This paper argues for an understanding of Judith Butler’s concept of gender performativity and Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality as decolonial methodologies, alternative epistemologies, and forms of political praxis within gender studies, specifically focusing on the field’s institutionalisation within Western universities, given both their historic complicity in naturalising imperialist ideas and my own lived experience studying within them. I argue that gender performativity and intersectionality act as decolonial methodologies by revealing the respective erasures of constructedness and situatedness within certain dysconscious, imperialist conceptions of ‘gender’ grounded in Whiteness, as well as how these erasures remain otherwise hidden and/or naturalised (to some). By putting forth alternative ways of ‘doing’ and ‘knowing’ ‘gender’ — centered on liberatory conceptions of identity and identity politics — gender performativity and intersectionality also function as alternative epistemologies and forms of political praxis, I argue. In doing so, they facilitate centering the field’s praxical potentials (and indeed, obligations) to train thinkers to confront material inequities — ‘gender’-based and otherwise — in Western institutionalised understandings of what ‘gender studies’ should strive to be and do, I conclude.
Note for Readers
Following an awareness of the particular histories and the high stakes — the repatriation of stolen Indigenous lands and lives — inherent in discussions of what constitutes processes of ‘decolonisation’ (Tuck and Yang, 2012), I stylise the term in quotation marks in this paper when I use it as a verb or noun, in order to distinguish my symbolic use of it from its literal and historical one. I use the terms ‘decoloniality ’and ‘decolonial,’ without quotes, to refer to the characteristics that constitute ‘decolonisation,’ as outlined in decolonial theory, the body of work written, in part, by some of the decolonial theorists whose work I invoke throughout this paper.
What does it mean to ‘decolonise’ gender studies?: Theorising the decolonial capacities of gender performativity and intersectionality.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 22(2), 62-77.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol22/iss2/7