Birth, Death, and Femininity
Philosophies of Embodiment
Publication Year: 2010
Issues surrounding birth and death have been fundamental for Western philosophy as well as for individual existence. The contributors to this volume unravel the gendered aspects of the classical philosophical discourses on death, bringing in discussions about birth, creativity, and the entire chain of human activity. By linking their work to major thinkers such as Heidegger, Nietzsche, Beauvoir, and Arendt, and to major philosophical currents such as ancient philosophy, existentialism, phenomenology, and social and political philosophy, they challenge prevailing feminist articulations of birth and death. These philosophical reflections add an important sexual dimension to current thinking on identity, temporality, and community.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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This book is a result of cooperation and dialogue. Over several years we have been studying original sources and contemporary research contributions together, discussing arguments, concepts, and methods for studying birth, death, and femininity. Over this period, we have become indebted to many institutions and individuals, whom we would like to acknowledge here...
One. Introduction: Birth, Death, and Femininity
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The concept of death has excited interest from the earliest sources of Western philosophy. In the pre-Socratic tradition, Heraclitus discussed death and birth as two equal principles of life. Death was viewed not as liberation of the soul into an otherworldly realm, but as the becoming of life of another worldly being. Thus, death and birth both belonged to an unending cycle ...
Part 1. Politics of Community
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Two. Sexual Violence, Sacrifice,and Narratives of Political Origins
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In the present era, we have become familiar with the coupling of sexual violence and political conflicts. When Serbian paramilitary soldiers committed mass rapes against Bosnian Muslims during the wars in the 1990s, it was part of a project of Serbian nation building. And when Hutus raped a quarter-million Tutsi women during the genocide in Rwanda, the violence ...
Three. Natality and Destruction: Arendtian Reflections on War Rape
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Sex crimes are perpetrated against women civilians around the world, and appallingly the number of these crimes is increasing rather than decreasing. Amnesty International reports that forty thousand women and girls were raped in the congo in the period 1999-2005. Sexual torture has been documented in Rwanda, the Sudan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, and East Timor (Booth ...
Part 2. Phenomenologies of Mortality and Generativity
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Four. The Sexed Self and the Mortal Body
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Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex (Le deuxi�me sexe 1949) includes a strong and influential argument about the associative link between femininity and death. Beauvoir points out that both men and women tend to associate women with finitude and mortality, and correspondingly, men with infinitude and eternal life. This holds for laymen and their common ...
Five. Being towards Death
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Martin Heidegger presents his much-discussed and often criticized concept of being-towards-death in Being and Time in chapter 4, which deals with being as care and Dasein's necessary incompleteness.1 In a well-known paragraph on the existential-ontological structure of death, he writes: ...
Six. Future and Others
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Already in the 1940s and 1950s several phenomenologists and existentialists problematized the central role that Heidegger gave to death in his interpretation of human existence. The main idea in these early critiques was that the determining horizon of a person's life is not in his own death but in the relations that bind him to other selves of disparate temporalities. Despite ...
Part 3. Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Life
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Seven. Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Birth
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Friedrich Nietzsche is a philosopher of birth and the body. The metaphor of birth is at the center of his philosophy of embodied life. In his philosophy Nietzsche introduces the conception of birth to convey an understanding of Dionysian philosophy as a form of thinking that is in tune with embodied life as both natal and mortal. By incorporating features that have in the ...
Eight. The Natal Self
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Nietzsche's depiction of human encounters as birth and his discussion of the natal self are the basis for an idea of an embodied self that is in a continuous process of emerging. Nietzsche reflects on what it means to be a natal being, which we can achieve primarily through our creative capacities in a way that he suggests is in tune with the emergent character of life itself. ...
Part 4. An Ancient Tragedy
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Nine. Antigone and the Deadly Desire for Sameness: Reflections on Origins and Death
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Although the Greek philosophers from Heraclitus to Plato lived in the same period as the tragic dramatists, modern philosophers have made few attempts to analyze the relationships between Greek philosophy and the tragedies. Among the exceptions are Hegel and Nietzsche. Despite their considerable differences as philosophers, both Hegel and Nietzsche assess the ...
Notes on Contributors
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Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2010