A decolonial critique of intersectionality

Crenshaw opened the door to bring in all kind of oppression under one umbrella. Thus Lykke defines intersectionality as “a theoretical and methodological tool to analyze how historically specific kinds of power differentials and/or constraining normativities, based on discursively, institutionally and/or structurally constructed sociocultural categorizations such as gender, ethnicity, race, class, sexuality, age/ generation, dis/ability, nationality, mother tongue and so on, interact, and in so doing produce different kinds of societal inequalities and unjust social relations. As this is an umbrella definition, it is important to notice that the societal mechanisms at stake here are defined in different ways by different branches of feminist theorists. Depending on the theoretical framework, they can be theorized as dominance/subordination, in/exclusion, recognition/ misrecognition, power/disempowerment, possession/dispossession, privilege/lack of privilege, majoritizing/minoritizing and so on.” (Lykke, N. 2010, p. 50-51)

An oppressed person will need a PhD degree to understand his or her oppression.

The critique of the theory of intersectionality

A decolonial critique of the theory of intersectionality has five dimensions.

First, the understanding of the nature of oppression as an oppression of individuals. Crenshaw analyses social oppression in term of individual oppression. This argument goes back to the liberal tradition of the White European Enlightenment where philosophers like John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant argued that Enlightenment was about the liberation of individuals from oppression by authority.

The narrative of oppression in the theory of intersectionality is constructed on the basis of “experiences” of individuals. The concept of intersection just does not fit in an analysis of oppression of communities. In the theory of intersection a black community can be positioned on the “racism road” but that road can not intersect with the “patriarchy road” because patriarchy is not about the experience of the black community as a whole. One can argue that black women within that community experience patriarchal oppression and are there on the patriarchy road”, but the community as a whole can not be on the “patriarchy road”. That is why the concept of intersection can only be applied in the case of individual oppression (the individual experience) and not in the case of social oppression.

Within the European Enlightenment Marxism was a school of thought that acknowledged the social nature of oppression as the oppression of classes. Class struggle is not about a struggle between individuals or between individuals and authority in general. Class struggle is a struggle of oppressed classes against oppressing classes.

Decolonial International Network