Beyond Gender: Current Activities and New Resources in the Field of Intersectionality Studies

I recently received a call for papers that caught my attention. eDhvani: UoH Journal of Comparative Literature is inviting papers that analyze the category of gender and its overlap with the institution of religion (deadline: 30 Nov 2014). This issue will therefore continue the topic of gender, which has also been the focus of its previous issue on the intersections of gender and travel.

The journal, which is hosted by the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Hyderabad in India, was launched in July 2012 with the objective of “lending a new dimension to the area of research and studies of Comparative Literature in India and providing a new platform to the comparatists”. The format of the journal is certainly innovative. As in its previous issues, eDhvani is particularly encouraging alternative forms of writing to engage with the topic, such as interviews, translations of literature, creative writing and reviews.

Furthermore, with its focus on the contentious category of gender and its negotiations, contradictions and intersections with other categories, in this case concepts of travel and religion, the journal touches upon a new and intriguing field that will also play a role in my ongoing project on the mutual literary representations of masculinities in German and Chinese literatures: Intersectionality Studies.

This concept actually goes back to the 19th century but was first developed and named as a feminist sociological theory by Kimberlé W. Crenshaw in the 1980s. The theory suggests that various biological, social and cultural categories, such as gender, race, age, ability, religion, sexual orientation etc., cannot be studied in isolation from each other. Rather we must assume multiple levels of interaction and, consequently, intersections between different forms and systems of social injustice, inequality, discrimination, oppression and domination.

Intersectionality and its multidimensional approach has also become an increasingly important paradigm for a variety of disciplines, including cultural studies. This is showcased, for instance, by the impressive range of activities at the Center for Race and Gender (CRG) at the University of California, Berkeley. The interdisciplinary research center aims to bring together researchers and local communities in innovative research and creative projects. Upcoming events include talks on “Homosexual Mutants! Biases in the neurobiological study of sexual orientation” (6 Nov 2014), “Family Routes: Transnational Adoption & the Production of Nationhood” (6 Nov 2014) and regular activities of its many research working groups, such as the “The Color of New Media: Race, Ethnicity, and Digital Culture”, “Muslim Identities & Cultures” or “Race & Yoga”.

A rich and inspiring online resource for anyone interested in Intersectionality Studies is the Portal Intersektionalität. Forschungsplattform und Praxisforum für Intersektionalität und Interdependenzen. Founded in 2012 at the University of Wuppertal, the platform provides a substantial collection of downloadable key texts of the field, informs about and documents ongoing research projects and conferences and functions as an interactive and experimental forum for researchers as well as “practitioners” of intersectionality in different realms, such as politics, pedagogy, social work etc. So far this “pilot project” has limited its focus to the discipline of social sciences and the German-speaking countries (which is why it is, unfortunately, currently available in German only) but aims to significantly broaden its scope in the future, which would be very welcome.

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