Department of Political Science


Dr Emily McTernan

Emily McTernan
Associate Professor in Political Theory
Room: 4.02, 29/30 Tavistock Square
Email: e.mcternan@ucl.ac.uk



I am currently Associate Professor in Political Theory at UCL. Until 2019, I ran the Department’s MA in Legal and Political Theory. I have held visiting positions at the School of Philosophy, ANU, and Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. I have been an Associate Editor of Res Publica and am currently an Area Editor at Ergo.

My research has been funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, as well as a Templeton Religion Trust project grant (‘the beacon project’) and an ARC grant (‘political normativity and the feasibility constraint’). I won event funding from the Society of Applied Philosophy with Liam Shields, and a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Grant to establish a network on social equality with Martin O’Neill, Christian Schemmel and Fabian Schuppert.

I earned my doctorate at the History and Philosophy of Science Department, University of Cambridge in 2013.

I am currently co-host of the UCL Uncovering Politics podcast.


I defend the significance of social norms and social practices within political philosophy. I have argued for this while intervening in debates about how to conceptualise equality, microaggressions, and responsibility-sensitive egalitarianism; what kinds of fertility treatment should be provided; and how to inculcate civic virtues. This work has been published in Philosophy & Public Affairs; Journal of Political Philosophy; Political Studies; Journal of Applied Philosophy; Journal of Moral Philosophy; Bioethics; Philosophy, Politics & Economics; and the Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology.

Most recently, my focus has been on offence and the construction of our social standing. My book, On Taking Offence, is forthcoming June 2023 with Oxford University Press. This book argues for the significance and positive social value of taking offence, not as a matter of having hurt feelings, but as a means of resisting unequal social relations. You can read my analysis of the emotion of offence or watch a short video on YouTube.

My next project explores freedom of association, the value of associations, and the spaces they require. Lockdowns highlighted the physicality of our associational lives: we require access to spaces, and that how these spaces are designed affects who we associate with, and how we do so. I ask: what does a rich associational life require of our online and offline spaces? Considering association promises to illuminate contemporary issues, from the ethics of content moderation to no platforming protests and the design of hospitals. You can read the first piece of this research, ‘Against Visitor Bans’, or learn about a new collaborative project with Professor Ben Colburn and Dr Jane Clossick: ‘Spaces of Birth and Death’.

Uncovering Politics logo showing people with raised banners and hands in silhouette

Podcast: UCL Uncovering Politics

Hear Dr McTernan speak about her research on the following podcast episode:
S5 Ep3 | Taking Offence


Journal articles
Book chapters
Other articles


I teach the postgraduate modules ‘Meanings of Liberty’ and ‘Contemporary Political Philosophy II’, and the undergraduate module ‘Philosophy, Values, and the Social Sciences’.

I am currently supervising PhD students working on social equality and dementia, and on republicanism. My supervision interests are: equality (particularly relational/social egalitarianism and distributive justice); responsibility; political emotions; social norms and social practices; civic virtue and citizenship; freedom of association; political theory and architecture; and fertility treatments.