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  • Feminist Philosophy in German:A Historical Perspective
  • Herta Nagl-Docekal (bio)

It is with great pleasure that I write an introductory contribution for this Special Issue—with double pleasure, in fact, since I truly appreciate both the editor's concept and the work of the authors presented here. There is definitely a need for this Special Issue. It seems that knowledge about feminist philosophy in German is still scarce in the English-speaking world, although a multifaceted philosophical debate on gender issues has evolved in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland over the last decades.

As in other parts of the Western world, this discourse began to develop in the context of the student movement of the late 1960s. The earliest German-language publication in feminist philosophy I know of is an essay, "The Cultural Revolution of Woman," written by Karin Schrader-Klebert, who had received her Ph.D. at the Philosophy Department of Vienna University (Schrader-Klebert 1969). In the 1970s one event stands out as an important incentive for further research in feminist philosophy: the foundation of the Internationale Assoziation von Philosophinnen (International Association of Women Philosophers, or IAPh) in Würzburg, Germany, 1974. The list of the Association's founding members includes philosophers from Germany and Switzerland—among them Elfriede Walesca Tielsch and Brigitte Weisshaupt, whose joint commitment for this enterprise was most remarkable—and also Linda López McAlister, who spent a research year in Germany at that time and contributed valuable experience from SWIP; McAlister's early participation in IAPh is evidence of longstanding relations with feminist philosophers in the United States Ever since its founding, IAPh has organized sessions on feminist issues in the context of the congresses of the Deutsche Philosophische Gesellschaft (German [End Page 1] Philosophical Association, or DPG) and of the FISP World Congresses of Philosophy, beginning with the World Congress in Düsseldorf, 1978. In 1980 the IAPh organized its first symposium on its own, which took place in Würzburg. This was the beginning of a series of conferences, the most recent of which was the 11th IAPh Symposium held in Goeteborg, Sweden, June 17–19, 2004.

These conferences have been of great value for feminist philosophers in several respects. First, they provided a forum for presenting and discussing recent research. It is important to note that most of the philosophers with an interest in feminist theory were quite isolated at their respective universities (or other institutions such as high schools) and lacked opportunities for academic exchange—a situation that until today has not been completely overcome in many regions of the German-speaking world. Secondly, the IAPh symposia offered a chance for publications in the field—the overwhelming majority of papers were printed in volumes documenting the proceedings of the symposia (for the first of these books see Maren-Grisebach and Menzer 1982). And finally, the IAPh symposia created a space for reflecting on the status of women in the academic world, highlighting the fact that gender asymmetries in philosophy departments were, and still are, even more drastic than in other areas of the humanities, and for creating some forms of networking. Under these three aspects, IAPh also attracted attention beyond the borders of the German-speaking countries. Women philosophers from many other European countries and also from other continents soon joined in. Significantly, in the year 1992 the 6th IAPh Symposium was held in Amsterdam (Pellikaan-Engel 1992).

A further valuable means of intellectual exchange among women philosophers was created with the founding (in the year 1990 in Tübingen, Germany) of a journal specifically dedicated to gender issues: Die Philosophin. Forum für feministische Theorie und Philosophie. The results of feminist philosophical research also received a broader distribution, as they were included in several handbooks with an interdisciplinary approach to feminist studies, such as Metzler Lexikon Gender Studies (Kroll 2002) and Wörterbuch der Feministischen Theologie (Gössmann 1991, 2002). Additionally, since the early 1990s one of the leading German philosophy journals—Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, Berlin—has published on a regular basis essays and special clusters of papers on current issues in feminism, as well as reviews on new books in the field. Also, in recent...


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Archived 2009
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