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Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Sonia Kruks

IAS Fellow at St Cuthbert's Society, Durham University (October - December 2008)

Professor Sonia Kruks is a political philosopher who is best known for her scholarly work on the political and social ideas of the French existentialists. She has also published extensively on feminist theory. Professor Kruks received a BA in Political Studies from Leeds University and a Masters and Doctorate in Government from the London School of Economics. She began her teaching career in London, at the City of London Polytechnic, and then spent two years teaching at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique before moving to the United States in 1980. In the USA she has held positions at The Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research and at Oberlin College. She is currently the Robert S. Danforth Professor of Politics at Oberlin, a position she has held since 1990. Professor Kruks has held visiting fellowships at the Five College Women's Studies Center at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, and at the Gender Institute of the London School of Economics. She was the recipient of a Mellon Foundation research award in 2007.

As well as numerous articles, Professor Kruks has published a book on the political philosophy of Merleau-Ponty and another that explores the social philosophy of several of the French existentialist thinkers, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Gabriel Marcel, and Merleau-Ponty. Her work in feminist theory, notably her book Retrieving Experience: Subjectivity and Recognition in Feminist Politics (2001), draws on aspects of existential philosophy in order to engage in a critical dialogue with poststructuralist feminism.

Professor Kruks serves on the Editorial Board of PS: Political Science and Politics, an official journal of the American Political Science Association, as well as on the editorial boards of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy and Sartre Studies International: Journal of Existentialism and Culture. She is a member of the Executive Board of the International Association of Women Philosophers, and has served as Secretary of the ‘Women and Politics Research Section' and Treasurer of the ‘Foundations of Political Theory Section' of the American Political Science Association.

She is currently working on a book-length project on the political philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir. While at Durham she will be addressing the theme of "being human" by considering questions of personhood and dynamics of depersonalization through the lenses of Beauvoir's work.


IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - 'Eye for Eye': Why do we humans seek revenge, and should we?
4th November 2008, 17:30, Lecture Room 21, Pemberton Building, Palace Green

IAS/St Cuthbert's Society Public Lecture “Eye for Eye” is the Biblical injunction to take revenge for an injury by inflicting an equivalent injury on the wrong-doer. It is also the title of an essay by the French existentialist thinker, Simone de Beauvoir, concerning the punishment of those who had collaborated with Nazi atrocities in France during the Second World War. Beauvoir’s essay raises questions about why we often desire to punish the perpetrators of atrocities, even when doing so cannot provide adequate restitution to their victims. What purposes does revenge serve in such cases?

Using Beauvoir’s essay as a focal point, the lecture will address such questions as whether or not the desire for revenge is a “natural” emotion, why we seek revenge even when we are not the injured party, what might be the relationship between revenge and justice, and whether or not revenge is morally justifiable. Beauvoir suggests that the moral status of acts of revenge is always ambiguous, for even though they may help to reaffirm the humanity of those injured they will also dehumanize those punished. Beauvoir’s concerns remain highly relevant today, in a world of recent and continuing mass atrocities (from Serbia to Sudan), and her essay invites us to reflect on the purposes of such institutions as War Crimes Tribunals and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. Sonia Kruks is a political philosopher at Oberlin College, Ohio, and is best known for her scholarly work on the political and social ideas of the French existentialists. She has also published extensively on feminist theory. She is currently at Fellow at the Durham Institute of Advanced Study and St Cuthbert's Society (October-December 2008) where she is participating in the Institute’s ‘Being Human’ theme. While at Durham she will be addressing the theme of ‘being human’ by considering questions of personhood and dynamics of depersonalisation through the lenses of Beauvoir’s work.


Professor Sonia Kruks Publications

Kruks, S. (2012) Simone de Beauvoir and the Politics of Ambiguity. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press

Kruks S (2010) ' Simone de Beauvoir: Engaging Discrepant Materialisms' in Coole, D., Frost, S New Materialisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 258-280

Kruks S (2009) 'Ambiguity and Certitude in Simone de Beauvoir's Politics' PMLA (Journal of the Modern Language Association), 124, pp. 214-220 

Kruks S (2009) ' Moving Beyond Sartre: Constraint and Freedom in Beauvoir’s ‘Moral essays’ and The Mandarins' in Daigle, C., Golumb, J (eds) <span >Beauvoir and Sartre: The Riddle of Influence. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 160-179.

Kruks S (2009) '"Oeil pour oeil": Beauvoir et la phénoménologie de la revanche', Cahiers de l'Association Internationale des Etudes Françaises, 61, pp. 119-131