Natality: Toward a Philosophy of Birth

Book, 2024, 251 pp
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Birth is one of the most fraught and polarized issues of our time, at the centre of debates on abortion, gender, work, and medicine. But birth is not solely an issue; it is a fundamental part of the human condition, and, alongside death, the most consequential event in human life. Yet it remains dramatically unexplored. Although we have long intellectual traditions of wrestling with mortality, few have ever heard of natality, the term political theorist Hannah Arendt used to describe birth's active role in our lives. In this ambitious, revelatory book, Jennifer Banks begins with Arendt's definition of natality as the "miracle that saves the world" to develop an expansive framework for birth's philosophical, political, spiritual, and aesthetic significance.

Banks focuses on seven renowned western thinkers--Arendt, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Sojourner Truth, Adrienne Rich, and Toni Morrison--to reveal a provocative countertradition of birth. She narrates these writers' own experiences alongside the generative ways they contended with natality in their work. Passionately intelligent and wide-ranging, Natality invites readers to attend to birth as a challenging and life-affirming reminder of our shared humanity and our capacity for creative renewal.

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