Political representation

Course content

Practices of representation are pervasive in contemporary social and political life. In this seminar, we will focus on the concept of political representation and the normative debates surrounding it. The core questions that will guide our readings in contemporary political theory and our class discussions include: what is (political) representation? What does it mean to be well represented? What actors can be representatives? What is a good representative? And under what conditions are certain forms or practices of representation more or less legitimate? Delving into these questions will equip students with theoretical tools that can be put to use to make sense of and critically assess certain aspects of current political debates, institutions, and practices.


MSc in Political Science

MSc in Social Science

MSc in Security Risk Management

Bachelor in Political Science

Learning outcome


This seminar will provide students with the opportunity to gain an understanding of fundamental concepts and key debates of contemporary theories of political representation. The readings and discussions will particularly focus on normative debates about the forms and roles of representation in democratic systems, and about what makes certain practices of representation more or less democratic.



The objective of the seminar is that students develop their skills to read and discuss demanding theoretical texts; learn to identify and critically analyze concepts and arguments, in group and individually; and widen their experience of academic writing and presenting in political theory.



The objective of the seminar is to foster students’ ability to understand complex arguments and theories; to discuss them critically in clear and effective ways, both in oral and written form; and to bring these arguments and theories in relation with actual political practice and institutions. Students will also have opportunities to learn to develop sound critiques of arguments as well as their own arguments.

Seminar sessions: lecture, student-led discussions, student presentations, group work

Preparation: guided self- or group-study to

- read carefully all the mandatory readings in advance of each session;
- critically reflect on the mandatory readings;
- prepare questions and critical points for class discussion;
- prepare and complete session-dependent exercises.

Assignments: independent research

Preliminary reading list:

Brown, Mark B. “Survey Article: Citizen panels and the Concept of Representation.” Journal of Political Philosophy 14 (2): 203-225.

Celis, Karen and Sarah Childs. 2020. Feminist Democratic Representation. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Disch, Lisa. 2011. “Toward a Mobilization Conception of Democratic Representation.” American Political Science Review 105 (1): 100-114.

Dovi, Susanne. 2007. The Good Representative. Malden, Blackwell.

Kuyper, Jonathan. “Systemic Representation: Democracy, Deliberation, and Nonelectoral Representatives.” American Political Science Review 110 (2): 308–324.

Landemore, Hélène. 2020. Open Democracy: Reinventing Popular Rule for the Twenty-First Century. Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Manin, Bernard. 1997. The Principles of Representative Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mansbridge, Jane. 2003. “Rethinking Representation.” American Political Science Review 97 (4): 515-528.

Mansbridge, Jane. 2011. “Clarifying the Concept of Representation.” American Political Science Review 105 (3): 621-630.

Mansbridge, Jane. 2015. “Should Workers Represent Workers?” Swiss Political Science Review 21 (2): 261-270.

Montanaro, Laura. 2017. Who Elected Oxfam? A Democratic Defense of Self-Appointed Representatives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Phillips, Anne. 1995. The Politics of Presence. New York: Clarendon.

Pitkin, Hannah F. 1967. The Concept of Representation. Berkeley, University of California Press.

Pitkin, Hannah F. 2004. “Representation and Democracy: Uneasy Alliance.” Scandinavian Political Studies 27 (3): 335-342.

Plotke, David. 1997. “Representation is Democracy.” Constellations 4 (1): 19-34.

Rehfeld, Andrew. 2018. “On Representing.” Journal of Political Philosophy 26 (2): 216-239.

Rubenstein, Jennifer C. “The Misuse of Power, Not Bad Representation: Why It Is Beside the Point that No One Elected Oxfam.” Journal of Political Philosophy 22 (2): 204-230.

Saward, Michael. 2009. “Authorisation and Authenticity: Representation and the Unelected.” Journal of Political Philosophy 17 (1): 1-22.

Saward, Michael. 2010. The Representative Claim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Saward, Michael. 2014. “Shape-Shifting Representation.” American Political Science Review 108 (4): 723-736.

Thompson, Dennis. 2010. “Representing future generations: political presentism and democratic trusteeship.” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 13 (1): 17-37.

Urbinati, Nadia. 2006. Representative Democracy: Principles and Genealogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Urbinati, Nadia and Mark E. Warren. 2008. “The Concept of Representation in Contemporary Democratic Theory.” Annual Review of Political Science 11: 387-412.

Warren, Mark E. 2008. “Citizens Representatives.” In Warren, Mark E. and Hillary Pearse, Designing Deliberative Democracy: The British Columbia Citizens' Assembly. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 50-69.

Williams, Melissa. 1998. Voice, Trust, and Memory: Marginalized Groups and the Failings of Liberal Representation. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Continuous feedback during the course
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Type of assessment details
Portfolio exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester

Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Alice el-Wakil   (14-67726f696b346b72337d67716f72466f6c7934717b346a71)
Saved on the 31-10-2022

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