Article Title

For What Can the Kantian Feminist Hope? Constructive Complicity in Appropriations of the Canon


As feminist scholars, we hope that our own work is exempt from structural problems such as racism, sexism, and Eurocentricism, that is, the kind of problems that are exemplified and enacted by Kant’s works. In other words, we hope that we do not re-enact, implicitly or explicitly, Kant’s problematic claims, which range from the unnaturalness of a female philosopher, “who might as well have a beard,” the stupid things that a black carpenter said “because he was black from head to foot,” the poor women “living in the greatest slavery in the Orient,” to the “sheep-like existence of the inhabitants of Tahiti.” In this piece, I argue that we cannot simply hope to avoid these problems unless we are vigilant about incorporating the full picture of Kant’s and Kantian philosophy into our feminist appropriations. I will show that one way to minimize if not altogether avoid this risk is to follow the model of a new methodology that establishes the continued relevance of all of Kant’s claims for our present. Inspired by Spivak’s A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, I will call this alternative methodology the “constructive complicity” approach.

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