2022-2023 Conceptual Learning: Black Feminism

I began to use the phrase in my work ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ because I wanted to have some language that would actually remind us continually of the interlocking systems of domination that define our reality… a sort of short cut way of saying all of these things actually are functioning simultaneously at all times in our lives…”

bell hooks, Cultural Criticism and Transformation, 1997

The Department of African American Studies has selected Black feminism as its concept around which to organize pedagogy, intellectual exchange, and community engagement for the year. Black feminism insists on the complexities of black lived experiences, imaginings and knowledge production as too capacious to be contained solely within the rubrics of race or anti-blackness. As theory, activism, cultural practices and cultures of care Black feminism/Black feminist draws upon a long history of black women’s challenges to imperialist white supremacist heteropatriarchy and radical visions expansive enough to free us all. It is in this context that we can fully comprehend the Combahee River Collective oft quoted declaration that, “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” From theorizing the nuances of coalitional politics to intersectionality, black feminism takes seriously the structuring of power through difference (race, gender, sexuality, economic and citizenship status) as it also remains attuned to the ways we must push against the very limits and narrowness of such categories.

In its most powerful formulations black feminism does not posit a solution but a process, it doesn’t provide the answers but invests in study and struggle, it does not anoint leaders but requires global solidarities in charting a path to alternative ways of knowing and liberation. This year we center these Black feminist insights and commitments as we continue to respond to urgent issues and conversations relevant to Black people, and Black Studies, and the field’s mission to transform the world.