On the depoliticisation of intersectionality talk: conceptualising multiple oppressions in critical sexuality studies

Erel, Umut; Haritaworn, Jin; Rodríguez, Encarnación Gutiérrez and Klesse, Christian (2010). On the depoliticisation of intersectionality talk: conceptualising multiple oppressions in critical sexuality studies. In: Taylor, Yvette; Hines, Sally and Casey, Mark E. eds. Theorizing Intersectionality and Sexuality. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 56–77.

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Queer theory offers itself as radical epistemology to uncover pervasive forms of power, not only around sexuality but also around "race" and transgender. Queer of colour theorists and some trans theorists have remained sceptical about these grand claims, and pointed out the notorious silence about racism and transphobia in the mainstream of queer theorising ((charles), 1993; Cohen, 2001; Haritaworn, 2007). Their critique echoes an older tradition of theorising multiple relations of oppression that has been particularly advocated by lesbians of colour like Audre Lorde (1984), Gloria Anzaldúa (1987) and Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott and Barbara Smith (1982, 1983). While the anti-racist feminisms of the 1980s have produced their own silences, especially around transgender and dissident sexualities, we will here argue that their call to positionality is vital in developing a queer theory and research practice that addresses the silences around raciality. This chapter is an attempt to find a language for our dissatisfaction with the silencing of the knowledge productions and political activisms of trans people of colour, queers of colour, women of colour and migrant women in the UK and Germany; at the same time it is about exploring the possibilities and limits of the concept of "intersectionality". In nearly two decades of a critical debate about how multiple oppressions around gender, "race" and class interlock, "intersectionality" emerged as a concept which promises a comprehensive theorising of various power relations. In this chapter we explore the potential of an "intersectionality perspective" for critical queer theorising and research practice. We argue that the concept has been used as an umbrella term for divergent debates and political projects, both radical and hegemonic ones. This is reflected in its reception and dissemination in different political, cultural and historical contexts.

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