Zeynep Üsüdür / Network for Woman in Philosophy and gendered curiosity

A couple of days ago we, the Network for Woman in Philosophy, organized a conference at the University of Copenhagen in a cooperation with a similar network in Bergen, Norway. The aim of the conference was to pay attention to women philosophers. All speakers were women and presented work including women philosophers. The two keynotes were Sabrina Ebbersmeyer from University of Copenhagen and Anne-Marie Søndergaard’s Christensen from University of Southern Denmark and they were followed by student as well as senior researchers presenting on a great variety of topics (e.g. Iris Murdoch on moral visions, on the question of whether there is a female way of composing (which made me think of the paper ”Throwing Like a Girl” by Marion Young), on universal basic income and Hannah Arendt, on Anne Conway’s metaphysics, etc. etc.). The variety of topics is fun and interesting, since it provides an inspirational platform, where you most likely hear about something that you did not expect or knew of before, but it also might have it’s backside. Because the main focus on the conference was female philosophers (rather than a focused topic) the conference did not attract many male students/researchers (in fact there were only a couple).

One of the talks, Sabrina Ebbersmeyer’s, presented a, for me, familiar and yet in some regards completely unknown topic. Sabrina Ebbersmeyer’s talk was of special interest for me, since she talked on gendered curiosity and my own ph.d project is on the philosophy of curiosity. Sabrina focused on female curiosity showing that the early modern view on curiosity, which turned towards a positive conception of intellectual curiosity and knowledge of no use (cf. Hans Blumenberg on how curiosity played a role in the legitimization of the modern age) was gendered in being limited to and thought of as male curiosity. It was interesting to hear about women I did not know of before (such as Christine de Pizan (1364-c. 1429), Arcangela Tarabotti (1604-1652), Marie Le Jars de Gournay (1565- 1645), Anna Maria van Schurman (1607-1678), and Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673), who engaged intellectually with these issues and tried to reclaim curiosity for themselves.

The perspective of gendered curiosity was new to me and made me think about whether it could have relevance for my own project on the philosophy of curiosity (which I will approach phenomenologically). Especially regarding the relation between knowledge and power there might be some possibilities in addressing the question in a broader framework in a final chapter on the social dimensions of curiosity.

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