QotD: “Distinctions between oppression and difference”

Intersectionality theorists also make clear … distinctions between oppression and difference. For them, not all differences are axes of structural social oppression. For example, both intersectionality theorists and poststructuralists speak of “marginalized” peoples. Yet the former [intersectional theorists] anchor this concept in hierarchically structured, group-based inequalities, while poststructuralists often are referring to people whose behaviors lie outside of or transgress social norms. This latter conception of “margins” includes a much broader swath of people where the normative structure rather than structural relations of oppression is determinate.

Indeed, not all countercultural lifestyles and politics reflect the historical, institutionalized oppressions highlighted by intersectionality theorists; even groups such as the Michigan militia or the Ku Klux Klan are marginalized groups in terms of transgressing norms. This is why Collins argues that, when scholars took the postmodern turn, “conceptions of power shifted – talk of tops and bottoms, long associated with hierarchy, were recast as flattened geographies of centers and margins” that “rob the term of oppression of its critical and oppositional importance” (Collins 1998, 129 and 136). Similarly, Kimberlé Crenshaw suggests that such “flattening” of intersectionality results from the absence of a structural and political critique (quoted in Berger and Guidroz 2009, 70).

Third Wave Feminism’s Unhappy Marriage of Poststructuralism and Intersectionality Theory, Susan Archer Mann, University of New Orleans

(Found at Next Years Girl)

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