Contributors are invited to write on the topic above from either a research or an activism perspective. Abstracts and contributions must be written in English and in a style accessible to a wide audience. Please submit abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
No later than 16th October 2016
GUEST EDITORS: Talia Meer & Alex Muller
The concept of intersectionality, first conceived by Kimberle Crenshaw (1989), has widely been acknowledged as one of the most significant contributions of feminist scholarship. Broadly speaking, intersectionality posits that different social identities like race, gender, class and sexuality intersect and inform each other in what Patricia Hill Collins (1993) calls “interlocking systems of oppression”. Consequently, it is the intersection of multiple identities that influences individual worldviews and life-chances differently than would any single form of social stratification.
The wide appeal of intersectionality has meant that it has been employed variously by different groups and individuals. Some have asserted that intersectionality does not refer to a single theoretical framework but is a way of understanding the divisions and hierarchies of social life that may be used in various ways (Anthias, 2012). Others have argued that intersectionality has become a buzzword, with dubious implications for feminist scholarship and activism. It has been noted that it is impossible to actually analytically address the plurality of positions that intersectionality invokes, and frequently leads to problems discerning which, if any social category is the most relevant in any given context. In social organising and mobilisation, such debates can be polarising or alienating.
Other criticisms include that intersectionality reflects a tendency to simply list identities; or see them in essentialised or reductive ways, without recognising that social categories and divisions are manifestations of power within particular contexts and in relation to the state, capital, and social relations (Anthias, 2012).
At the same time, it is exactly this openness and malleability that appeal to feminist scholars (Davis, 2008), and that facilitate the application of intersectionality in varied contexts and to examine diverse issues. Intersectionality comports with postcolonial and post structural ways of thinking about power relations, and has dismantled the unitary notion of ‘women’, to include various co-constructed identities, significantly race and social class that shape relative power. In addition intersectionality has also motivated the inclusion of other gendered identities (sexual minorities, trans and gender non-conforming people, and men) into feminist thinking.
Although relatively under-explored in global discussions of intersectionality, these ideas have particular applications and meanings in various African contexts. The range of social categories that inform individuals’ lived experiences and the production of social relations may be considerably different to the staples of race, class and gender in the existing literature. For example, Oweyumi (2002) argues that the dominance of gender as the lens of analysis has roots in the Western nuclear family, and providing the example of the Yoruba family, organised according to seniority and not gender, asserts that we need not take gender as given. Further, Swartz (2013) makes the point that particular histories of peoples and places impact on how social categories are read against each other, and how they may be prioritised in analysis. Reflecting on the Oscar Pistorius trial as implicating issues of race, gender and disability, he highlights the primacy of race and gender given South Africa’s specific circumstances. These authors only begin to hint at the possibilities and richness that African perspectives could offer the international debate on intersectionality.
This issue of AGENDA seeks contributions on Intersectionality in Africa. We invite papers that are empirical, theoretical, epistemological or experiential. Stories, poetry and other creative works are also encouraged. Some themes to address might include:
Intersectionality and space/place: The time-and location-contingent nature of intersectionality and interlocking oppressions, and the usefulness of supplementing questions of power and resistance with a stronger awareness of place and context.
Social divisions that are under-represented and poorly understood in existing work that focuses on race, class and gender. What are specific identities in African contexts that need to be considered, what are the implications for intersectional analysis?
Intersectionality and commonality. Can intersectionality help us understand the commonplaces, and not only the differences, of individual lives when they are constituted by differing intersections of identities, powers and oppressions? Can intersectionality contribute to allegiances and collective mobilizations?
Intersectionality and political economy. What might an intersectional critique of colonial and/or neoliberal political and economic orders entail? How might an intersectional approach to political economy look in African contexts?
The relationship between policy, law and participation for the purposes of addressing intersectional inequalities in theory and/or in practice (including opportunities and challenges of using intersectionality in thinking about institutional transformation)
Masculinity and intersectionality. How can intersectionality help create a more nuanced, plural idea of masculinities in African contexts?
Methodologies and intersectionality. What are the implications of intersectionality for feminist research? What are the practical concerns?
Personal/Political. Explorations of lived experiences of identity construction and negotiation of multiple identities using an intersectional framework.
Contributions are accepted in any form, prose (both theoretical and practical), poetry, narrative, interviews, and visual arts.