Can we trace a clear line between victims and perpetrators? Shall we presume that a peace reflected in a peace agreement embodies a universal good? Shall the victims of grave human rights violations share similar understandings of reparation and forgiveness?
These dilemmas touch upon the difficulties of using impermeable categories and binary divisions in dealing with massive human rights violations during conflict or democratic transitions. Similar concerns were raised by feminist legal scholar Kimberly Crenshaw when she introduced in the 1980s the notion of intersectionality (1991). With this term Crenshaw intended to address a deficit in law and institutional milieux to deal with the complexities of difference
In her critique, she highlights existent voids resulting from the use of mutually exclusive categories, which are taken to be fully inclusive and allegedly universal. Categories in the form of men/women, black/white, heterosexual/homosexual, victim/perpetrator, private/public, western/non-western, local/migrant marginalize those whose experiences do not totally fit into such categories. Furthermore, they are insufficient to account for the differential life chances and opportunities of those who experience multiple forms of subordination and to respond to their demands of social justice.
Today, the uses of intersectionality have achieved to disrupt sameness/difference paradigms prevailing not only in judiciary systems but in institutional practices, and which are still at work within civil society. intersectionality opens up a gathering place for research, theoretical reflection, and action/practice on the overlapping and conflicting dynamics of gender, race, ethnicity, class and other systems of inequality or disadvantage (Cho et al. 2013). Intersectionality is not a model based on the aggregation of single axes, yet it rejects treating inequalities in isolation. Unlike some interpretations, intersectionality has not sought to be a catalyst for identity politics nor to create additional static and compartmentalized boxes (Cooper 2016). Instead, it helps us unveiling the consequences of being identified and treated as belonging to a particular social group (MacKinnon 2013). Intersectionality is, in fact, a framework of transformative nature that encourages its practitioners to consider the intrinsically changing and mutually constructed dynamics of hierarchical social systems, and hence people’s dynamic locations in real life.
By adopting an intersectionality lens, Unfolding Peace foregrounds the role of difference, dissensus and deliberation in peacebuilding; a movement initiated by the so-called agonistic peace. Inspired by this wave, Unfolding Peace takes the challenge of looking into how gender overlaps and interlocks with other forms of structural inequality and difference, in particular with class, race/ethnicity, age, spatial belonging and experiences of war, with regard to the political subjectivity of people and groups of population who resist peacebuilding settlements or its implementation.
The vision and approach of this blog is to set up a dialogue on how those people and groups emerge or are transformed across time and space through the interaction of these differential systems and experiences. The blog proposes to explore whether peacebuilding institutions would have a chance to widen the scope of their participants by involving in their work people’s intersecting experiences of subordination and inequality during war and post-conflict times.