Natality: Arendt’s challenge to the Kampfgemeinschaft (battle-community)
Petra Brown (Deakin University)

September 27, 2016, 4:00pm - 5:30pm
European Philosophy and the History of Ideas Research Group (EPHI), Deakin University

221 Burwood Hwy
Burwood 3125


  • School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Deakin University


The term ‘Kampfgemeinschaft’, variously translated as ‘battle-community’, ‘fighting-community’ or ‘struggle in common’ was a term that was invoked after World War I to explain the bonds and camaraderie formed by soldiers in the trenches. In the postwar years, the term was taken up by a broader German population, including intellectual thinkers such as Heidegger, who developed philosophies through the prism of struggle, sacrifice and destruction that focused on human mortality as the defining part of human existence.  While Heidegger emphasised the idea of polemical dialogue, of struggle amongst one another in the face of death in order to define one’s own ‘authenticity’, Arendt’s idea of community requires neither the focus on death, nor the sense of struggle against an enemy in order to become ‘authentic’. For Arendt, authenticity begins through recognising one’s own interdependence in a community.  This is evident through examining a concept that lies at the heart of her political philosophy: the concept of natality. This paper examines to what extent Arendt’s concept of natalitychallenges the adoption of a ‘battle-community’ mentality as a basis for philosophy and whether it is able to provide an alternative vision of community in a plural age.

Petra Brown is an academic in philosophy at Deakin University, Australia.  Research interests and expertise are in the area of philosophy of religion, religion and ethics, German mid-20th century philosophy, political philosophy, Carl Schmitt, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard. My PhD, Bonhoeffer: Kieregaard’s Single Individual in a State of Exception, was completed in early 2013. Publications include, ‘The Sons destined to Murder their Father: Crisis in Interwar Germany’ in Crisis and Reconfigurations, Springer, forthcoming  2016, co-authored with Ian Weeks, ‘Hans Mol, Science, and Narrative Identity’, in Sacred Selves, Sacred Settings: Reflecting Hans Mol, Douglas Davies (Ed) Ashgate, 2015, and ‘Against Fundamentalism: The Silence of the Divine in the work of Karen Armstrong’ in Secularisation and Its Discontents. Perspectives on the Return of Religion in the Contemporary West, Springer, 2013. Hannah Arendt’s political philosophy and theology, particularly in the context of her German peers is a new research interest.

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