Thinking about Intersectionality: Minorities and diverse Dominations in the United States
Thinking about Intersectionality:
Minorities and diverse Dominations in the United States
April 11-12, 2024
Université Bretagne Sud, Lorient
A country long considered biracial, the United States now displays the image of a multiracial nation in which the white majority/ethnic and racial “minorities” relationship has seriously evolved with the progression of new minorities (Asians and Hispanics). The last general census of the population (2020) confirms the extent of the changes underway on a demographic, cultural and geographical level and questions the place of minorities in the nation: Americans identifying themselves as non-Hispanic Whites now represent 57.8% of the overall population, compared to 63.7% in 2010 and almost 80% forty years ago. At the rate of the country's ethno-racial diversification, which began in the 1960s, the definition and apprehension of what a “minority” is has become more complex.
The groups we will focus on here are those which concern “ethnic minorities” or racialized – that is to say minoritized – minorities because of their origin or the color of their skin. We will use here the sociological definition of a "minority" which emphasizes not a numerical criterion, but the experience of discrimination as the common denominator of a social group: “A group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are distinguished from others in the society in which they live, by differential and unequal treatment, and who consequently consider themselves objects of collective discrimination” (Louis Wirth). The concept of “minority” then makes it possible to account for this dominated position in society.
If we talk about intersectionality all over the world – not only in North America and Europe, but also in Latin America, South Africa or India – it is Kimberlé Crenshaw, an African-American legal scholar, who was the first to use it in two articles published in law journals at the turn of the 1990s on the blind spots of the Civil Rights movement and the women's movement. The specificity of intersectionality would be the fight against discriminatory assignment to a group (women, blacks, or other).
However, the consideration of diverse dominations and the idea of intersectionality existed long before the term was coined. Thus Sojourner Truth illustrated it in her 1851 speech “Ain't I a Woman?” to critique essentialist notions of femininity from her perspective as a racialized former slave. Similarly, Patricia Hill Collins traced the origins of intersectionality among Latino, Native American, and Asian black feminists between the 1960s and 1980s. She also noted the existence of intellectuals at other times and in other places who brought up similar ideas about the interplay of different forms of inequality, such as the Jamaican Stuart Hall or the African-American journalist Ida B. Wells.
This symposium will thus focus on the articulation between class, race and gender which can be played out, for example, around the concept of whiteness, which would be a reminder that race does not only concern “others” but that racialization runs through society as a whole. Participants will be able to determine how systems of power are intertwined and affect those who are the most marginalized in society. How can the notion of intersectionality question analyses that consider each type of oppression in isolation? So, can discrimination against black and poor women be explained as a combination of misogyny and racism and social exclusion? How does intersectionality address themes of triple oppression? Some feminists have revised “Western conceptualizations of intersectionality” which assume that all women experience the same type of racial and gender oppression. What do they refer to? How can so-called “intersectional” practices be implemented? Should intersectionality be limited to understanding individual experiences and theorizing identity? Is it the best way of exploring how the categories of race, class and gender overlap? Can it explain how race is “gendered” and how gender is “racialized”?
This symposium is open to any proposal that offers a new perspective and a new approach to questions of minority, diverse dominations and of course intersectionality and class inequality in the United States.
Abstracts (15 lines and a short biography) should be sent to Marie-Christine Michaud and Eliane Elmaleh before November 30, 2023: