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The psychological toll of integrating all the parts of who I am: the aporia of intersectionality

Black History Month Seminar Series, 2014

Date: 22nd October 2014, 4:00 - 6:00 pm.

Suriya Nayak - University of Salford

This paper explores Audre Lorde’s statement:  ‘It’s hard, it’s very hard’ (Savren and Robinson, 1982:81) to ‘…integrate all the parts of who I am’ (Lorde, 1980a:120) in order to understand the nature and function of the ‘terrible injustice’ of living in categories (Savren and Robinson, 1982:81).

In this paper I seek to understand something of the personal, political task of doing intersectionality for myself and within myself - on the embodied emotional experience of the aporia of intersectionality. I argue that any attempt to dismantle borders constructed to separate out categories of experience and identity bumps up against a number of interconnected aporia. I argue that the emotional task and experience of intersecting ‘all my different selves’ (Lorde, 1980a:121) across psychic borders has a ‘psychological toll’ (The Combahee River Collective, 1977:266).  I argue that aporia is both the site and the method for the ‘You have to do it for yourself’ experience of intersectionality. I argue that the experience of the ‘impossible’ in the aporia creates the conditions for the ‘possible’ and the ‘productive’ fight against social injustice.

My analysis dismantles the conceptual structure of intersectionality to show that it is bound up with the aporia of hospitality and borders in an effort to contain the anxiety generated by the foreign stranger within me.