This talk aspires to historicize the present moment, one where intersectionality is celebrated as “part of the gender studies canon,” (Baca Zinn 2012) “the most cutting-edge approach to the politics of gender, race, sexual orientation, and class” (Hancock 2011), and “the most important contribution that women’s studies … has made so far” (McCall 2005). In other words, the talk endeavors to understand a moment when intersectionality, a form of outsider-knowledge, has become institutionalized, conflated with diversity, and deployed by universities (and women’s studies departments and programs) to signal commitments to inclusion and difference. How and why did intersectionality come to institutional power in the early 2000’s, and what institutional needs – in women’s studies, and in the university more broadly – did intersectionality’s emergence serve?
Jennifer C. Nash is the Jean Fox O’Barr Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University. She earned her PhD in African American Studies at Harvard University and her JD at Harvard Law School. She is the author of The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography (awarded the Alan Bray Memorial Book Prize by the GL/Q Caucus of the Modern Language Association) and Black Feminism Reimagined (awarded the Gloria Anzaldúa Book Prize by the National Women’s Studies Association). Her third book, Birthing Black Mothers, will be published by Duke University Press in 2021.