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POST-INTERSECTIONALITY: The Curious Reception of Intersectionality in Legal Scholarship1

  • Sumi Cho (a1)

Although intersectionality analysis originates in a critique of legal doctrine and its confining approach to subject formation, intersectionality has been adopted widely outside of legal scholarship—nationally and internationally—to explain how fields of power operate and interact to produce hierarchy for any limitless combination of identities. Yet, within law, some scholars have raised questions precisely about the capacity of intersectionality to grapple with subjects who occupy multiple social positions and those with “partially privileged” identities in particular. Thus, over roughly a decade, a critique took shape about the theoretical capacity and normative commitment of intersectionality theory to address particular subgroups.

This essay tells part of the curious story about how a race-sexuality critique of intersectionality emerged, what may have motivated it, and how it has facilitated an emerging progressive masculinities literature that is “post-intersectional,” i.e., positioned over and against intersectionality. Like other post-intersectionality approaches, multidimensionality theorists decidedly seek to ‘get beyond’ something, and that ‘something’ that underwrites the turn away from intersectionality appears not as substantive theoretical or analytical content, or as political strategy, but rather, as identity-driven and engendered.

Corresponding author
Professor Sumi Cho, DePaul University College of Law, 25 E. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60605. E-mail:
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I thank the Du Bois Review editors for their helpful feedback on this piece. I also thank the African American Policy Forum for its generous support to present an early version of this paper in at the Social Justice Writers workshop, and for comments received there, particularly from Barbara Tomlinson, George Lipsitz, Alvin Starks, and Luke Harris. This work was strengthened due to conversations with my friend, Athena Mutua, who is a gracious and challenging dialogue partner. Of course, this work would not be possible without the inspiration of the author originating intersectionality theory, Kimberlé Crenshaw.

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