Political Theory

Students pursuing graduate study in political theory at UVA participate in a vibrant, diverse and well-regarded community of scholars dedicated to critical reflection on politics. We strive to preserve a pluralistic ethos; no one theoretical paradigm dominates the program, and students are exposed to a wide range of approaches to the subject.  We encourage students to engage with other subfields of political science and cross disciplinary boundaries.

Heath Fogg Davis—visiting speaker to the Political Theory Colloquium on Sex-Classification Policies, Race-Sex Discrimination, and Sex-Identity Self-Authority
Heath Fogg Davis—visiting speaker to the Political Theory Colloquium on Sex-Classification Policies, Race-Sex Discrimination, and Sex-Identity Self-Authority

We have six full-time theorists:

  • Lawrie Balfour: Black political thought, critical theories of race and gender, American political thought, politics & literature.
  • Colin Bird: theories of social and distributive justice, jurisprudence/ legal theory, and democratic theory.
  • Murad Idris: war and peace, language and politics, Islamic political thought and comparative political theory.
  • George Klosko: ancient political thought, theories of authority and political obligation, and contemporary liberalism.
  • Jennifer Rubenstein: global political theory, non-state actors, the politics of emergency, politics and ethics.
  • Stephen White: Continental political thought, critical theory, Habermas and the Frankfurt School, democratic theory.

In addition to taking classes with the six of us, our students also regularly take classes with, and have dissertation committees that include, theoretically-oriented professors in UVA’s Politics department, as well as theoretically-oriented scholars in other departments and schools.

Lawrie Balfour classOur students have ample opportunities for intellectual development outside of their regular coursework, including independent study courses with faculty members, informal reading groups, a graduate development seminar in which students present their work and offer each other feedback, an annual graduate student conference, and regular “PT lunches” at which faculty and graduate students discuss students’ earlier-stage work in progress. Graduate students also attend our political theory colloquium, at which external speakers, faculty members and graduate students present their research. Other speaker series that PT students regularly attend include the PPL colloquium, the Egger lecture series, the legal theory workshop, and events at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies.

Funding for students in the PT program typically includes an annual stipend, tuition waiver, and health insurance.  In addition to TA-ing, students have ample opportunities to work as research assistants.
Our graduate students regularly publish articles in peer-reviewed journals and go on to tenure track positions in the field.

Please feel free to contact any of us with questions about UVA’s political theory program. More general inquiries about the Department of Politics graduate program can be directed to the Director of Graduate Studies, Philip Potter, or the Director of Graduate Admissions, Jennifer Rubenstein.

Theoretically-oriented professors in other departments: