Last week I stated that I would be writing a series that highlighted different ideologies created by Black womxn scholars as a way to celebrate Black History Month. If you haven’t read the first part yet, you can find it here. For this week, I want to shine a light on the scholarship of Claudia Jones and Kristie Dotson because I realized that their ideas may not be as widely recognized—to be fair this is just an assumption as it is quite possible that these ideas are discussed in academic spaces unbeknownst to me. Both ideologies that I will present in this installment will be used to emphasize the grander statement I’m trying to make about how Black womxn scholarship has been a necessary tool for understanding the nuances of social justice, civil rights, gender equality, LGBTQIA+ rights and sustainable rights amongst many other facets of social life. As things across the country (and globally) seem to be getting increasingly bleak, I wanted to turn a positive eye toward the contributions these womxn have made, created largely as a way to represent postcolonial perspectives on Black womanhood. With that being said, please keep reading if you’re interested in learning more about these ideologies created by these outstanding black womxn.
- Epistemic oppression
Conceptualized by assistant Professor of Philosophy at Michigan State University Kristie Dotson in 2013. According to Dotson, “Epistemic oppression refers to persistent epistemic exclusion that hinders one’s contribution to knowledge production” (Dotson 2013 pp. 115); in this theory, oppression or exclusion is understood as the ill-advised infringement of the intellectual property/epistemological agency of knowledge holders. Dotson makes clear in her analysis the distinction between ‘reducible’ epistemic oppression and ‘irreducible’ epistemic oppression. The main difference between these two forms “concerns a main source of resistance one can expect to encounter when attempting to address a given epistemic oppression” (Dotson 2013 pp. 116). Such a distinction allows for a better understanding of how to employ these terms and thus, also be able to rectify its encompassing issues. Ultimately, I think this theory gives rise to the oppression of womxn. Because womxn are thought to share epistemic resources, they are therefore limited in their usage of such resources. *Source cited: Kristie Dotson (2014) Conceptualizing Epistemic Oppression, Social Epistemology, 28:2, 115-138, DOI: 10.1080/02691728.2013.78258
- Triple consciousness/Triple oppression
A concept theorized by intersectional activist Claudia Jones who was known for being associated with the American Communist Party in the 1930s-1950s before her exile to the United Kingdom in 1955. Jones’ theory is reminiscent of the famous W.E.B DuBois notion of double consciousness which is a term to describe the inner conflict or turmoil plaguing Black Americans as a result of the transatlantic slave trade, chattel slavery and Jim Crow era civil unrest—or as I like to call it ‘civil terrorism’. However, Jones’ triple consciousness (or triple oppression as it’s sometimes referred to), which can be classified as Black Nationalist and Socialist Feminist thought, was developed as a response to marginalization, oppression and exploitation of Black womxn. Claudia’s ideology and activism was heavily influenced by the work of Karl Marx; in her reconstruction of Marx’s class struggle theory, triple consciousness is meant to emphasize that in order to free working class people, the most oppressed (i.e. the Black womxn) must be freed first. Triple consciousness essentially served as a form of emancipatory politics. In other words, this concept was formulated in a way that sought to alleviate all womxn and working class individuals from race, class, and gender oppression. And who tends to suffer significantly from all these types of oppression? Black womxn. The idea here was that if you freed the most crestfallen members of society, then everyone else would be freed (think of it as working from the bottom up). Claudia Jones’ work was important because it helped draw attention to the shortcomings of Communist policy when it came to handling the specific oppression of Black womxn and its ignorance of race politics altogether. Essentially Claudia’s theory of triple consciousness emphasizes the race, class, and gender discrimination cannot be treated as separate oppressions when they occur intersectionally for Black womxn and must be examined and dismantled as such.
Next week I’ll conclude this series by looking at the ideologies of Patricia Hill Collins. Thank you for reading!