Väitös: Julian Honkasalo, "Sisterhood, Natality, Queer - Reframing Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt"

Julian Honkasalo väittelee lauantaina 23.1.2016 kello 12 Helsingin yliopiston humanistisessa tiedekunnassa aiheesta "Sisterhood, Natality, Queer - Reframing Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt". Väitöstilaisuus järjestetään Päärakennuksen Auditorium XII:ssa. Tilaisuuden jälkeen seuraa kahvitarjoilu.

Vastaväittäjänä toimii Professor Eleni Varikas (Université Paris 8) ja kustoksena professori Tuija Pulkkinen.

Väitöskirja on saatavissa myös elektronisena julkaisuna ja luettavissa E-thesis -palvelussa.


Julian Honkasalo will defend the doctoral dissertation entitled "Sisterhood, Natality, Queer - Reframing Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt" in the Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, on 23 January 2016 at 12:00. The public examination will take place at the following address: Auditorium XII, University Main Building. Coffee reception follows.

Professor Eleni Varikas, Université Paris 8, will serve as the opponent, and Professor Tuija Pulkkinen as the custos. The dissertation is also available in electronic form through the E-thesis service.


ABSTRACT in English:


Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) did not theorize gender as a political question. None of her major works deal with women s liberation, women s rights, or with gendered aspects of power. In her public life, she neither participated nor spoke up in favor of any feminist group. Yet, her works have generated a rich and polyphonic tradition of feminist scholarship. This dissertation provides the first monograph length, systematic examination of four decades of feminist responses to Arendt's political thought.


In this study I ask how and for what purposes have feminist interpreters of Arendt singled out concepts and topics for scrutiny and debate in their efforts to understand the absence of a theory of gender in Arendt's oeuvre. Why has precisely Hannah Arendt been so widely and passionately read by feminist theorists, despite the fact that she did not engage in this field of inquiry at all?


By analyzing and contextualizing how each text in feminist secondary literature on Arendt constitutes a distinct response to her silence on gender, and by then grouping these responses, this study finds that feminist efforts to make sense of the absence of a theory of gender in Arendt s political thinking can best be understood through a threefold categorization. First, Anglophone, early second wave sisterhood-interpretations approach Arendt through the conceptual pairs of the public and the private, and the social and the political, arriving at the conclusion that Arendt is a masculine anti-feminist. Second, Continental, French and Italian interpretations operate with Arendt s concept of natality and regard Arendt as a female genius. Finally, postmodern and queer readings highlight concepts such as unique distinctness, speech and action and pariahdom, establishing Arendt as a precursor to feminist elaborations on performativity as well as critiques of identity politics. I contend that taken together, these three feminist perspectives form a prism through which Arendt's enigmatic silence on gender becomes meaningful. At the same time, the history of contemporary feminist political theorizing emerges as a highly polyphonic tradition. Hence, there is no single, univocal feminist theory or feminism that can be applied to Arendt s texts in order to answer the question of how and why she left questions related to gender and sexuality unanswered. Instead, Arendt s account on gender and sexuality can only be grasped through multiple perspectives and multiple feminist voices.