Intersectional Theory


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A brief overview of intersectional theory.

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Intersectional Theory

  1. 1. Intersectionality
  2. 2. Intersectional Theory—Patricia Hill Collins <ul><li>Intersectional Theory argues that most sociological theory makes the mistake of examining only one variable at a time. </li></ul><ul><li>The basic premise is that variables work in groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Intersectional Theory is particularly concerned with the formation of social identities. </li></ul><ul><li>At its most basic form, Intersectional Theory examines the ways that gender, race, class, and sexuality work in concert to create inequality—“interlocking systems of oppression.” </li></ul>
  3. 3. Black Feminist Thought <ul><li>This is a chapter from Patricia Hill Collins’ book Black Feminist Thought </li></ul><ul><li>Collins is a sociologist at the University of Maryland </li></ul><ul><li>Collins is the foremost theorist of intersectionality within sociology. </li></ul><ul><li>Collins’ work on intersectionality begins with her biography as a Black American woman. </li></ul><ul><li>Although intersectionality is applicable to any identity, Black women have been the leaders in this field of sociology. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Black Feminist Thought <ul><li>Collins argues that Black feminism creates and validates knowledge in ways that are very different from the American educational system, which has been dominated by elite White men. </li></ul><ul><li>Collins’ goal is to trace out the ways that Black feminists have produced and recorded knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>The distinct forms embraced by Black feminists are shaped both by cultural differences (distinct values traced both to African-American and to African cultures) and “intersecting oppressions”—which refers to the way that mainstream institutions have denied access to Black women. In other words, the culture they are raised with and the experiences they have in life. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Who Cares? Who Should Care? <ul><li>Black Women: Because their forms of knowledge are increasingly recognized and heard </li></ul><ul><li>Social Theorists: Because intersectionality and Black feminism are providing new theories that make for better social explanation. </li></ul><ul><li>Social Researchers: Because these new theories help them to make sense of their findings. </li></ul><ul><li>White Male Theorists: Because their research, treated for years as if it applies to all, is now placed in its proper context. </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Things a Black Woman Knows <ul><li>Because Black women were long denied access to academia, their collected knowledge is less likely to be found in scholarly texts (with notable exceptions such as Zora Neale Hurston) </li></ul><ul><li>Collins pushes us to find this knowledge elsewhere, in subverted forms of knowledge transmission: poetry, music, oral histories, sermons, etc.—which is why so many of her quotations are from playwrights, novelists, and poets. </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Matrix of Domination <ul><li>Collins directs the unique perspectives of Black feminism towards one issue in particular—inequality and the complex matrix of forces that produce inequality. </li></ul><ul><li>Although Collins focuses on the uniqueness of a Black female perspective, she is also invested in building alliances with other perspectives—across races, genders, and classes. </li></ul><ul><li>These alliances are only possible when we acknowledge our unique perspectives and listen to those of others. </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Matrix of Domination <ul><li>According to Collins, inequality and oppression are the result of several forces working hand in hand—the matrix of domination. </li></ul><ul><li>No one singular force is the cause of injustice. She identifies class, race, and gender as the major forces that affect the lives of Black women. </li></ul><ul><li>She acknowledges that these forces also affect many others, and that other issues come into play as well. </li></ul>
  9. 9. The Matrix of Domination <ul><li>Inequality functions on 3 levels: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal/Individual </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Institutions/Societies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>At all 3 levels, we want to look not only at the domination that is occurring, but also at the ways that people resist it and fight back. </li></ul><ul><li>Resistance can only succeed when it sets its own terms. For the Black women in Collins analysis, that means privileging the unique “ways of knowing” that are held by Black women over and above the institutionalized forms of knowledge that have been used as tools of domination. </li></ul><ul><li>If any of you feel that sometimes the readings in this course have alienated you or left you out, that’s important! Ask yourself how your “way of knowing” is different from that of the author we are reading. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Ways of Knowing <ul><li>Collins states, and perhaps it is obvious, that in order to produce Black feminist theory, you have to be a Black woman. </li></ul><ul><li>But that doesn’t mean that those of us who are not Black women cannot learn from Collins’ ideas. </li></ul><ul><li>Collins gives us a language for understanding our own unique ways of making sense of the world. </li></ul><ul><li>It is important to note that in many of our readings this semester, the authors never identified themselves as White men. We have to wonder, does their race and gender matter? </li></ul>
  11. 11. Black Feminist Thought and Intersectionality <ul><li>The study of Black feminist thought is a specific application of intersectionality that places Black women at the center of analysis to study their experiences, their actions, and their epistemologies. </li></ul><ul><li>Intersectionality is a broader and more general theoretical approach that can be used to examine any group or community by placing them at the center and understanding where they sit within the matrix of domination. </li></ul>