The Legacy of Simone de Beauvoir: Ambiguity and Embodied Subjectivity

A Philosophical Seminar at Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies

Fabianinkatu 24, Seminar Room 136, 1st floor
April 15, 2013
Open to all, welcome!

Organizers: Research Community Subjectivity, Historicity, Communality (SHC), Research Project Ethics of Renewal, Research Project Empathising with the Non-Human Other in Ancient Greek Literature, and The Association for Women and Feminist Philosophers in Finland (NFY).

Since Simone de Beauvoir’s death on the 14th of April 1986, her philosophical work has gained increasing attention and a multitude of volumes have been published on her arguments and reflections. Beauvoir developed an insightful description of situated and embodied subjectivity and clarified the structures of such a subject by investigating into the themes of sexuality, aging, mortality, historicity and literary communication.

The seminar illuminates Beauvoir’s contribution to feminist scholarship and existential-phenomenological philosophy that were the two main frameworks of her studies. The aim is to compare her arguments and insights to those of her contemporaries as well as to later feminist thinkers. The speakers are also invited to experiment with Beauvoir’s ideas with the aim of developing them further.


10.00 Opening by Sara Heinämaa
10.15–11.45 Christine Daigle (Brock University): The Feminist Phenomenology of Beauvoir: Rethinking Subjectivity
11.45–12.15  Ebba Witt-Brattström (University of Helsinki): Kristeva versus Beauvoir: An Intervention
12.15–13.15 Lunch
13.15–14.00 Sara Heinämaa (University of Helsinki): Beauvoir and Irigaray: Two Feminist Ethics of the Present
14.00–14.45 Sara Cohen-Shabot (University of Haifa): Laboring Bodies, Lost Selves: In Search of the Embodied Subject in Childbirth. A Beauvoirian Analysis
14.4515.00 Coffee
15.00–15.45 Erika Ruonakoski (University of Helsinki): Communicating Loss: A Beauvoirian Interpretation of an Ancient Greek Epigram
15.45–16.30 Hanna Lukkari (University of Helsinki): Beauvoir and the Politics of Rights and Liberation


Christine Daigle is Professor of philosophy at Brock University, Canada. She is author of Jean-Paul Sartre (2009) and editor of several volumes in philosophy of existence, including Beauvoir and Sartre: The Riddle of Influence (2009, ed. with Jacob Golomb) and Nietzsche and Phenomenology: Power, Life, Subjectivity (forthcoming 2013, ed. with Élodie Boublil). In the Sartre book, Daigle sets Sartre’s thought in context and considers a number of key ideas in detail, charting their impact and continuing influence, including Sartre’s ethics of authenticity and absolute responsibility and his discourse on concrete relations, sexual relationships and gender difference. Beauvoir and Sartre by Daigle and Golomb compiles a series of original articles by leading scholars exploring the philosophical and literary relationship between Beauvoir and Sartre.

Ebba Witt-Brattström is Professor of Nordic literature at the University of Helsinki. She is well known for her innovative work in literature and women’s studies that uses psychoanalysis as a method of textual analysis. Her numerous publications include Ediths jag: Edith Södergran och modernismens födelse (Edith’s Self: Edith Södergran and the Birth of Modernism, 1997) and Ur könets mörker (Out of the Darkness of Sex: Literary Analyses, 1993, expanded in 2003). More recently she has published Dekadensens kön: Ola Hansson och Laura Marholm (The Gender of Decadence: Ola Hansson and Laura Marholm, 2007) and Å alla kära systrar! Historien om mitt sjuttiotal (Oh All Dear Sisters! My Women’s Lib History, 2010).

Academy Fellow Docent Sara Heinämaa (Helsinki) is an internationally well-known phenomenologist and Beauvoir expert. Her groundbreaking work Toward a Phenomenology of Sexual Difference (2003) demonstrated that Beauvoir’s feminist argument rests on an existential-phenomenological conception of embodiment and the lived body. Her most recent publication Birth, Death and the Feminine (2010, with Robin May Schott et al.) discusses the topic of mortality within the phenomenological tradition and explicated Beauvoir’s contribution to the analysis of generativity.

Dr. Sara Cohen-Shabot is fellow in the Women’s and Gender Studies Programs in The University of Haifa and in Ben Gurion University, Israel. She has previously worked on the concept of the grotesque body, developing it within the framework of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of embodiment. Her book on this subject – The Grotesque Body: A Philosophical Inquiry on Bakhtin, Merleau-Ponty and Other Thinkers – was published in Hebrew in 2008 and is currently in process of being translated into English. Cohen Shabot’s present research uses Beauvoirian concepts to clarify the experiences of maternity and the maternal body.

Dr. Erika Ruonakoski (Helsinki) has translated Beauvoir’s works into Finnish, most importantly Le deuxième sexe I–II (together with Iina Koskinen and Hanna Lukkari) and Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté. Her doctoral dissertation Eläimen tuttuus ja vieraus (The Familiarity and Foreignness of Animals, 2011) explored empathy as it appears in encounters with non-human animals. Currently she works in an interdisciplinary project, which studies the same theme in the context of ancient Greek literature.

Hanna Lukkari is one of the translators of the Finnish, unabridged version of Le deuxième sexe I–II. She is a doctoral student in the graduate school in law, Law in the Changing World, at the University of Helsinki. In her research, she explores conceptions of rights within the phenomenological and existentialist traditions with the goal of developing a phenomenological understanding of human rights, their justification and limits.

Organisation committee: Sara Heinämaa and Erika Ruonakoski (University of Helsinki)
Contact: erika. ruonakoski (at)