In memoriam: Kirstie McClure, 72, brought interdisciplinary approach to study of political history

Published: January 5, 2024
Kirstie McClureKirstie McClure in 2011. (Video still courtesy of Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College)
Sean Brenner | 

Kirstie McClure, a UCLA professor of political science, English and comparative literature, died Dec. 21, 2023, at the age of 72.

Her research interests included modern and contemporary political theory, politics and literature, the history and historiography of political literature, and feminist theory.

In a message on the UCLA political science website, Davide Panagia, the department chair, lauded McClure as “a formidable colleague and friend to many of us” who would be remembered for “her brilliance, her encyclopedic knowledge of the history of political thought and her refusal to leave a thought unfinished.”

“Her contributions to political theory, the history of political thought, feminist theory, and critical political theory were many, both published [and] institutional, and as a mentor to innumerable students and scholars currently teaching throughout the world,” Panagia wrote.

McClure joined UCLA’s faculty as an associate professor of political science in 1999. She would go on to receive joint appointments in English, in 2005, and comparative literature, in 2007.

“Kirstie was a brilliant scholar and a generous colleague,” said Michael Rothberg, chair of the comparative literature department. “She is remembered by the faculty as someone who was always ready to engage in stimulating dialogue about a wide range of intellectual matters. Her lively presence in the department will be sorely missed.”

Said Saree Makdisi, chair of the English department, “Professor McClure’s colleagues in the department of English mourn her passing and will miss her sparkling intellect and her razor-sharp interventions in discussions of critical theory and contemporary academic practice.”

McClure earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida International University in 1978, and then a master’s degree (1983) and doctorate (1987), both in politics, from Princeton University. She began her teaching career in 1989 at Arizona State University and then spent a decade at Johns Hopkins University before arriving at UCLA.

Among her significant publications were “Judging Rights: Lockean Politics and the Limits of Consent,” published by Cornell University Press in 1996, and “Feminist Interpretations of John Locke,” which she co-edited, published by Pennsylvania State University Press in 2007.

McClure was a member of the American Political Science Association and served as political theory editor of the American Political Science Review.

In his message, Panagia also credited McClure for helping to bring an interdisciplinary perspective to political theory, including through her “championing of feminist theory and scholarship at a time and in a discipline where this avenue of inquiry was relegated to a domesticated corner of political science departments.

“It is safe to say that Kirstie’s contributions to the study of political theory opened a Pandora’s box, and we are all grateful for it.”

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