Intersection Is Not Identity, or How to Distinguish Overlapping Systems of Injustice

In Ruth Chang & Amia Srinivasan (eds.), Conversations in Philosophy, Law, and Politics. New York, USA: Oxford University Press (2023)
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Abstract

When one takes an intersectional perspective on patterns of oppression and domination, it becomes clear that familiar forms of systemic injustice, such as misogyny and anti-Black racism, are inseparable. Some feminist theorists conclude, from this, that the systems behind these injustices cannot be individuated—for example, that there isn’t patriarchy and white supremacy, but instead only white supremacist patriarchy. This chapter offers a different perspective. Philosophers have long observed that a statue and a lump of clay can be individuated although inseparable, and that statues and lumps of clay do different explanatory and predictive work for the same causal outcomes. This chapter suggests that the same is true of systems such as patriarchy and white supremacy. These systems, like the injustices they produce, are inseparable. But they can be individuated, and when they are individuated, they do different explanatory and predictive work.

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Robin Dembroff
Yale University

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