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The Cosmopolitics of Race, Gender, and Indigeneity in Kant


Kant's notion of cosmopolitanism is influential to a range of topical issues, from multiculturalism and human rights to globalization and an ethical society. Cosmopolitanism promises a conception of the rational subject not constrained by commitments to the nation or the self. The universality of this conception has been challenged by feminist and critical race philosophers. The Cosmopolitics of Race, Gender, and Indigeneity in Kant offers a new approach towards investigating these promises and limits. By examining the deep background of the production of the rational subject, it argues that that there is a political-epistemological paradox at the heart of Kant's notion of cosmopolitanism. An impasse is generated between the pure, practical reason that motivates Kant's critical philosophy and the empirical framing of historical reason at play in accounts of political autonomy and cosmopolitan subjectivity. I claim that this paradoxical dimension of Kant's cosmopolitanism has not been sufficiently interrogated.

The central argument of my project is that Kant treats this paradox through a complex movement of identity and difference between the concepts of the human and humanity. I demonstrate that exclusions of race, gender, and indigeneity are needed by Kant to establish this movement as coherent. Drawing on recent scholarship that combines philosophical analysis with a historical and literary approach, the dissertation's arc makes this argument across a series of discourses. Chapter 1 revisits the relationship of Kant's concept of race to his moral philosophy by placing Kant's notion of cosmopolitan destiny alongside an original moment in the 18th century invention of the concept of race. Chapters 2 and 3 argue the centrality of gender to ideas of cosmopolitan subjectivity by examining Kant's account of political autonomy alongside his participation in a discourse of gender in German civil society. Chapter 4 demonstrates the significance of indigeneity to Kant's cosmopolitan vision by exploring his use of source material from an influential polemic on indigeneity in the New World. This project concludes that discourses of race, gender, and indigeneity qualify inclusion in the constituency of a future cosmopolitan society and form the horizon upon which the impasse between epistemology and politics is elaborated.

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