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Radikale Zärtlichkeit – Warum Liebe politisch ist

Şeyda Kurt is a freelance journalist, moderator and author. Her work focuses on philosophy, culture, domestic politics, and intersectional feminism. Her book Radikale Zärtlichkeit – Warum Liebe politisch ist (Radical Tenderness – Why Love is Political, not yet translated into English) was published by Harper Collins Germany in April 2021 and combines many of her main concerns. She relates how her starting point was a discomfort with common images of love that are shaped by power relations, which empty the word of any real content. This critical view of love evoked in her a preference for the term tenderness: implying ways of behaving that couldn’t be further from any form of violence.

I find Kurt’s idea of radical tenderness attractive: it is based on the thinking of scholarly voices like bell hooks, Eva Illouz, and Silvia Federici, whose work I value highly. The concept, and the book as a whole, express a heartfelt desire for a more just togetherness. It constitutes a project that tries to work against discriminatory structures in relation to work and the body. All this might not sound radically new at first, but in addition, Kurt explicitly anchors her arguments in a German postmigrant reality. This is what leads me to recommend Radikale Zärtlichkeit even if you are already familiar with All About Love by bell hooks (which will finally be published in German in July 2021 as alles über Liebe). References to Kurt’s own family of guest workers crop up again and again, as well as to Turkish-language films she grew up with in Cologne in the 1990s. The biographical references don’t come without baggage of sorts, as Kurt correctly explains at the outset that the pressure to speak from the perspective of a marginalised person in order to lend validity to one’s expertise leads to further marginalization. It is a critical engagement of and with othering, of speaking of oneself as Other that is used in many recent books on issues critical of discrimination – for example, Emilia Roig’s Why We Matter or Alice Haster’s Was weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen, aber wissen sollten. Highlighting these issues will hopefully move the discourse forward.

What I particularly liked about Radikale Zärtlichkeit were the experimental and humorous formats that liven up the otherwise rather theoretical text. For example, Kurt makes up an interview with Karl Marx, writes an alternative alphabet of tenderness, and exchanges letters with Silvia Federici. Anyone looking for a glimmer of hope should grab this accessible book about a more tender togetherness.

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