Beyond the "Logic of Purity": "Post-Post-Intersectional" Glimpses in Decolonial Feminism

In Pedro DiPietro, Jennifer McWeeny & Shireen Roshanravan (eds.), Speaking Face to Face/Hablando Cara a Cara: The Visionary Philosophy of María Lugones. New York, NY, USA: (2019)

Anna Carastathis
Feminist Autonomous Centre for Research
This chapter examines María Lugones’s germane and insightful attempt to theorize “intermeshed oppressions,” which, she argues, have been (mis)represented in women of color feminisms by the concepts of “interlocking systems of oppression” and, more recently, “intersectionality.” The latter, intersectionality, introduced by Black feminist legal scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw as a metaphor (1989) and as a “provisional concept” (1991), has become the predominant way of referencing the mutual constitution of what have been theorized as multiple systems of oppression, constructing the multiplicity of social identities. But Lugones’s analysis, which maintains subtle but important distinctions among the concepts of “intermeshed,” “interlocking,” and “intersecting” oppressions, shows that intersectionality theory often conflates fragmentation with multiplicity, and—by reifying “intersectional identities”—reproduces social-ontological fragmentation at the political and perceptual-cognitive levels of representation. Intersectional accounts redeploy unitary categories (for instance, race, gender, class, sexuality, disability) that are defined to the exclusion of each other by privileging the identities of normative group members. Consequently, they remain within what Lugones calls the “logic of purity,” which erases “curdled,” impure, category-transgressive, border-dwelling, mestiza subjects. Although, according to Lugones, intersectionality enables us to discern how the logic of purity produces “women of color” as impossible beings, she argues that the liminal identities of subjects dwelling in categorial interstices can only be made visible by conceptualizing oppressions as fused or “intermeshed.” However, as I interpret her, Lugones is not merely criticizing intersectionality or seeking to transcend its conceptual limitations by proposing an alternate concept. Rather, the concepts of “intermeshed,” “interlocking,” and “intersecting” oppressions do significantly different work in her account and illuminate different aspects of the social ontology, phenomenology, and epistemology of resistance to oppression. First, I situate Lugones with respect to the current conjuncture in intersectionality studies, in which some scholars are calling for a post-intersectional turn. Then, I reconstruct Lugones’s complex account of intermeshed oppressions, interlocking oppressions, and intersectionality. Finally, I discuss the status of intersectionality in the shift in Lugones’s work from “women of color feminisms” to “decolonial feminism.” Intersectionality is now routinely invoked as a representational theory of multiple identities, but Lugones’s heterodox interpretation helps us to see that it is best understood as a critique of representations based on the logic of purity: specifically, of how categorial axes of oppression (mis)represent intermeshed oppressions. Lugones’s triadic distinction (intersecting/interlocking/intermeshed) points toward a provisional usage of intersectionality, namely, to diagnose the fragmentation of social experiences of multiplicity (which, I would argue, is more consistent with the concept’s original aims). In her visionary philosophy, which attempts to theorize resistance against the grain of fragmentation from a conceptual space outside of the “logic of purity,” we find “glimpses” of a non-fragmented account of oppression, and praxical possibilities for liberatory, decolonial feminist coalitions.
Keywords intersectionality  interlocking systems of oppression  intermeshed oppressions  integrative theories of oppression  decolonial feminism  women of colour feminisms  María Lugones  coalitions
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