Paris Is Burning: Intersectionality, Localization, and Circulation in France

Since its emergence in the French context, academics and activists have clashed over the definition of “intersectionality,” but also intramurally within those spaces where questions of legitimate forms of knowledge remain a point of contention. In this paper, I will map the paradoxical circulation of intersectionality by focusing on how the concept participated in the shaping of both alliances and antagonisms amongst and between activist organizations, academia, mainstream political groups, and the French State. This same intersectionality, which has given birth to significant intellectual channels of debate among scholars, feminists, and anti-racist activists (but also between scholars and activists), is nevertheless presented as a homogeneous and unified object. There exists another paradox: anti-racist and leftist political activists criticize intersectionality, arguing that it can be co-opted by neoliberalism or femonationalism. Yet the reality is that the reconfiguration of reactionary discourses in France has recoded intersectionality to mean “Islamist fundamentalism/racialism/anti-universality.”

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