Feminist perspectives on global politics, in poems

Tiina Vaittinen & Saara Särmä


We have just finished teaching a course on feminist perspectives on global politics at the University of Tampere, with an international group of students with different disciplinary backgrounds. During the course, we introduced the students to a wide range of readings on feminist IR, and towards the end of the course Saara gave them a creative assignment, originally picked up from Elina Penttinen’s pedagogical tools. The results, based on the students’ readings of some of the contributors and/or readers of this blog, were so amazing that we want to share the work with you.

Here is the assignment that was given to the class:

1. Choose any text from the course moodle
2. Read it carefully
3. Construct a poem using only words in the text

The poem can be any length, but should capture the essence of the original text (the main argument etc.), write by hand or on a computer, remember, you can also play with the layout…

And here are some of the results. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did.

Note 1: The authors’ names and the reference to the text that has inspired the writing can be found at the end of each poem. We have posted only those poems that we got permission for from the poets themselves, and some gave their permission only to anonymous publication.

Note 2: Apologies if the layout of the post is not perfect, that is Tiina’s fault.



iina-eerika grönlund1.png

– Iina-Eerika Grönlund –

(Inspired by Smith, Nicola J. & Donna Lee (2015) ’What’s queer about political science?’ British Journal of Politics and International Relations 17, 49–63.)


Janina Modes

– Janina Modes –

(Inspired by Shepherd, Laura and Lucy Ferguson (2011). “Gender, Governance and Power: Finding the Global at the Local Level”, Globalizations 8(2), 127–133.)


Lucija Mulalic.png

Lucija Mulalic –

(Inspired by Liddle, Joanna and Shirin Rai (1998) “Feminism, Imperialism and Orientalism: the challenge of the ‘Indian woman’”, Women’s History Review 7(4), 495-520.)


Impairments, handicaps, disabilities

Wheelchairs, retrofitting buildings,

Healthy adult males –paradigm of citizens

Who do not fit?


The capable,

The not-capable,

To be dependent,

or independent?


Who do not fit?


Private or public?

Human right issue?

Equal terms?



A social construction?



International Relations?

Cure or rehabilitation?


How do societies

Adapt to or address

These differences?

Physical and social?




Types of states,

World orders,

Community identities,

Types of democracy,

Northern states’ policies.


“Hyper-liberal’’ world order,

Away from welfare states,

Neo-liberal global economy,

Money, money, money.


International disability groups,

Such as,

World Blind Union

World Federation

of the Deaf and



What about,

United Nations,

World Bank?


Who do not fit?


-Nicole Onnela-

(Inspired by: Stienstra, Deborah (2002), ‘DisAbling Globalisation: Rethinking Global Political Economy with a Disability Lens’, Global Society, 16(2): 109-121.)


Quentin Sorbier

Quentin Sorbier –

(Inspired by Smith, Nicola J. & Donna Lee (2015) ’What’s queer about political science?’ British Journal of Politics and International Relations 17, 49–63.)


Jaime de Lorenzo

-Jaime de Lorenzo Barrientos-

(Inspired by Anitta Kynsilehto (ed.) (2008). Islamic feminism: Current perspectives. Tampere Peace Research Institute, Occasional Paper No. 96, 2008.)


anonymous_imagine peace


(Inspired by Boulding, Elise (1989). “Can peace be imagined?” in Peace. Meanings, politics, strategies edited by Linda Rennie Forcey, Prager: New York, Westport, London, pp. 73-84.)


Help wanted

Hanna Asikainen.png

– Hanna Asikainen –

(Inspired by Mason, Corinne L. (2014). ‘“Cripping” the World Bank: Disability, empowerment and the cost of violence against women’, International Feminist Journal of Politics 17(3): 435-453.)



– Delia Stanton Martin –

(Inspired by Johanna Hedva: Sick Woman Theory.)


alice guibert

– Alice Guibert –

(Inspired by Shepherd, Laura and Lucy Ferguson (2011). “Gender, Governance and Power: Finding the Global at the Local Level”, Globalizations 8(2), 127–133.)


anonymous_to end1

– Anonymous –

(Inspired by Pat Armstrong and M. Patricia Connelly (1989). “Feminist Political Economy: An Introduction”, Studies in Political Economy 30, pp. 5-12.)


Pathology of Globalisation

Tiina Vilppolahti.png

– Tiina Vilppolahti –

(Inspired by Stienstra, Deborah (2002) ‘DisAbling Globalisation: Rethinking Global Political Economy with a Disability Lens’, Global Society, 16(2): 109-121.)


chloe lusven

– Chloé Lusven –

(Inspired by Tuula Sakaranaho (2008). ‘“Equal but different”: Women in Turkey from the Islamic point of view’, in Islamic feminism edited by Anitta Kynsilehto, pp. 47-56. Tampere Peace Research Institute Occasional Papers No. 96, TAPRI: Tampere.)


clemence huguet

– Clemence Huguet –

(Inspired by Cynthia Enloe. Bananes, beaches and bases: Making feminist sense of international politics, (Ch. 2: “Lady travelers, Beauty queens, stewardesses, and Chambermaids: the international gendered politics of tourism”).)


segolene laubert

– Segolene Laubert –

(Inspired by Smith, Nicola J., Laing, Mary & Katy Pilcher (2015). ‘Being, Thinking and Doing ‘Queer’ in Debates about Commercial Sex’, in Queer Sex Work, London: Routledge.)


Siiri Lingman

– Siiri Lingman –

(Inspired by Marysia Zalewski: The weight of a man’s shoe.)


My Body Wants To Matter Politically


Attached to the bed

Rising up sick fists in solidarity

Disabled bodies

Banishing them to invisibility

What modes of protest are afforded to sick people?


