In their book, Intersectionality, Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge argue: “Crenshaw’s work is very important. Yet we take issue with the view that intersectionality began when it was named. Choosing this particular point of origin erases the synergy of intersectionality’s critical inquiry and critical praxis, and recasts intersectionality as just another academic field” (Collins and Bilge, 64). Intersectionality is a theoretical and practical response to oppression. “Synergy of intersectionality’s critical inquiry and critical praxis” means intersectionality functions both as a form of critical inquiry-a way to understand how oppression operates-and as a form of critical praxis-a way to challenge and eventually over turn the status quo. Collins and Bilge are very critical about regarding intersectionality as the intellectual property of academics or as a large theory that requires years of study to grasp.
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The intersectionality studies approach commodifies the concept as a versatile new product for academic theorists but dulls an approach meant to be empowering to people experiencing injustices in their lives that are multidimensional in origin. Collins and Bilge want to move intersectional analysis away from being a concept to being a process that combines critical inquiry into inequalities and critical praxis to advance social justice. I agree with Collins and Bilge in their concern of the naming of “intersectional” because the danger lies in the appropriation by the academy of intersectionality as a bit of theoretical verbiage that abstracts away from the concerns and political communities that the term was originally framed to address. In my opinion, the mistake is separating knowledge from grassroots knowers and making it a critical theory without a critical praxis. As Collins and Bilge argue, ‘‘The events and conditions of social and political life and the self can seldom be understood as shaped by one factor . . . . Intersectionality as an analytic tool gives people better access to the complexity of the world and of themselves’’ (Collins and Bilge, 2). Intersectionality is framed as a simple, accessible, and reality-affirming form of knowing open to anyone, which has been constructed democratically by movements and political activists from hip hop artists to cyber feminists, as well as by academics. Social movements are what make the idea of inequalities as intersectional actually useful and circulate it; academic use separated from such struggles converts it into a contested accomplishment rather than a tool.
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