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Arendt, Natality and Biopolitics

Toward Democratic Plurality and Reproductive Justice

Rosalyn Diprose, Ewa Plonowska Ziarek

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Reconsiders Arendt’s philosophy of natality in terms of biopolitical theory and feminism to defend women's reproductive choices and democratic pluralism

Rosalyn Diprose and Ewa Ziarek provide a reconfiguration of Hannah Arendt’s philosophy of natality from the perspective of biopolitical and feminist theory. They show that Arendt provides new ways of contesting biopolitical threats to human plurality and the way biopolitics, along with sexism, racism and political theology target women’s reproductive agency. They also extend Arendt’s account of collective political action to include consideration of political hospitality, responsibility and story-telling as ways of countering the harms of biopower.

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1. Natality Reframing the Meaning of Politics
2. Natality, Normalising Biopolitics, and Totalitarianism
3. Natality, Abortion, and the Biopolitics of Reproduction
4. Natality Ethics, and Politics: Hospitality, Corporeality, Responsibility
5. Natality and Narrative

About the Author

Rosalyn Diprose is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. She has published numerous peer-reviewed papers and book chapters on concepts and issues at the intersection between philosophies of embodiment, existential phenomenology and biopolitical theory. Her book publications in this field include Corporeal Generosity: On Giving with Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas (SUNY 2002), The Bodies of Women: Ethics, Difference and Embodiment (Routledge 1994/2007). She is co-editor of Merleau-Ponty: Key Concepts (Acumen 2008/ Routledge 2014) and Cartographies: Poststructuralism and the Mapping of Bodies and Spaces (Allen & Unwin, 1991).

Ewa Plonowska Ziarek is Julian Park Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Buffalo, SUNY. She is the author of Feminist Aesthetics and the Politics of Modernism (Columbia University Press, 2012), An Ethics of Dissensus: Feminism, Postmodernity and the Politics of Radical Democracy (Stanford University Press, 2001), The Rhetoric of Failure: Deconstruction of Skepticism, Reinvention of Modernism (SUNY, 1995). She is the editor of Grombrowicz’s Grimaces: Modernism, Gender, Nationality (SUNY, 1998) and the co-editor of Revolt, Affect, Collectivity: The Unstable Boundaries of Kristeva’s Polis (SUNY, 2005) and Time for the Humanities: Praxis and the Limits of Autonomy (Fordham University Press, 2008) and Intermedialities: Philosophy, Art, Politics (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010).


Diprose and Ziarek give us a powerful defence of reproductive rights when this has never before been more necessary. The book is a tour-de-force, beautifully written and powerfully argued. It is a must read for activists and theoreticians who have been seeking new ways to defend reproductive freedom.

- Drucilla Cornell, Emeritus Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

Demonstrating how Hannah Arendt is the "unacknowledged basis" for a great deal of contemporary continental philosophy, from Foucault to Agamben to Esposito and Nancy, this masterful book on Arendt’s work is both long overdue and just in time. Rigorous, detailed, and creative, Arendt, Natality and Biopolitics by Rosalyn Diprose and Ewa Ziarek, carefully shows how Arendt’s most innovative analyses -- of the "force of movement", biopolitics (avant la lettre), and natality  -- are obscured, denied, or criticized by critics who absorb her insights, fail to credit them, or mischaracterize them. This book goes a long way to setting things right, showing how Arendt’s work, especially on the key concept of natality, speaks to today’s concerns more than ever. We are all in the authors’ debt.

- Bonnie Honig, Brown University

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