Carbado & Harris on “Anti-Essentialism, Intersectionality, and Dominance Theory”

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In June, 2019, Devon Carbado (UCLA) and Cheryl Harris (UCLA)  published an important essay, Intersectionality at 30: Mapping the Margins of Anti-Essentialism, Intersectionality, and Dominance Theory, 132 Harv. L. Rev. 2193 (2019). It provides an excellent and nuanced understanding of three important intellectual developments in feminist legal theory in the last 30 years. It should be required reading for anyone who teaches or studies in the field. Here are Carbado and Harris’ three main arguments:

This Essay advances three core claims. First, intersectionality is often erroneously conflated with anti-essentialism and thus many readers erroneously perceive a strong opposition between intersectionality and dominance theory on the view that dominance theory is essentialist and that intersectionality is not. In the context of disaggregating intersectionality from anti-essentialism, we contest the view that feminism and critical theory must always avoid essentialism to achieve normative commitments to social transformation. Second, we argue that scholars have largely overlooked the fact that dominance theory and intersectionality share a critique of conceptions of equality structured around sameness and difference. Third, we contend that while there is an affiliation between dominance theory and intersectionality, there is also at least some tension between their respective framings of race and gender.

The full essay is available here.

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