University of Illinois at Chicago

An Intersectional Decolonial Feminist Critique of Kant

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posted on 2023-08-01, 00:00 authored by Maria I Mejia
In this dissertation, I put forth a critique of Kant’s account of womanhood to show the morally significant exclusions and erasures of non-white women in his moral theory. In Chapter 1, I argue that we need new methodological approaches to tackle the issues of racism and sexism in Kant. Following Dilek Huseyinzadegan, I lay out my methodology of constructive complicity which entails taking all of Kant’s works as relevant to our scholarship and our lives, placing Kant in the dark side of the Enlightenment, borrowing tools from US based Black feminists and Decolonial feminists, and grounding my orientation towards Kant in these traditions (their commitments and values). In Chapter 2, I review some of the literature on Kant’s racism, sexism, and heterosexism. I show that the pervasive lack of intersectional analyses and the prioritization of Kant’s ideal theory over his non-ideal theory has prevented us from seeing the depth and complexity of racist and sexist exclusions in Kant’s moral theory. In Chapter 3, I ask bell hooks’ question “Which women?” and trace the metalanguage of race (Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham) in Kant’s discussion of womanhood and civilization. I argue that Kant’s account of womanhood is implicitly white and that it renders non-white women (and their kin) incapable of participating in moral development. Lastly, I argue that we need Kant’s racist-sexist anthropological account to determine whom the Categorical Imperative’s Formula of Humanity applies to, showing that the former cannot be neatly excised from the latter. In Chapter 4, I argue that the mainstream approach to teaching Kant’s moral theory results in epistemic harms whereby minoritized students are asked to disembody and abandon their racialized, gendered, and sexualized positionalities and see themselves as unproblematically included in Kant’s moral theory. I suggest that we need to teach Kant in radically different ways to reduce or avoid these harms, and I offer Maria Lugones’ decolonial feminist account of ‘world’-travel as a promising approach



Laden, Anthony


Laden, Anthony



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Hilbert, David Eaton, Anne Lu-Adler, Huaping Martin, Annette

Submitted date

August 2023

Thesis type



  • en

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