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Collins, Patricia Hill

Page history last edited by Melanie 15 years, 2 months ago

Patricia Hill Collins explores the ways in which Black feminist thought emphasizes the importance of knowledge in empowering oppressed people.  She argues that Black feminist thought offers two unique contributions towards conceptions of consciousness, empowerment, and knowledge.  First, Black feminist thought recognizes the connection between race, class, and gender, particularly in terms of oppression; something the first wave of feminism did not do.  Secondly, Black feminist thought allows subordinate groups a way to better conceptualize their own existence and define it for themselves.


Collins argues that knowledge is incredibly important to the relationship between domination and resistance.  It is through viewing class, gender, and race simultaneously that we can begin to have a better understanding of domination and oppression in our society.  Collins dubs this concept of interlocking forms of oppression as the “Matrix of Domination.”  She argues that, “the significance of seeing race, class, and gender as interlocking systems of oppression is that such an approach fosters a paradigmatic shift of thinking inclusively about other oppressions, such as age, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity” (538).  This allows individuals to see the many ways in which they may be oppressed simultaneously, rather than believing one aspect of their identity is to blame.  It also shows how the various parts of our identities situate us in different parts of the matrix; sometimes we are oppressors and sometimes we are oppressed.


Through recognizing that individuals, as well as groups of people, are dominant or subordinated depending on the context, one can begin to see how this relates to knowledge.  Collins asserts that, “dominant groups aim to replace subjugated knowledge with their own specialized thought because they realize that gaining control over this dimension of subordinate groups’ lives simplifies control” (540).  Ultimately, it is the dominant group that has more representation and thus, ability to control the knowledge available to others.  Collins acknowledges the reality that no one group has a monopoly over “truth” or “true knowledge.”  In fact, each group has only a partial view of the whole problem/issue at hand.  Therefore, it is even more important to acknowledge all viewpoints on a subject and consider where those positing such a view fall in the Matrix of Domination.


Collins also discusses the dificulty in creating legitimate Black Feminist Thought. Firstly, one must be a Black woman to create this knowledge.  This was the original problem since prior to the 1950's very few Black women earned advanced degrees.  Before this, Collins cites Blues singers as being agents of Black Feminist Thought. They even gained the legitimacy of the various spheres of knowledge:


1. Being validated by ordinary African-American women.

2. Be accepted by Black women scholars.

3. Be prepared to confront Eurocentric masculinist political and epistemological requirements. (543)


This idea of Blues singers being legitimate purveyors of knowledge is similar to Gramsci's idea of organic intellectuals.  These are intellectuals coming from the common people and not the dominant class of society.




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