Nancy Hirschmann

Nancy Hirschmann

Geraldine R. Segal Professor in American Social Thought


Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics, Room 331

Professor Hirschmann works in the history of political thought, analytical philosophy, feminist theory, and the intersection of political theory and public policy. She is a former Vice-President of the American Political Science Association and past Director of the Program on Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies and the Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality and Women.

Professor Hirschmann is an expert on the concept of freedom. Her current book project, Freedom, Power, and Disability examines the idea of freedom from the perspective of disability, considering the ways in which disability sets the limiting condition for freedom in the history of political theory and carries through to contemporary thinking about the concept, and considers the ways in which the body is both socially constructed and materially constituted. Her previous book Gender, Class, and Freedom in Modern Political Theory (Princeton University Press, 2008) considers the concept of freedom as it developed in the canon of political thought from the 17th to 19th centuries and examines how issues of gender and class affected the dominant conceptions of freedom.  Prior to that, The Subject of Liberty: Toward a Feminist Theory of Freedom (Princeton University Press 2003), took a more contemporary approach and considered the concept of freedom in the context of political and social issues such as domestic violence, Islamic veiling, and U.S. welfare reform. This book won the 2004 Victoria Schuck award from the American Political Science Association for the best book on women and politics, and Choice recommended this book as "essential" and "feminist theory at its best." Prof. Hirschmann has also published Rethinking Obligation: A Feminist Method for Political Theory  (Cornell University Press, 1992), and several co-edited volumes, including Revisioning the Political: Feminist Interpretations of Traditional Concepts in Western Political Theory (with Christine Di Stefano, Westview Press, 1996), Women and Welfare: Theory and Practice in the U.S. and Europe (with Ulrike Liebert, Rutgers University Press 2001), Feminist Interpretations of John Locke (with Kirstie McClure, Penn State University Press 2007), Feminist Interpretations of Thomas Hobbes (with Joanne Wright, Penn State University Press, 2013), Civil Disabilities: Theory, Citizenship and the Body (with Beth Linker, The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), and Political Theory and Disability (with Barbara Arneil, Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Professor Hirschmann has held a number of prestigious fellowships, most recently spending her 2017-18 sabbatical on fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the GlaxoSmithKline Senior Fellow at the National Humanities Center, and a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. She was also awarded a fellowship from the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, which she declined. Previously, she was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College (now the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study), The University Center for Human Values at Princeton University and the Penn Humanities Center. She has also held a previous fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has also served on the editorial boards of several leading journals such as the Journal of Politics and Politics and Gender, and served on the local advisory board for Hypatia.

Professor Hirschmann teaches courses in Modern Political Theory (PSCI 181), Contemporary Political Theory (PSCI 182), American Political Theory (PSCI 183), and feminist theory (PSCI 280, GSWS 582).  She also taught at Cornell University  in the Department of Government for 12 years before coming to Penn in 2002. 

Office Hours
Tuesdays, Thursdays 3-4 PM
Research Interests
  • Disability rights and theory
  • Gender policy and discrimination
  • History of Political Thought
  • Modern Political Theory
  • Feminist Theory
  • Contemporary Political Thought
  • Theoretical Approaches to Public Policy
Courses Taught
  • Modern Political Thought
  • Political Theory and Public Policy
  • Feminist Political Thought
  • Contemporary Political Thought
  • American Political Thought
  • Gender and Political Theory
CV (file)