In this article, I try to problematize the question of the feminine subject by invoking women philosophers. I probe the potential for practicing philosophy as a woman and for defining subjectivity as a specific female subject that philosophizes. Somewhat casually, I borrow and mobilize the concept of self-colonization (and more broadly speaking – colonization, colonialism, and postcolonialism), so often applied to cultures and nations, to reflect on the category of the subject. In the context of the female philosophical subject, this seems entirely justified. If we take Alexander Kiossev at his word when he writes about self-colonizing cultures, we can make the claim that the woman-philosopher is a “symbol of absence,” for she adapts an “alien” (so far unavailable) model of values for conceiving the subject and adopts an “alien” model of philosophical practice.
The notion of self-colonization cited in the title of this article can be understood as an attempt to clarify the terms of subjectivity, using categories and properties that are foreign, unrecognized, and unfamiliar, yet somehow appropriated or claimed (with simultaneous reluctance and enthusiasm) as one’s own. To identify as a philosopher, a woman must contend with the original colonizing gesture enacted by the philosophical tradition – a tradition that acknowledges her as neither a rational subject capable of reflexivity nor an agent that can authentically practice philosophy. For the most part, women philosophers find themselves in circumstances resembling the postcolonial framework and necessarily collide with what Kiossev describes as the “the morbid consciousness of an absence – a total, structural, non-empirical absence.” It is the “Others” (in this case, the select men sanctioned by tradition as rational subjects) who “possess all that we lack; they are all that we are not.”