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Revolution of the OrdinaryLiterary Studies after Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell$
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Toril Moi

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226464305

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226464589.001.0001

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Thinking through Examples

Thinking through Examples

The Case of Intersectionality

Chapter:
(p.88) 4 Thinking through Examples
Source:
Revolution of the Ordinary
Author(s):

Toril Moi

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226464589.003.0005

Intersectionality theory’s notion of concepts and theory blocks its important and necessary project, namely to understand and name complex forms of oppression, the identities formed under such conditions, and the power structures that produces them. Intersectionality shares the goal of avoiding “exclusionary” concepts with identity theory more generally. But this goal is based on a mistaken view of how concepts work. Wittgenstein’s analysis of concepts, and his critique of the “craving for generality” explains why the project of formulating an overarching theory of intersectionality as such cannot succeed. Returning to Crenshaw’s foundational work, the chapter shows that intersectionality was not originally a call for theory, but a call for attention to black women’s experience. Frye was right to argue that the task of feminist theory is to make women’s experiences intelligible. Scott’s critique of experience is compatible with this goal. Instead of searching for a grand theory of intersectionality, we can consider “intersectionality” the name of a language. While there can be no general theory of language as such, we can map out its grammar. Some regions of use will be relatively rule-bound, but others will not.

Keywords:   exclusionary concepts, examples, intersectionality, Ludwig Wittgenstein, identity theory, feminist theory, experience, Marilyn Frye, Joan Scott, Kimberlé Crenshaw

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