Brooke A. Ackerly

Associate Professor of Political Science, Vanderbilt University

Brooke Ackerly (Stanford PhD) is a political theorist and feminist methodologist at Vanderbilt University (Political Science and affiliated with Philosophy, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Community Research and Action). Her research interests include human rights, social and environmental justice, democracy, and methodologies for political theory and social science. She integrates normative and empirical research. She practices political theory as a vocation for pursuing the questions most pressing for the “struggles and wishes of the age” as they are identified by those who are themselves in struggle. Her first project, Political Theory and Feminist Social Criticism (Cambridge 2000), developed a methodology for a grounded approach to normative political theory that was inspired by the work of feminist activists and scholars around the world. Her second project, which includes Universal Human Rights in a World of Difference (Cambridge 2008), applied that methodology to the particular question of human rights and provided an illustration of these methods. Her current project, Just Responsibility: Global Responsibility for Everyday Injustices, continues this agenda of empirically informed normative theorizing. The book draws on the ways in which activists and other actors concerned with global injustice use a human rights approach to taking up and carrying out what they portray are their responsibilities for global justice.

As a theorist, she works comparatively drawing on texts and activisms from around the world with a particular interest in feminism, post-colonialism, and Confucianism.

As a methodologist, she works to develop transparent methods for studying complex social problems and works in collaboration with others using a wide variety of qualitative, quantitative, and experimental research methods and a comparably broad set of analytical tools.

As a research partner she works on multidisciplinary research questions related to problems whose intractability is in one sense methodological and in another sense political.

She is currently leading the Global Feminism Collaborative in ways of developing tools for evaluation of gender justice initiatives. This is a participatory action research agenda that draws on the work of Just Responsibility to partner with funders and activist organizations which are trying to address global injustice through local gender equity efforts in democratic, post-conflict, and post-disaster settings.

Finally, she is currently a partner in the study of the social justice dimensions of human-environment recursive interactions. This is a multidisciplinary research project, currently sited in the southwest of Bangladesh where saline inundation, cyclones, and apparent decreases agricultural production are affecting changes in livelihood.

Her courses include Ethics and Public Policy (3253), Justice (1103), Feminist Theory and Research (3271), Global Feminisms (3264W), Human Rights (8301), and Feminist Social and Political Thought (8305).


  • 2001–present
    Professor of Political Science, Vanderbilt University


  • 1997 
    Stanford University, PhD


  • 2018
    Just Responsibility: A human rights theory of global justice, Oxford University Press
  • 2008
    Universal Human Rights in a World of Difference, Cambridge University Press
  • 2000
    Political Theory and Feminist Social Criticism, Cambridge University Press