Hannah Arendt, Education, and Liberation: A Comparative South Asian Feminist Perspective
This article focuses on Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), education, and liberation, from a comparative South Asian feminist perspective. I am examining Arendt’s work as an independent-minded political theorist and philosopher who believed passionately both in education and liberation. She herself said, in an interview with Gunter Gaus in 1964, ‘I do not belong to the circle of philosophers. My profession, if one can even speak of it at all, is political theory.’ Exploring Arendt’s combination of existentialism and politically radical liberalism, my paper analyses some of the ways in which Arendt and two South Asian women thinker-activists have created models of human action and socio-political liberation, with a special interest in the sphere of education. I am arguing that Arendt’s view of politics as phenomenological (grounded in categories that are experiential) and existential has great usefulness and richness for analysing the work of women who were agents in the world of human ‘action’, a category that Arendt valued so much, and that she distinguished from ‘work’ and ‘labour’ in The Human Condition. Equally, Arendt grappled with the rich, eclectic resources of classic political thought, from Plato to Locke to Marx and Luxemburg. Reading Arendt non-hagiographically, I analyse her as an independent-minded, wide-ranging, and generative thinker on questions of power, politics, and the realm of human action.
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