Identity Categories as Potential Coalitions

Signs 38 (4):941-965 (2013)
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Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw ends her landmark essay “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color” with a normative claim about coalitions. She suggests that we should reconceptualize identity groups as “in fact coalitions,” or at least as “potential coalitions waiting to be formed.” In this essay, I explore this largely overlooked claim by combining philosophical analysis with archival research I conducted at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Historical Society Archive in San Francisco about Somos Hermanas, the solidarity project of the Alliance Against Women’s Oppression, based in the San Francisco Women’s Building (1984–90). I extend my analysis into the present by drawing on the oral history and published works of Carmen Vázquez, a key organizer in both Somos Hermanas and the Women’s Building. I argue that conceptualizing identities as in fact coalitions—as complex, internally heterogeneous unities constituted by their internal differences and dissonances and by internal as well as external relations of power—enables us to organize effective political coalitions that cross existing identity categories and to pursue a liberatory politics of interconnection.
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