A decolonial critique of intersectionality

Fifth is the solution that intersectionality brings: “If any real efforts are to be made to free Black people of the constraints and conditions that characterize racial subordination, then theories and strategies purporting to reflect the Black community’s needs must include an analysis of sexism and patriarchy. Similarly, feminism must include an analysis of race if it hopes to express the aspirations of non-white women. Neither Black liberationist politics nor feminist theory can ignore the intersectional experiences of those whom the movements claim as their respective constituents. In order to include Black women, both movements must distance themselves from earlier approaches in which experiences are relevant only when they are related to certain clearly identifiable causes (for example, the oppression of Blacks is significant when based on race, of women when based on gender). The praxis of both should be centered on the life chances and life situations of people who should be cared about without regard to the source of their difficulties.” (Crenshaw, K. 1989, p. 166)

Sixth is the extension of intersectionality beyond the experiences of black women to other marginalized groups: “It seems that placing those who currently are marginalized in the center is the most effective way to resist efforts to compartmentalize experiences and undermine potential collective action….  The goal of this activity should be to facilitate the inclusion of marginalized groups for whom it can be said: “When they enter, we all enter.” (Crenshaw, K. 1989, p. 167)

Seventh is the critique of identity politics: “The problem with identity politics is not that it fails to transcend difference, as some critics charge, but rather the opposite- that it frequently conflates or ignores intra group differences. In the context of violence against women, this elision of difference is problematic, fundamentally because the violence that many women experience is often shaped by other dimensions of their identities, such as race and class. Moreover, ignoring differences within groups frequently contributes to tension among groups, another problem of identity politics that frustrates efforts to politicize violence against women. Feminist efforts to politicize experiences of women and antiracist efforts to politicize experiences of people of color’ have frequently proceeded as though the issues and experiences they each detail occur on mutually exclusive terrains. Although racism and sexism readily intersect in the lives of real people, they seldom do in feminist and antiracist practices. And so, when the practices expound identity as “woman” or “person of color” as an either/or proposition, they relegate the identity of women of color to a location that resists telling.” (Crenshaw, K. 1993, p. 1-2)

After Crenshaw many people have made contributions to the development of the theory of intersectionality. Crenshaw articulated oppression as the experience of individuals. Berger and Guidroz put it more precisely: “Race, class, and gender were once seen as separate issues for members of both dominant and subordinate groups. Now, scholars generally agree that these issues (as well as ethnicity, nation, age, and sexuality) — and how they intersect — are integral to individuals’ positions in the social world.” (Berger, M.  and Guidroz, K. 2009, p. 1)

Decolonial International Network