A decolonial critique of intersectionality

The third critique is that intersectionality levels all oppressions. One experience can not be valued higher or lower than another experience of oppression. In the case of slavery the patriarchal oppression of black women is not different from the patriarchal oppression of white women. The difference between black and white women is not in patriarchal oppression but in the experience of racism, which white women don’t experience. Is a white women with the power to sell a black man or woman on the same road of patriarchy as the black women? This is clearly ridiculous. The oppression of black people during slavery is not at the same level as the oppression of white women by white men. Intersectionality levels these oppressions and can not make a distinction in the hierarchy of human suffering.

Fourth is the incorporation of western concepts in the theory of intersectionality. The concept of patriarchy is a western concept that looks at the relationship between men and women only through one lens: the lens of male domination and oppression of women. This perspective reduces human relations to a relations between subjects that are in struggle with each others. Undoubtedly there is struggle and oppression. But in decolonial theory we acknowledge another dimension in the relationship between men and women and that is love. Love is expressed in stories, songs and all forms of art. It is expressed in the human relationship between father and daughter, mother and son, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew and lovers. How does this dimension impacts the analysis of the relationship between men and women? The concept of patriarchy is one-dimensional and therefore unsuitable to understand the other dimensions of the relationship between men and women.

Fifth is the lack of acknowledgement of the idea that the liberation in one road of the intersection can be used to oppress individuals on another road. In the west women liberation and LGTB liberation are used in an imperial narrative of islamophobia to characterize and demonize Muslim communities in the world. In different western countries the narrative of women and LGTB liberation are used to justify the rise of the police state and organize attacks on the Muslim communities. The age-old colonial narrative of civilizing backward communities is now being used to create a climate of repression of the colonized subject with women and LGTB liberation as the instrument of civilization and the argument for oppression. Intersectionality has no answer to this challenge because it does not acknowledge women and LGTB liberation as a possible instrument of oppression.

Intersectional policy

There are practical implications of the intersectional theory which decolonial activists have to deal with.

First, the question of strategy of the decolonial movement. From our analysis of the nature of the decolonial struggle we argue for a strategy that aims to confront the central institutions of power, which are the economic, political, social and cultural institutions of power. The program of demands we produce are aimed to challenge these institutions and mobilize the broadest possible sections of our communities in challenging power. The major power that communities of colour face in this struggle are not the powers of patriarchy or heterosexuality in our communities. These are not the major problems. The major problems are the rise of the police state in the global north, the decolonization of the economic, political, social and cultural institutions in the global south and the global north and the problem of social justice and dignity in the world. So our focus is to create the broadest possible mobilization against power. That is why we are willing to work with people from our communities who have ideas on sexuality and gender we might disagree with, but yet we are willing to work with them in de mobilization against power.

Decolonial International Network