Unearthing a voice: Arendt on action, public space, and identity, a feminist analysis

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University of New Brunswick


Hannah Arendt is a German-Jewish thinker, Holocaust survivor and one of the most influential female political theorists of the twentieth century, yet she does not write explicitly on the topic of gender. While many of her critics are quick to say that Arendt is anti-feminist and that her text The Human Condition is a masculinist and phallocentric work, I argue that Arendt theorizes the emancipatory concept of action which can be put in service of the feminist movement. By exploring the three elements of vita activa and how they apply to men and women, Arendt’s portrayal of the public and private realms and the issue of the social, and her anticipation of identity politics, particularly through her rumination on Jewish identity and womanhood, I reveal a type of feminist politics located in Arendt’s The Human Condition. Arendt provides a vehicle for women’s liberation through action, and to provide this liberation is a feminist act.