intersectionality

“Omonia is an intersection right in the heart of Athens.” So begins a call to action that urges us, despite our fear, to live our anger, to lay claim with our bodies to the intersections, the one-way streets, the roundabouts, and the dead ends that channel the hatred for what we are and are not.

Intersectionality is a theoretical framework for highlighting the relationships between various forms of social exclusion and oppression (which also produce privileges) that some social groups experience simultaneously, but have been falsely separated from each other through the complex interplay of hegemonic and social movement discursive processes. Intersectionality originates in Black feminist theory in the United States in the nineteenth century, travels through social movements to the legal academy, and back again, becoming part of the vernacular of twenty-first century feminist discourses all over the world.

As a theoretical framework, intersectionality makes visible the mutual exclusion of racism from misogyny in the construction of not only hegemonic but counterhegemonic categories, including struggle identities. By criticising monistic approaches and social movement divisions (that is, politics that focus exclusively on gender or on race or on class), intersectionality suggests that oppressive systems (e.g. patriarchy, colonialism, capitalism) are interwoven and inseparable in experience. That is, intersectionality contests the analytic fragmentation of systems of oppression, by revealing their mutual construction; and it also problematises the homogenisation of social groups, revealing their internal heterogeneity. On an intersectional view, social groups seem to be cross-cut not only by vertical but also by horizontal relations of power, complicating past theories of social stratification, class exploitation, and gender oppression. If what binds us together are not only the similarities, but also the differences between us, then intersectionality suggests that struggle identities are best thought of coalitions, defined as much by their internal differences as their internal similarities.

In a time of multiple crises, which converge on our city as in many places in the world, the ways we come together are limited by the borders that keep us divided, and in ‘our place.’ These declared and undeclared crises intersect to exalt certain groups while invisibly victimising others. When crises are seen as ruptures in normativity, violence is socially distributed to empowered groups to assert their dominance, and accelerated by the state, to assert its sovereignty and control. Intersecting crises provide an opportunity to exact ever deadlier forms of necropolitical control over multiply oppressed groups, as our own experiences in the eastern Mediterranean over the past decade show.

In response to an ever more naturalised atmosphere of violence, which, to oppressive systems is like oxygen, whilst it suffocates us, intersectionality is a cry of protest: “we can’t breathe.” It is a call to build bridges across and within communities in struggle, to broaden the horizons of our imagination, and to strive to form relationships not based on domination, but on collective liberation.

At FAC research, intersectionality is engaged as a field of study, as a methodological approach, and–crucially–as a politics of resistance. We are interested in studying the concept of intersectionality itself, and we are interested in studying phenomena with the concept. But mainly, we are interested not in studying for study’s sake but in coming together, learning from and about each other, forming community that cares for those parts of ourselves that have been denied, or checked at the door, in communities we’ve tried to enter.

We are interested in how the concept has traversed boundaries and how it can undermine borders. In tracing the locations, trajectories, and articulations of intersectionality, particularly in the eastern Mediterranean context, we are interested in questions of migration and translation.

Intersectionality has travelled to Greece mainly through feminist and LGBTQI+ social movement discourses, whist it still remains highly marginal to academic discussions. This is, in itself, interesting, we think. Here are some of the research questions we’re interested in and hope to collaborate on:

  • How can intersectionality as an analytic framework be useful in understanding declared crises?
  • How can we understand the relationship of intersectionality to other vernaculars of oppression and exploitation, such as the use of the word “racism” to refer to multiple forms of oppression (including ones not anchored in ‘race’ or ethnicity)?
  • In Greek, intersectionality is generally translated as diathematikótita (or, inter-issuality). Does this reflect an emphasis on political intersectionality? What other translations, e.g., diakomvikotita (interconnectedness, but also: inter-roundaboutility) may reflect political and psychogeographies?
  • How is intersectionality performed in social movement discourses versus practices?
  • How may intersectionality be used to motivate coalitions against the multiple forms of violence that constitute our social reality (including interpersonal, institutional, structural, and epistemological forms of violence)?
  • As intersectionality becomes institutionalised, what is gained and what is lost? How can we resist its institutional assimilation whilst insisting on its political importance?
  • If abolition is the horizon of intersectionality, how can intersectionality illuminate, and be informed by, no borders, or border abolitionist politics?

To learn more about our research in the area of Intersectionality: Critiques of Power and Coalitional Politics, to suggest a collaboration on one of these suggested research questions, or to propose another, please contact Anna Carastathis who coordinates this research area.

 

Ongoing Projects in this Research Area:

Community Course on Abolitionist Feminisms (coming soon, when pandemic conditions subside)

Translations of works of Black feminist thought

 

Past Projects in this Research Area:

Community Course on Intersectionality (February-June 2019)

 

Recent Publications:

First Act by the participants in the Community Course on Intersectionality (FAC research, 2019)

“Racism” versus “Intersectionality”? Significations of Interwoven Oppressions in Greek LGBTQ+ Discourses by Anna Carastathis. Feminist Critique: East European Journal of Feminist and Queer Studies 4: 2021 (online publication November 2019).

“Gender Is the First Terrorist”: Homophobic and Transphobic Violence in Greece by Anna Carastathis. Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 39(2): 2018, 265-296.

The Atmosphericity of Violence Under Conditions of Intersecting Crises by Anna Carastathis. Feministiqa 1: 2018, 6-15.