Intersectionality: Origins, Contestations, Horizons

By Anna Carastathis | Go to book overview

1
Intersectionality, Black Feminist Thought,
and Women-of-Color Organizing

Although disembodied and depolicitized invocations of “intersectionality” abound, and some scholars pronounce favorably while others look skeptically on the “vagueness” or indeterminacy of the metaphor, it is at the outset important to recognize that the concept originates as a political intervention with determinate aims, inheriting a long history of struggle. The concept of intersectionality is fruitfully situated in a trajectory of Black feminist thought that begins in the nineteenth century, when African American women resisting the “whips and stings of prejudice, whether of colour or sex” articulated what it means to be confronted, as Anna Julia Cooper put it in 1892, by both “a woman question” and a “race problem” but to be constructed “as yet an unknown or unacknowledged factor in both” (Cooper [1892] 1998, 112; see Cooper [1930] 1998). Elise Johnson McDougald identifies in 1925 not only “the double task” that Black women confront but also the conflicts they face due to the divisions between “sex” and “race” in the emancipation struggle: “their feminist efforts are directed chiefly toward the realization of the equality of the races, the sex struggle assuming a subordinate place” (Johnson McDougald [1925] 1995, 82). Sojourner Truth’s speech “Woman’s Rights,” delivered in 1851, disputes the prototypicality of white women’s experiences in defining women’s oppression:

Look at my arm! I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into
barns, and no man could head me! And a’n’t I a woman? I could work

-15-

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Intersectionality: Origins, Contestations, Horizons
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Intersectionality, Black Feminist Thought, and Women-of-Color Organizing 15
  • 2 - Basements and Intersections 69
  • 3 - Intersectionality as a Provisional Concept 103
  • 4 - Critical Engagements with Intersectionality 125
  • 5 - Identities as Coalitions 163
  • 6 - Intersectionality and Decolonial Feminism 199
  • Conclusion 233
  • References 241
  • Index 263
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