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Crenshaw, Kimberlé, and . Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color

1991, Stanford Law Review 43(6): 1241-1299.

Summary: The concept of intersectionality is Crenshaw’s rich contribution to our embattled understanding of identity politics. To illustrate the danger of traditional identity groupings, Crenshaw turns our attention to the complexity of inhabiting two such distinct categories at the same time as a black woman. While it is true that a black woman can hardly be considered essentially black (on account of the primacy of men of color over women of color) or essentially a woman (on account of the primacy of white women over non-white ones), intersectionality does not aim to dismantle these general categories altogether. Instead, it seeks to introduce an ethical and political pragmatics of identity. The way Crenshaw proposes this should be done in the case of black women is by treating the two inherent identity categories – black and female – conjunctively rather than disjunctively as it has always been done. The resulting approach promises to improve our sense of the reality of “social location” and is thus of great value to all agents and processes of social health and justice.

Comment: Assigning this text is best in classes on women's rights and identity politics. It will be particularly useful in inspiring discussions on different types of discrimination affecting different groups, and the relations between them.