Black Women Freedom

This paper gives you the opportunity to investigate the identity politics of intersectionality more closely by examining it in one of its foundational pieces: the Combahee River Collective Statement.

In this paper, you will answer the below question by a) explicating and b) evaluating  the CRC’s claim. You must also compare it to the claims of one other author in order to better illuminate it.

What does the following passage mean in relation to the concept of “identity politics”?

“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 systems of oppression” (22-23).

To explicate comes from the Latin ex plicare, which literally means to unfold. An explication unfolds the meaning of a specific argument, concept or passage of a given text; it is also called a close reading or analysis of the text. It is not simply a summary, however: it remains close to the central issue, concept, or claim that is to be explicated. To explicate this claim, therefore, is to unfold its meaning. To do this, you will need to consider the following questions:

  1. What is identity politics, according to the Combahee River Collective Statement?
  2. What does the Collective mean by the claim that if Black women were free, then everyone else would be free?
  3. How are these connected?
  4. In order to better flesh out this claim, you must draw on another author from class. Likely sources would include Collins and Bilge, Lugones, Cohen, Taylor or Barbara Smith herself, but you can use anyone you like from the first half of the course.
  5. Evaluate this claim: this essentially means you tell me what you think of it. This can happen on at least two levels: is the claim sensible within the terms of the argument (that is, is the argument valid, sound, or good), and does the claim reflect conditions in the world it wishes to change as a result of the claim? Essentially, is the CRC right? If so, how or why? If not, how or why? Is their account still relevant? What evidence would we use to evaluate that?

I anticipate that the paper will consist of about two thirds to three quarters explication, and one third to one quarter evaluation – that is, five or seven pages explication, followed by two or three pages of evaluation. It is a complex claim to evaluate, so give yourself some time to work through it.

In order to evaluate the CRC’s claim, you’ll have to develop your own criteria for evaluation; this means you need to start by thinking about what in the CRC’s argument you find good, bad, objectionable, problematic, right on, etc. What’s important is explaining what the Collective means in this claim, and telling me what you, substantively, think of these things. What about these accounts do you think is important or significant or problematic, and why? In other words, why do you think what you think?

This paper will be 7-10 pages long.

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