New book on exile and knowledge circulation

Karolina Enquist Källgren just published a new book on the works of spanish author María Zambrano, interpreting her production in the light of exile and knowledge circulation.

The book, María Zambrano’s Ontology of Exile: Expressive Subjectivity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) is the first monograph in English offering a philosophical interpretation as well as historical contextualisation of her production. While Zambrano’s works are well-known in the Spanish speaking world, it is less so in the English-speaking world, and the book makes an important contribution to widening our understanding of 20th century philosophy.

María Zambrano (1904-1991) lived 47 years in exile, after having left Spain in 1939 because of the loss of the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. She was part of the ca 450 000 Spanish exiles that left Spain during 1939, among them ca 5000 intellectuals, who came to play an important part in the intellectual life in countries such as France, the Soviet Union, Mexico, Cuba and Italy after the Second World War. The book shows how Zambrano’s exile – she lived in Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Italy and France – was pivotal for the spread and development of philosophy in both Latin America and Europe.  Taking exile as a special case of knowledge circulation, the book investigates how her philosophy was influenced by, and came to influence the different intellectual milieus in which she lived during her exile.

Exile is thus taken to be both an auto-biographic experience for Zambrano, and a theme of philosophical reflection in her works, used to discuss such things as identity and human political and social agency. The book proposes that Zambrano was one of the early 20th century philosophers to understand the human being as fundamentally expressive, and in a necessary relationship to others towards which she expresses her being. The human being is by her nature social, and for that reason exile becomes a limit case, by which to understand the structure and necessity of human relations.

Zambrano was asked to return to Spain at the end of the Franco-regime, in 1984, and was then hailed as a symbol for the new and democratic Spain. Through her exile she was represented (and partly presented herself) as the safe-keeper of democratic ideals that had been forgotten in Spain during the Franco regime, taking the fact of exile knowledge circulation outside of the homeland as the safe guard of the proper values of a new patria. The book centres around the theme of exile and the way in which it led to a developed philosophical project on human subjectivity dependent on the circulation of knowledge that the exile entailed, both with regards to patterns of publication and genre style as with regards to philosophical influences in different places of the world, most importantly in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Italy.

The book has received attention internationally, not the least in Spain. For an interview with Karolina Enquist Källgren (in Spanish and Catalan), click the link:


Said about the book:

“This is a beautiful and much needed book, finally bringing María Zambrano’s pathbreaking philosophy of exile to the attention of the English speaking world. In a time when women voices and Spanish speaking philosophers are constantly marginalized, if not completely outcast from the philosophical canon, this book fills up a lacuna but also opens new roads towards the creation of a more diverse and inclusive philosophical workshop.” – Chiara Bottici, Associate Professor of Philosophy, New School of Social Research, USA.

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