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Centre for Women’s Studies Annual Lecture: Thinking Decolonially through an Intersectional Lens

Wednesday 8 March 2023, 4.30PM

Speaker(s): Avtar Brah, Professor Emerita in Sociology at Birkbeck

Chaired by: Rachel Alsop, Director of CWS

Marking International Women’s Day, the Centre for Women’s Studies, in association with York International Women’s Week and generously supported by Journal of Gender Studies, is delighted to welcome Avtar Brah.


There has been some considerable discussion in feminist circles about the concept and practice of intersectionality. In essence, intersectionality refers to the ways in which axes of social and cultural differentiation such as gender, class, race and sexuality articulate and intersect in given contexts. These processes occur against the backdrop of histories of colonialism and imperialism and their present day manifestations. This lecture will engage with concepts and practices associated with colonial and decolonial imaginaries and realities. The starting point here is that coloniality is constitutive of modernity. I will explore how the concept of ‘decolonisation’ was transformed into ‘decoloniality’ towards the end of the Cold War with its aim of foregrounding decolonisation of knowledge so as to critique and dismantle colonial epistemic hierarchies. The presentation will address how coloniality/decoloniality analytical frames raise issues of borders and boundaries, and how questions of ethnicity, nationalism, national identity and belonging are central to conceptualising borders. To think about borders reminds us of how diasporas are created in the world. I will detail how I have theorised the concept of diaspora and diaspora space. Inter alia, I will discuss how the project of ‘politically Black feminism’ has been at the forefront of enacting decolonial politics. The presentation will conclude with a consideration of coalition politics which are centrally concerned with questions of equality, rights and justice.

Avtar Brah is Professor Emerita in Sociology at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research covers both theoretical and empirical problematics on issues of coloniality/decoloniality, gender, class, 'race', ethnicity and sexuality. Her pioneering theoretical framework on the concept of 'diaspora' has set new research agendas. Her books include Decolonial Imaginings: Intersectional Conversations and Contestations (2022), and Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities (1996). Her work is informed by a socialist feminist optic. 

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Location: Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building, University of York, Campus West