Honig: Scholar Behind the Uproar

Associate Professor of Government Bonnie Honig is known in political theory circles as a quiet scholar whose work takes a fresh look at issues such as equality and justice.

It is somewhat ironic, then, that she was thrown into the national spotlight after being denied tenure last month by the University.

Honig grew up in Montreal, where she attended Orthodox Jewish elementary and high school. Her background, she says, stimulated her later interest in political theory.

"I was very attracted to the intellectual dimensions of Orthodox Judaism," she says. "But there weren't many avenues for women to do the interesting things within Orthodox Judaism."

Honig says she was initially attracted to political theory because she found it "intellectually challenging," much like Orthodox Judaism.

"Given my training, there are very familiar reasoning techniques involved," she says.

Honig says she has continued studying political theory because it tackles the subjects of "equality, justice, power, democracy and gender."

"The latter [issues] are what have kept me in it, because there is still a lot of work to be done, both in theory and in practice," she says.

Towards Gender Issues

During her time at Harvard, Honig says she has become more involved with feminist issues.

"When I arrived at Harvard, I wasn't actively doing work in feminist theory," Honig says. "It became obvious to me that you can't do democratic theory without addressing gender equality, and that's why I started teaching a course in women's studies a little after I arrived here."

Women's Studies 150: "Moral Dilemmas," a medium-sized lecture course, centers around the question of whether "women and men experience moral conflict in the same ways," Honig says.

"We use literature, film and plays to think more about the subject of moral dilemmas than moral theory courses usually do. And we try to take theory to practice," she says.

Honig says the tenure denial has done little to change the way she views gender issues.

"It proves that my work on gen- der politics is right, so maybe it emboldens me to continue the work that I've been doing," she says.