Roundtable - Cosponsored Status Awarded
Sponsored by: Association of Black Anthropologists
Cosponsored by: Biological Anthropology Section
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Science
Secondary Theme: Race
The definitions of scholarly and/or scientific work, as well as the constructed divisions among disciplines all have roots in the Enlightenment, an era most often associated with European and Euro-American white men (Smedley and Smedley 2012). This history means that science based in this framework privileges the voices of predominantly heterosexual, white men above others (Hill Collins 2000; Smedley and Smedley 2012). Acting as gatekeepers of knowledge, they exercise authority about whose research is valued. One of the results of the white, male, and heterosexual voice being centered in science is that this particular mindset of “objective” and scientific knowledge have been fundamental in constructing our modern conceptions of race and gender.
Black feminist thought has pushed back against this particular framework, instead centering the lived experiences of black women through works that do not always fit the traditional mold of what is considered to be scholarly. We must recognize that what is considered scientific and/or scholarly is still subject to the researcher’s political and intellectual context (Hill Collins 2000; Watkins in press). Suppressing the intellectual traditions of an oppressed group makes it easier for dominant groups to maintain control, the invisibility of the oppressed being equated with a lack of dissent to the dominant narrative (Collins 2000).
This session draws on conceptions of intersectionality, as described by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989), to recenter these voices in the “scientific” side of anthropology. Crenshaw centers black women’s experiences to overcome this historical erasure and to make apparent how discrimination occurs along multiple axes, making black women multiply-burdened. It offers a view of how black women have been victims of various forms of de-gendering, masculinization, objectification, and pathologization. The value of this multi-sited lens is not only for black women, but for all folks who face any form of oppression, as the tools of oppression can be repurposed for use on any marginalized group (Taylor 2017).
A black feminist perspective has also begun to bring new critical science questions to the forefront, such as “What actually defines ‘science’?” and “Why should anthropology continue to fight to be considered a science?” Implementing a black feminist lens, especially one focused on intersectionality, within the science of anthropology and scientific anthropology is key to interrogating these questions, as well as working towards our goals as a field that listens to those working for and through resistance, resilience, and adaptation.