Recent Feminist Outlooks on Intersectionality

Diogenes 57 (1):58-72 (2010)
With its recognition of the combined effects of the social categories of race, class and gender intersectionality has risen to the rank of feminism’s most important contribution to date. Though the first intersectional research (American and British) gave visibility to the social locus of women who self-identified as "black" or "of colour", current research goes beyond the confines of the English-speaking world and aims increasingly to develop an intersectional instrument to deal with discrimination. This project gives rise to two kinds of debate: one related to producing intersectional information and to ways of carrying out research in this area, the other to do with the use of this information in the political struggle for equality. The current paper, which is confined to the first debate, attempts to bring out the main tension points in present theorizations of intersectionality. Its objective is twofold: to demonstrate certain limits to the explanatory power of intersectionality, and to suggest ways forward in the light of discussions already in train. In order to do so four points are tackled: intersectionality as a research paradigm, the issue of levels of analysis, the theoretical difference of opinion on the ontological status of categories of difference and the issue of widening the theoretical scope of intersectionality
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