While researching scholarship about intersectionality, I found that most papers explored the intersections of race, gender, and class (and sometimes included sexual orientation). However, at the back of my head, I kept having the feeling that there was something missing; that intersectionality had the potential to explore so many more aspects of identity that weren’t being addressed in the academic literature.
In the meanwhile, I was also reading books, anthologies, and memoirs I had borrowed from the public library which explored the diverse aspects of feminism, marginalisation, systemic oppression, and activism. The books included:
- Can We All Be Feminists? edited by June Eric-Udorie
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays by Rebecca Solnit
- The Audre Lorde Compendium: Essays, Speeches, And Journals by Audre Lorde
- Women, Race, and Class by Angela Y. Davis
- Happy Fat: Taking Up Space in a World That Wants to Shrink You by Sofie Hagen
- When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Asha Bandele
- Fight Like A Girl by Clementine Ford
- Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly
- The Mother of All Questions (Essays) by Rebecca Solnit
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Muslims are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani
- Queer, There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager
- Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker, Julia Scheele
- The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Class, and Culture Online edited by Safiya Umoja Noble and Brendesha Tynes
These books began expanding my thinking about the possibilities of the intersectional framework and how it could be applied not only in my own project but to all areas of life. In fact, the year of researching intersectionality in different ways was the year I was angriest about the world and the silences on the many injustices which were occurring around me. According to my boyfriend, who had to listen to my impassioned speeches and rage-filled take-downs of nearly everything I encountered, this was completely normal. He had watched a video featuring feminist Anita Sarkeesian where she spoke about how when she first began learning about feminist theory and history, she couldn’t help but rage about everything being sexist and everything being racist. It was only a few months later, when she began reading more perspectives and talking to more people, was she able to have a more nuanced and complex understanding of the issues plaguing the world. Much like her, I’m still angry about the world (how can you not be?!), but less likely to be angry at everything.
Apart from my anger-inducing reading list, it was an online course I did on Future Learn at the beginning of my PhD which inadvertently ended up influencing my thinking about intersectionality (a fact I only realised when I was preparing for my transfer interview in October 2019 i.e. an upgrade to official PhD researcher status, and found my notes from a year ago). The course is called Understanding Diversity and Inclusion and while I enjoyed everything I learned, my biggest takeaway from it was this Diversity Wheel.
In the end, it was my non-academic reading and the Diversity Wheel which made me better attuned to the silences in academic discussions of intersectionality. The different voices and priorities I discovered helped me fine-tune my own voice and priorities in terms of the intersectional themes I wanted to explore. The current list is:
gender; race; class; sexual orientation; ethnicity; gender expression and gender identity; mental/physical (dis)ability; national/regional origin; religion; and age.
I’m trying my best to be as inclusive of the mulitiplicity of diverse experiences as possible, given the constraints of my project. However, I’m open to expanding or editing this list and I would love to hear your opinions of intersectionality and/or these themes in the comments.