Theoretical Article

DOI :10.26650/IAR2022-1175591   IUP :10.26650/IAR2022-1175591    Full Text (PDF)

The Possibilities of Intersectional Critique in Identity Studies and Politics

Aziz Ardıç

The concept of intersectionality, which is gaining prominence in social sciences, appears as a versatile tool in identity studies and politics. Studies that aim to analyze identity construction across the historical, social, and political fields are undergoing a paradigm shift as they focus on identities that exist on different axes. Hence, the binary oppositions of structuralism and the concepts of recognition and difference widely discussed in critical theory and postmodernism have been reconsidered in recent scholarship. This article first discusses the possible effects of the intersectional perspective on these concepts. It examines the implications of binary oppositions based on the manifesto of Combahee River Collective, one of the pioneers of the Black Feminism Movement, which paved the way for the current debate on intersectionality. In this regard, it asks why and how dualistic narratives are disowned by the intersectional perspective. Secondly, the article discusses how the intersectional perspective emerged as an alternative to the politics of recognition, which is criticized for ignoring multi-axial identities/differences and takes up the arguments underlying the cautious attitude this perspective maintains to grasp the complexity of the identity question. From this point of view, it seeks to understand the theoretical basis of the political method proposed by Yuval-Davis. The article, finally, deals with (possible) associations between intersectionality and coalition politics, considered more efficient than the politics of recognition in confronting and problematizing differences. In this context, it accentuates the common points of the coalition criticisms of Anne-Marie Hancock, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Anna Carastathis, who are known for their works on intersectionality.

DOI :10.26650/IAR2022-1175591   IUP :10.26650/IAR2022-1175591    Full Text (PDF)

Kimlik Çalışmalarında ve Politikalarında Kesişimsel Eleştirinin Olanakları

Aziz Ardıç

Sosyal bilimlerde kullanımının sıklaştığı kesişimsellik kavramı kimlik çalışmalarında ve politikalarında kullanışlı bir araç olarak karşımıza çıkıyor. Kimliğin tarihsel, toplumsal ve politik alanlardaki inşasını çözümlemeyi amaçlayan çalışmalar, farklı eksenlerdeki kimlikleri birlikte ele alarak ciddi bir paradigma dönüşümünden geçmektedir. Bu sürecin kaçınılmaz bir sonucu olarak, yapısalcılığın ikili karşıtlıkları ile eleştirel teori ve postmodernizmin tanınma ve farklılık anlayışları yeniden gözden geçirilmiştir. Bu makale, kesişimsel bakış açısının ikili karşıtlıklar, tanınma ve farklılık kavramlarına olası etkilerini tartışmaktadır. İlk olarak, kesişimselliğe zemin hazırlayan Siyah Feminizm Hareketinin öncülerinden Combahee River Collective’in manifestosundan hareketle ikiliklerin anlamı sorgulanmıştır. Bununla ilgili olarak, ikilik temelli anlatıların kesişimsel perspektif tarafından nasıl reddedildiği, gerekçeleriyle birlikte ele alınmıştır. İkinci olarak, çok eksenli kimlikleri/farklılıkları göz ardı etmekle eleştirilen tanınma politikalarına bir alternatif olarak ortaya çıkan kesişimsel perspektifin kimlik meselesinin karmaşıklığını kavramak üzere benimsemiş olduğu temkinli tutumun dayandığı argümanlar tartışılmıştır. Buradan hareketle, YuvalDavis’in önerdiği politik metodun teorik zemini anlaşılmaya çalışılmıştır. Son olarak, farklılıklarla yüzleşmek ve onları sorunsallaştırmakta tanınma politikalarından daha etkili sayılan koalisyon politikaları ile kesişimsellik arasındaki (olası) ortaklıklar ele alınmıştır. Bu bağlamda özellikle kesişimsellik üzerine çalışmalarıyla bilinen AnneMarie Hancock, Kimberlé Crenshaw ve Anna Carastathis’in koalisyon eleştirilerinin ortak noktaları vurgulanmıştır. 


