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July 31, 2017 | by  | in Visual Arts |
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Visual Art

Hi Laura and Tim,

I’m having trouble writing to the theme of intersectionality. It’s a term that has been the focus of discussion within the arts recently, by writers Lana Lopesi, Natasha Matila-Smith, Kari Schmidt — more informed and eloquent on the subject than I am. My concern is that intersectionality can be, at its worst, a way of superficially acknowledging difference without accounting for oppression. It can — it should always — go far beyond that, but the way in which white people position themselves to it — most problematically in instances like writing for Salient which involve unpaid labour — often posits intersectional theory as antithesis to “white feminism” and in doing so manages to make whiteness central to the discussion. A reliance on these dichotomies does little beyond affirming the problems intersectionality seeks to address.

Basically I feel weird because I’ve been asked by you to write to a really complicated theme, with little regard for the fact that some artists and artist practitioners whose work may be defined by an outsider as intersectional in fact prefer to adhere to indigenous modes of thinking: mātauranga Māori, Moananui, manaakitanga, whakawhanaungatanga (this is clearly illustrated in Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Curatorial Edition, a conversation between Lana Lopesi, Nigel Borell, Ioana Gordon-Smith, and Ema Tavola published by the Pantograph Punch). Yes, these frameworks are intersectional; no, they are not best conflated under the umbrella of intersectionality.

Calling your feminism intersectional does not necessarily make it so. Without a clearer understanding of how this issue is going to pan out I am wary of contributing to it. The arts sector, this magazine, and my column would be greatly benefited by the careful application of intersectional theory and I think that is something that we should truly strive to achieve, however within the context of this issue I am worried that, as a woman of Māori and Tahitian descent, my voice will be subsumed into a broader narrative of “diversity”. I would not call my voice diverse; I would call it my own.

 

All the best,

Hanahiva Rose

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