunderstanding of the public and private, limited the ability of scholars to understand women in a holistic and human way in relation to the text, she explained.
Scholars participating in this conference will have their papers published in a special issue of the Political Science Reviewer in mid-2023.
A full list of conference participants is as follows: Christina Bambrick (University of Notre Dame), Kirstin Birkhaug (University of Wisconsin), Danielle Charette (University of Virginia), Gianna Englert (Southern Methodist University), Brigid Flaherty (Baylor), Sara Gustafson (Harvard), Veronica Roberts Ogle (Assumption College), Abigail Staysa (Notre Dame), and Brianne Wolf (Michigan State University).