Nowadays, intersectionality critique plays a prominent role in the problematization of uniaxial social category analyses based on which identities are accepted as universal, indivisible and consistent. This critique aims to make visible the multidimensional, complex, and relational positions of oppressed groups and to transform identity-based politics, and in doing so, it often refers to research findings in anthropology, law, political science, and sociology. Criticisms that emerge in the context of intersectionality indicate a struggle for liberation and salvation, or a fight for defining the ideological ground of social conflicts, as pointed out by the New Left. On the other hand, the unitary organization of a particular group that resists any form of social inequality and oppression in these conflicts is a generally accepted and widespread strategy. One of the examples that succinctly reflects the conventional thinking is hidden in the following statement, while referring to the destructiveness of the separatist ideas of socialism in the liberation struggle: All roads lead to Rome, but there is only one Rome. However, how to continue the struggle and how to build consensus and unity among such groups remains a subject of contention. As a result, Marxism asked workers of the world to unite! and did not receive a response in the past. The main focus of this study is not to determine which form of struggle is more inclusive and which power relationship is more dominant over others, but to determine the potential impact of intersectionality critiques in transforming uniaxial/mono identity thought.

Idea of intersectionality maintains that subjects on different intersection axes may have different subjective experiences in practice, such as discrimination and privilege operating in the social and political areas. However, Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) and other researchers inspired by her work on intersectionality have not proposed a simple principle of hierarchy or opposition between different intersection axes. They have instead argued that subjective experience is accessible only by bringing out the different intersections where the subject is positioned. For example, from the perspective of intersectionality, female experience and male experience can express neither a field of subjectivity equivalent to a gender category, such as being a woman or being a man, nor simply the identical experiences within each of the two opposing groups. Especially when focusing on intersubjective power relations, the aim is to reject the narratives based on the universal oppressor-oppressed binary oppositions that manifest themselves in various forms (male-female, white-colored, heterosexual-homosexual).

Attaining prestige at the end of a recognition process can remedy the social problems targeted by the group demanding recognition. Access to resources and services, equitable distribution, trust in social justice, fearless and equal participation in social life, or visibility in the public sphere can be given as examples. The critical point that brings intersectionality and recognition politics against each other is that the latter fails to grasp the complexity of the identity question while essentializing and totalizing differences. 

When discussed in the context of identity theory/politics, intersectionality is juxtaposed with the concept of coalition. This affinity comes from both of them emphasizing that if liberatory identity-based politics is to be continued, the groups that carry out this politics must first face the differences within themselves. However, confronting and problematizing differences does not spontaneously reveal a particular political strategy. Advocates of coalition politics still debate about whether coalition unity will be formed despite the differences, to protect the differences, or to denature the differences. On the other hand, intersectionality does not enter into such a discussion, approaching the issue of coalition politics from a different angle, as intersectionality theorists agree that current identities should be understood as examples of coalitions rather than building a new identity-based coalition all over again. 

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Ardıç, A. (2022). The Possibilities of Intersectional Critique in Identity Studies and Politics. Istanbul Anthropological Review, 0(2), 97-118.


Ardıç A. The Possibilities of Intersectional Critique in Identity Studies and Politics. Istanbul Anthropological Review. 2022;0(2):97-118.


Ardıç, A. The Possibilities of Intersectional Critique in Identity Studies and Politics. Istanbul Anthropological Review, [Publisher Location], v. 0, n. 2, p. 97-118, 2022.

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Ardıç A. The Possibilities of Intersectional Critique in Identity Studies and Politics. Istanbul Anthropological Review [Internet]. 20 Jul. 2024 [cited 20 Jul. 2024];0(2):97-118. Available from: doi: 10.26650/IAR2022-1175591


Ardıç, Aziz. The Possibilities of Intersectional Critique in Identity Studies and Politics”. Istanbul Anthropological Review 0/2 (Jul. 2024): 97-118.


Published Online29.12.2022


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