Importance of bodies

Who can’t protest in the streets

Political activists

Unable to move, hold up a sign, shout a slogan

What modes of protest are afforded to sick people?


Sick Woman Theory as a way to survive

Anyone denied the privileged existence

Voices are heard and valued

Importance to society is everywhere recognized

Importance to society is made explicit by that society

– Franziska Hein –

(Inspired by the transcript of “My Body Is a Prison of Pain so I Want to Leave It Like a Mystic But I Also Love It & Want it to Matter Politically.” from Johanna Hedva’s lecture at the event by the “Women’s Center for Creative Work at Human Resources”, 2015)






The Club of Failure

Sophie Harman

Nicki Smith’s recent post ‘Doing Failure’ has got me thinking. It cropped up on my Facebook feed when I was thinking about how Facebook used to be a way to look at people you went to school with and share pics from a fun weekend, but increasingly had become a way to push your work successes, which is way more boring than throwing shapes on a dancefloor. I am guilty of this, if I get something published – I share, if there is a new blog post for my film project – it shares automatically, if somebody has been nice to be at work – I’m going to tell my friends about it. Success – or at least the portrayal of it – is coming to define me and not in a strutting around like Anna Wintour sort of way, but more in a bore way, as Nicki puts it, ‘Success’ is not, for that matter, an identity or attribute of individuals. It is a state of being-through-doing, or put another way, it is the state of not ‘being’ without doing.’ I am a do-er but does than make me be? What a big question for a blog post, I may sit with that one for a while, as how can I be without my comfort blanket lists?

If part of the answer is achieving failure, then this gives me the perfect excuse to launch something I’ve been thinking about for a while – a Club of Failure. This is not my original idea, but one that struck me after attending a life-changing (yes I said it!) panel at ISA a few years ago, on Women Don’t Ask, Women Don’t Say No. If you have met me in the last few years, I would have bored you endlessly about the wisdom and insights from this panel. One of my favourite snippets was when one panellist said she and a friend had a competition for who could have the biggest failure – this started with your standard journal rejections but escalated into applications to be Mike Tyson’s tutor etc. Needless to say I wanted to be in their club, but failing that (the fail has already begun!) why not start my own.

The Club of Failure shows that failure, like ridicule, is nothing to be scared of. If you fail you are not an imposter. Failure to publish, win a research grant, get a teaching award does not mean you are a lousy academic or in the wrong profession. Failure should be worn as a badge of honour, otherwise we would all have a regular little cry at work – I can think of no other profession where ‘reject’ is a commonly accepted word. Also it’s exam season so I think it only right to pitch in on the topic.

So in the process of openness here goes:

I failed my driving test twice. A fact my brother never lets me forget. After each time my mum met me with a celebration box of chocolates. On the third test she didn’t buy any, so as not to jinx it.

I have more failed grant applications that successes. Really the ESRC, ERC, Wellcome Trust, Rockefeller Foundation and Leverhulme should have all seen my potential and really KNOWN BETTER and given me the money.

I failed my 12+ but my primary school told my secondary school that they should let me in as I was smart but shocking at exams. Somehow this worked. Go *** **** School! Name of School redacted as parents in South Bucks are COMPETITIVE and I don’t want to launch some sort of inquiry into the 1992-3 12+ that year (because, yes, I am that important).

I got two C’s for my combined science GCSE, which I have lied about on my CV (changing to a more aesthetically pleasing two Bs). But don’t take away my PhD! I only lied about this on CV for part time work, I was too much of a scaredy cat to actually lie in a system that can check stuff.

I failed my Quantitative Methods module so badly during my masters that the exam board thought I must have cheated on my other modules as they couldn’t understand how someone could be really really good at some stuff and really really bad at stats.

I got a C for my English Literature A Level that my school then got remarked and it changed to a B.

I – and I am hoping like most other academics – have a rejection paper. The paper that I think is amazing but loves to get rejected by every journal. Repeatedly.

Entry to the Club of Failure is free. You don’t need to be an academic or be a major failure (some of my good friends have not failed at anything – seriously, I worry for them because imagine the meltdown when they do). Share your failures below the line in the comments section. As for Facebook, I’m going to stick with it for now, it is Eurovision this weekend after all.



Doing failure 

Nicki Smith

In The Birth of Biopolitics, Michel Foucault talks about how, under neoliberalism, we come to define ourselves not by who we are but by what we do – or, more accurately, who we are becomes a question of what we do, how we do it, and how much we love that we do it. All aspects of life become measured against the ‘barometer’ of individual success, with individual success defined in terms of one’s work, and in particular the activity of one’s work. What one produces is not the point – it is simply that we produce, that we work, that we never stop working. ‘Success,’ then, is not an output but a process – it is that we be in the constant state of producing, and working, and never not-working. ‘Success’ is not, for that matter, an identity or attribute of individuals. It is a state of being-through-doing or, put another way, it is the state of not ‘being’ without doing. I do, therefore I am. That is ‘success’.

What might it mean, then, to ‘fail’? If ‘success’ functions as a disciplinary mechanism then, as Jack Halberstam writes, failure can offer a mode of political resistance (and, for that matter, an anti-capitalist move). But this means framing failure not as a discrete object – as something to be overcome on the path to success – but rather as a practice. Failure is the ‘queer art’ of refusal; it is refusing to be productive, or at least to always be productive; it is dissent through not-doing; and, ultimately, it is about ‘life against work.’ Rather than situating failure within the telos of success, we could instead critique success through the practice of failure. Viewed in these terms, it is not failure that is the problem. Success is the problem. It is success that we need to overcome. 

The question becomes, then, not how to achieve success but how to achieve failure. How can ‘success’ be undone? How can we stop doing it? How can we resist it? How can we fail?