An Intersectional ApproachBorn out of Critical Race Theory and Women of Color criticism, “Intersectionality” describes a critical practice by which theorists and critics move beyond a single-axis understanding of oppression, and attend to the struggles of those who exist within multiple oppressed identity categories. This framework was first applied (or, more accurately, given name) by Kimberlé Crenshaw in her 1989 article “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.”
Intersectionality emerged first as a way to articulate the occlusion of Black women from both antiracist and feminist thinking and legislation. Detailing legal decisions in which Black women were forced to prove their discrimination as either women, or Black, but not both, Crenshaw argues that “this single-axis framework erases Black women in the conceptualization, identification and remediation of race and sex discrimination by limiting inquiry to the experiences of otherwise privileged members of the group [i.e. white women or Black men].”1 Against this unidirectional understanding of discrimination, Crenshaw argues that Black women can experience multiple kinds of discrimination, discrimination against their race, their sex, and also discrimination against Black women specifically. To limit our understanding of discrimination and oppression to only one identity category is to, by default, ensure our understanding of that category is shaped by those who, as Crenshaw writes, “are privileged but for their racial or sexual characteristics.”2
KeywordsThe CRES Workbook engages intersectionality to bring attention to the multiple axis through which power operates when technology, feminism, and critical race & ethnic studies meet. It draws upon a methodology of “keywords.” First introduced by cultural studies scholar Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, 1780–1950 (1958), Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976), and Marxism and Literature (1977), a keywords approach critically examines how the meanings of words change over time and how they shape the ways vocabulary shapes our understanding of the world. This method has since been adopted in many interdisciplinary disciplines, perhaps most notably American Cultural Studies. These efforts do not seek to fix the meaning of any particular term, but to examine how they organize knowledge and to determine the relationships between them.3
TaggingBuilding on the keywords structure of the FemTechNet Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC) and leveraging the “tagging” functionality in Scalar, we seek to draw attention to points of intersectionality within the CRES Workbook. Tagging allows us to navigate through points of convergence, identify clusters of interest, and visualize points of interrelation. Just look for the tag icon at the bottom of the page and select it to connect with like-pieces of content.
DOCC KeywordsKeywords were selected from the weekly topics used to organize the FemTech Net DOCC's (2015) weekly modules.
- History of the Engagement of Feminism
- History of Technology
- History of Issues of Women’s Labor
- Online Safety/Risk
Additional Key WordsComing Soon...
Starter BibliographyThe references below represent starting points. This builds on a bibliography designed by Michael Mirer to share recent and foundational work on intersectionality with his fellow graduate students at Brandeis University. As part of the CRES Workbook, the bibliography is a living document that will continue to grow with suggestions by members of the FemTechNet Ethnic Studies Committee. We encourage you to share your own favorite readings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special Issues:Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race. Volume 10, Issue 02,”Intersectionality.” 2013.
Signs. Vol. 38. No. 4. 2013 “Intersectionality: Theorizing Power, Empowering Theory,” Summer 2013, pp. 785-1060.
Articles:Bilge, Sirma. “Intersectionality Undone: Saving Intersectionality from Feminist Intersectional Studies.” Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race. Special Issue: “Intersectionality: Mapping the Movements of a Theory.” Vol.10, Issue 02, 2013. 405-424.
Carastathis, Anna. 2008. “The Invisibility of Privilege: A Critique of Intersectional Models of Identity.” Les Ateliers de l’Éthique 3(2):23–38.
Cho, Sumi, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Leslie McCall. “Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies: Theory, Applications, and Praxis.” Signs. Special Issue: “Intersectionality: Theorizing Power, Empowering Theory.” Vol. 38, No. 4, Summer 2013. 785-810.
Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” The University of Chicago Legal Forum. 1989. 139-167
Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Mapping the Margins:Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review. 43 (6):1241-99 (1991)
Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 2011. “Postscript.” Framing Intersectionality: Debates on a Multi-faceted Concept in Gender Studies. Farnham, VT: Ashgate. 2011, 221–33.
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. “Transnational Feminist Crossings: On Neoliberalism and Radical Critique.” Signs 38(4):967–91.
Puar, Jasbir. 2011. “‘I Would Rather Be a Cyborg than a Goddess’: Intersectionality, Assemblage, and Affective Politics.” Transversal (August). http://eipcp.net/transversal/0811/puar/en.
Spade, Dean. “Intersectional Resistance and Law Reform.” Signs, Vol. 38, No. 4, Summer 2013. 1031-1055.
For more resources, see "Race, Gender, and Affirmative Action," a publicly annotated bibliography by philosopher Elizabeth Anderson at the University of Michigan.
Sarmista (Sharm) Das