The year 2014 marked twenty-five years since Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” to describe how social realities such as “class” or “race” should not be analyzed in isolation, but instead be combined in order to understand the complexity of a particular praxis. Building upon previous work by scholar-activists Deborah King, The Combahee River Collective, Gloria Joseph and Jill Lewis, as well as Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s 1981 anthology This Bridge Called My Back, among others, Crenshaw proposed that: “Because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.” While Crenshaw may have been speaking particularly of the lived experience of Black women and ‘mainstream’ feminism in the United States, the intersectional approach proposed by Crenshaw has been adopted by many disciplines and groups in order to analyze the junctures at which complex identities are contested and staged.
This interrogation of political, social, and economic systems is particularly salient today, as the past decade has seen a wave of global socio-political and economic changes punctuated by the specter of ideologically driven acts of violence and “The War on Terror.” We are witnessing geopolitical conflict on a local as well as international scale, intensified by rising wealth disparities, mass migrations, crippling austerity measures, repression of dissent, and increasingly controlled borders. These borders—at once more porous and more visible–may be nationally designated or internal, as increasing division and strife in civil societies mirrors longstanding geopolitical tensions. These events make evident the centrality of class and to any discussion on the sweeping changes taking place in the global political landscape, as well as the struggle to both emerge from and generate new discourses from lingering legacies of colonialism and race/gender stratification. Major developments that shaped the last year, such as unrest in Ferguson in the United States and the resulting #BlackLivesMatter movement, the missing 43 students of Ayotztinapa, the spread and media coverage of the Ebola virus, the assault on Gaza, and the spread of ISIS, further illustrate the need to analyze events by focusing on layered experiences of power and marginalization. Indeed, the point of departure and means of articulation do not operate in isolation from social structures such as the economy, a fact that underscores the need for continued interdisciplinary and intersectional research.
The pieces in the Fall/Winter Intersectionality, Class, & (De)Colonial Praxis issue draw from varying regions, disciplines, and languages, but all seek to tease out how “intersectionality” is deployed in contexts where intersections—points of meeting, points of encounter—frequently reveal sites of slippage and tension. Maurício Hashizume’s “Lições a partir da experiência do movimento katarista da Bolívia” delves into the Katarista movement in Bolivia, reminding us of indigeneity’s uneasy role within postcolonial studies. Virginie Privas-Breauté’s “Au Carrefour du didactisme brechtien et de la résistance post-coloniale : Protestants (2004) de Robert Welch” further interrogates ideas of postcoloniality as a North-South phenomenon by analyzing Northern Ireland as a (post)colonial site of enunciation. Zachary Price’s timely “Economies of Enjoyment and Terror in 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained” employs visual and critical race analysis to recent films that seek to illuminate the present by analyzing the past, while Rebecca Galemba’s “Mexico’s Border (In)Security” study brings stark reality to abstract debates on immigration and border crossings. Intersectionality’s possibilities within Francophone Arab feminist studies are explored in Ines Horchani’s “Intersectionnalité et feminismes arabes,” and in turn the invisibility of political actors who do not align neatly within the sociopolitical imaginary in Puerto Rico is examined and re-envisioned by Guillermo Rebollo Gil’s piece “Aguafiestas: Marginalidad y Protesta en Puerto Rico.”
“This Borderland Called My Sexuality: Excavating Queer Nightlife of the American Southwest Through the Lens of Intersectionality” by Kris Hernandez probes the claiming of queer sexual identity among Latinos in the US border space of El Paso, and how race, class, and sexual identifications problematize such (be)longings , while Alissa Simon’s “Mythology, Taboo, and Cultural Identity in Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul” explores how the domestic realm and its associated female body both shape and defy the contours of societal expectations, and Cristina Onesta’s “Mai 68 au service de l’interdiscursivité médiatique : entre mémoire révolutionnaire et mémoire discursive. Deux approches interdisciplinaires : lexiculture et mots événements,” brings us back to 1968, a year of massive cultural shifts whose outcomes are frequently invoked and contested today. These and other arts and editorial pieces, such as Annie Mcneill Gibson’s vignettes and photo essay on mythologies and changes surrounding Cuba from a foreigner’s perspective, Anna Stielau’s observations on the Dakar Biennale, and Maheen Hyder’s poetry on ‘home’ as site of both salvation and ruin, explore how intersectionality has been built on, applied, and questioned in a contemporary world of crossings: the intersection is not the destination, but the starting point.
As we look back at 25 years of intersectionality, and in spite of the growing criticism of the concept itself, it is above all important to look at how scholars and organizers around the world are employing an intersectional spirit in their analysis and praxis. Even as the concept of intersectionality faces increasing pressure from the academy and hegemonic liberal feminism and is at risk of losing its radical potential, it is clear that it continues to be used by countless critical thinkers. Indeed one way of countering its co-optation is by continuing to use the concept in radical and groundbreaking ways. The aim of this issue is to present some of the research that is doing just that.