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41 ATANASIJEVIĆ, Ksenija (1894–1981) Serbian philosopher, thinker, professor; leading feminist in Yugoslavia in the first half of the twentieth century; member of the presidium of the Skupštine Lige žena za mir i slobodu (Serbian Women’s League for Peace and Freedom) and editor of the first feminist journal in the country, Ženski pokret (The Women’s Movement, published from 1920 to 1938). Ksenija Atanasijević was born on 5 February 1894 in Belgrade. Her mother died during childbirth, a tragedy affecting Ksenija’s life in later years. Her father, from a well-off family, was the director of the State Hospital in Belgrade. He passed away when she was just twelve, an event swiftly followed by the death of her brother in World War I. Ksenija Atanasijevi ć was then brought up by her stepmother, Sofija Kondić, an educated woman who taught at the Viša ženska škola (Women’s College) in Belgrade. During her high school years, Atanasijević was influenced by a philosophy professor , Nada Stoiljković; it was probably Stoiljković who encouraged her to study philosophy at Belgrade University. She graduated in July 1920 with the highest marks in her graduating class, obtaining a university diploma in “pure and applied philosophy and classics.” An excellent student, Ksenija Atanasijević decided to pursue an academic career in philosophy and soon after the graduation, began working on a doctoral thesis on Giordano Bruno’s De triplici minimo. She visited Geneva and Paris to discuss her thesis with specialists and, on 20 January 1922, defended her Ph.D. with honors in Belgrade. Her thesis was entitled Brunovo učenje o najmanjem (Bruno’s teaching as given in his work ‘De triplici minimo’); upon its completion and successful defense, Atanasijević became the first woman to hold a Ph.D. in Serbia. She was then 28 years old. Soon after, she became the first female university professor to be appointed to the Department of Philosophy at Belgrade University, where she taught classics, medieval and modern philosophy and aesthetics. Ksenija Atanasijević left a substantial volume of work, including over four hundred texts, among them books and essays in philosophy, psychology, history and literature. Her interest in philosophy was broad and eclectic, covering ethics, metaphysics, logic, aesthetics and the history of philosophy. She is best known for her original interpreta- 42 tions of Giordano Bruno’s work and for her ‘philosophy of meaning’ developed in Filozofski fragmenti (Philosophical fragments, 1928–1929), considered by many to be her most significant work. In this, as well as in Aspekti i analize filozofije humanizma (Aspects and analyses of a philosophy of humanism, 1969) and Značenje i vrednost egzistencije (The meaning and value of existence, 1968), Atanasijević developed an innovative ontological-axiological philosophy of the meaning of human existence across several fields. Some authors regard these works as a blend of different subjects and modes of thought; others insist on speaking of ‘intuition’ in her philosophical discourse. Her thinking on individuality and social meanings in the form of aphorism anticipated the existentialism of Kafka and J. P. Sartre. She perceived herself not as a ‘discursive’ but as an ‘intuitive’ philosopher, yearning to create a philosophy from elements of intuitive-imaginative consciousness. Indeed, Ksenija Atanasijević truly lived her philosophy as the praxis of a liberal and moral person. Among the first in Yugoslavia to plainly oppose German nationalism and anti-Semitism in an essay, “Oko za oko” (Eye for an eye), published in the newspaper Pravda (Truth) in 1933, she held several lectures on the Jewish contribution to world culture and was subsequently arrested by the Germans in 1942. After the war, the same liberal and moral praxis would lead to Atanasijević’s arrest by members of the newly established communist regime. Ksenija Atanasijević was a committed feminist both in theory and in practice. She was a member of the Presidium of the Skupštine Lige žena za mir i slobodu (Serbian Women’s League for Peace and Freedom) and editor of the first feminist journal in the country, Ženski pokret (The Women’s Movement, published from 1920 to 1938). Atanasijević was also a prominent member of the Alijansa ženskog pokreta (Women’s Movement Alliance). In this latter capacity, she wrote a number of articles and essays discussing feminist issues relevant to the Serbian society of the time—the place of women in Serbian public sphere, the leadership of the feminist movement and women’s suffrage rights—thereby helping to define the main issues and future course of Yugoslav feminism in...


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