Speaking Through the Mask: Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Social Identity

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Cornell University Press, 2000 - Philosophy - 205 pages

Hannah Arendt was famously resistant to both psychoanalysis and feminism. Nonetheless, psychoanalytic feminist theory can offer a new interpretive strategy for deconstructing her equally famous opposition between the social and the political.

Supplementing critical readings of Arendt's most significant texts (including The Human Condition, On Revolution, Rahel Varnhagen, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Eichmann in Jerusalem, and The Life of the Mind) with the insights of contemporary psychoanalytic, feminist, and social theorists, Norma Claire Moruzzi reconstitutes the relationship in Arendt's texts between constructed social identity and political agency.

Moruzzi uses Julia Kristeva's writings on abjection to clarify the textual dynamic in Arendt's work that constructs the social as a natural threat; Joan Riviere's and Mary Ann Doane's work on feminine masquerade amplify the theoretical possibilities implicit in Arendt's own discussion of the public, political mask.

In a bold interdisciplinary synthesis, Moruzzi develops the social applications of a concept (the mask) Arendt had described as limited to the strictly political realm: a new conception of (political) agency as (social) masquerade, traced through the marginal but emblematic textual figures who themselves enact the politics of social identity.

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Contents

Two The Social Question
14
Three The Mask and Masquerade
26
A Feminine Masquerade
48
Five
61
Benjamin Disraeli
67
Seven Race and Economics
86
Eight The Banality of Evil
114
Nine Politics as Masquerade
136
Notes
155
Index
203
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About the author (2000)

Norma Claire Moruzzi is Associate Professor of Political Science and Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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