Violence and Intersectionality

In defining intersectionality, Kimberlé Crenshaw observes that the “compound” identity of Black women is used against them, such that their Blackness diminishes their status as women, and their woman-ness diminishes their status as Black people; this intersection of race and sex thus has the effect of erasing their identity as Black women. However, intersectionality in popular use often connotes multiplicity, as way to “add up” (as opposed to erase) a person’s identities. Are these definitions in any way compatible? Does the popular definition account for the demand or expectation that one “choose” one identity over another, that some identities might be socially more significant than others, or that identities (even within a same person) could exist in tension or opposition? Does Crenshaw offer any way for intersectionality to be a site of recognition, rather than erasure, for Black women as Black women (or any other member of compound- identity marginalized groups)?

This is an analytic essay based on a close reading of the relevant texts. This means you are to focus closely on the articles under consideration, to refer to specific passages (in the form of short quotes), and to paraphrase and explain both specific passages and larger arguments. You are allowed (but not required) to refer to ‘outside’ material (for which you must provide a citation) in order to further your analysis, but such references are not a substitute for your own thinking. Finally, the readings themselves may not always be clear, so feel free to point out when an author does not adequately explain her terms or argument.

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