MHDCD Project

3.3.2 Intersectionality

Since the 1980s an ‘intersectionality’ analysis emerging from critical race and feminist scholarship has been influential, in particular Kimberlé Crenshaw’s framing of the term which has been interpreted, applied and expanded across disciplines and often employed primarily as a critique of identity-based essentialism (Crenshaw 1989, 1991 in Ribet 2010). Critiques of this position point to its failure to take account of the particular experiences of non-white women. Critical race theorists challenge notions of biological inferiority underpinning social and legal discrimination against people of colour, and identify the structural and more subtle forms of racism that maintain the subordination of non-white persons (Delgado 1995). Critical feminist theorists highlighted the gendered nature of politics and policy-making and the particular human rights issues facing women, though were criticised for not sufficiently understanding or incorporating the experience of non-white women, and Indigenous women in particular (Moreton-Robinson, 2000). In Crenshaw’s words, ‘black women are marginalized in feminist politics as a consequence of race, and they are marginalized in antiracist politics as a consequence of gender’; when feminism does not explicitly oppose racism, and antiracism does not explicitly oppose patriarchy, ‘race and gender politics often end up being antagonistic to each other and both interests lose’ (1991, 1243). In particular, Crenshaw’s critical analysis contends that the consequence of intersectional vulnerability results in the specific persecution of identity groups who are experiencing compounded and intersectional subordination (Crenshaw 1989, 1991 in Ribet 2010). 

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