For the last two weeks, I have been participating in a summer workshop on intersectionality. The idea was developed in the 1980s as a way to think the relationships between different subject positions and social identities. Scholars like Kimberle Crenshaw had become frustrated with legal theory, which required victims to identify the source of their oppression before bringing suit. Using several legal cases, Crenshaw argued that it was often difficult for women of color to identify the source of their oppressions because race and gender were so often interlocked with and inseparable from each other. Their inability to separate and name their experiences as solely the result of racism or sexism meant they were unable to bring suit. Their cases were dismissed. Since its development in the 1980s, intersectionality has expanded to think about the ways in which dis/ability, sexuality, class, race, and gender intersect and combine to form different subject positions. Scholars who think in this way argue that thinking in simplistic categories like black, female, white, working class, etc. ignores the ways in which each of these categories are always in play and misrepresents the experiences of various people. The experiences white women are different form those of white men. Likewise, the experience of middle class black men and women are different from those of working class black men and women.
One of the questions that came up for me in the workshop was how religion might play into intersectional analyses. Much of the language that I hear about religion in academia and those who consider themselves to be liberals is deeply classed. People who live in rural areas are portrayed as hicks, as backward, as racist, as clinging to religion, etc. To be religious in these discourses is to be unenlightened. This language suggests that class-bias is often articulated and expressed through discussions of religion. To leave religion out of intersectional analysis is to misunderstand class relations. It is also present in discussions of race and gender.
On the other hand, Christianity is such a prevalent part of American culture and Christian groups have denied access and respect to many groups of people. Religion seems to function differently than either class, race, or gender. Placing it within intersectional analysis seems more difficult than any of these other sectors.
I’m not quite sure how to do it. Thoughts?