Intersectionality: Origins, Contestations, Horizons

By Anna Carastathis | Go to book overview

3
Intersectionality as a Provisional Concept

In the previous chapter we saw that in Crenshaw’s early work, intersectionality was one of two metaphors introduced to illustrate how law reproduces systems of domination, relegating Black women and other multiply oppressed groups to the “basement” of social hierarchy. The forgetting of the basement may coincide with the forgetting of those who are condemned to occupy it; the “flattening” of intersectionality may signal a depoliticizing shift in the mainstreaming of the concept. Drawing on Collins’s and McKittrick’s analyses of “flattened geographies,” we began to trace how the concept’s reduction to a metaphoric level of the “language of space” means that the “radical disruptions” of “white patriarchal space” (McKittrick 2006, 57) effected through Black feminist theoretical interventions and political struggles are increasingly stripped of their transformative power as they are absorbed into hegemonic feminisms. Thus, McKittrick’s warning is well taken: “Black feminist theory, like other theories, can be erased because they are often relegated to the conceptual arena, rather than through the imbrication of material and metaphoric space; the margin can stand in for the black female body and the body itself is rendered conceptual rather than a site of humanness and struggle” (59–60). The trajectory of intersectionality evinces a parallel process: if intersectionality is often invoked as an objectifying proxy for Black women, it is just as often invoked as an empty space available for seizure by just about anyone. In a recent lecture, Crenshaw characterizes the current conjuncture in intersectionality studies

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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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