Past Community Courses

Intersectionality
February-June 2019

Course Description

Intersectionality is a theoretical framework for highlighting the relationships between various forms of social exclusion and oppression (which also produce privileges) that some subjects 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. As a theoretical framework, it makes visible the mutual exclusion of racism from misogyny in the construction of not only hegemonic but counterhegemonic categories. 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 system s of oppression, by revealing their mutual construction; intersectionality 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.

 

Our aim was to understand the pathways the concept of intersectionality has taken. Intersectionality is a concept that has “traveled” from social movement to academic spaces, but also to various legislative frameworks internationally. This travel is often referred to as the mainstreaming of intersectionality. In addition, we examined criticisms raised by various theorists, and whether and how they may be answered. We considered the analytic usefulness of intersectionality in our own social context(s), characterised by multiple, concentric or intersecting crises, but its political usefulness in social movements, particularly with respect to the generation of coalitional movements and coalitional subjects.

Guiding Questions

How does an intersectional approach enable the analysis of interdependent systems of oppression? How can gender, class, race, sexuality (and other categories of oppression) be considered simultaneously or deconstructed through an intersectional lens, not only in theory but also in practice? How has intersectionality traveled (from margin to centre, from political praxis to academic theory, from the radical left to neoliberalism, from global north to global south, etc.) through various gendered, racialised, and class-determined registers of postcolonial contestation?

Objectives

Understanding the historical emergence of intersectionality in the field of gender studies, and specifically in Black feminist theory.

Reflecting on the contribution of intersectionality to historical social struggles and contemporary activisms (including those in which we have been ourselves engaged).

Examining how intersectionality may be used to study forms of subjectification within the conditions of globalisation and late capitalism, especially under “crisis” conditions.

Creating and exploring research questions that synthesise our own interests with the course material.

Experimenting with a collective writing process in a supportive, anti-oppressive space.

Outcome

Together, the participants created an open-access collective text, First Act,  (the first volume published in Greek on intersectionality).

Pedagogical method

Enquiry-based learning, close readings of theoretical texts, experiential engagement, horizontal exchange based on feminist pedagogical principles. The course unfolded over 15 three-hour meetings (45 contact hours).

The Community Course on Intersectionality (Spring 2019) was generously supported by

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