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Intersectionality and Political Ambition  

Shauna Lani Shames

Understanding political ambition in an intersectional way requires some familiarity with both subjects. Intersectionality is first explored as a concept and practice, and then the discussion turns to an explanation of political ambition (in multiple forms). In addition, intersectionality can be applied to the theory and research on political ambition, particularly in the context of candidate emergence. Since Crenshaw’s article, and especially after 2000, the term intersectionality and the concept that it defines have become a central part of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies in academic circles and of feminist movement organizations in the real world. Although the term originally referred to the intersection of race with gender, it has expanded to include other forms of identity. The central metaphor for the concept as it has come to be used could be seen as the asterisk; each of us has a multiplicity of identities (race and gender, but also age, class, religion, sexual orientation, ability/disability, and more). The “self,” or subject, lies at the intersection of these many axes of identity. Difficulties continue to arise, however, in finding coherence in both theoretical and empirical works adopting an intersectional perspective. Should the concept be tied to its original understanding of the overlap between race and gender? Which race? With each additional axis of identity that we examine in a scholarly way, we gain specificity, but perhaps lose some generalizability. Taking into consideration all aspects of identity that define a whole person would be nearly impossible across any group. (Even a collection of young gay male Native Americans, say, would likely have all kind of differences that go far beyond their initial similarities.) Pushed to its logical extreme, the concept of intersectionality can threaten a feminist politics that seeks to take the “women” group as its subject. Turning to women as political candidates, a growing number of studies examine gender and political ambition, particularly in the context of candidate emergence (with a smaller but also growing subset looking at a second type of political ambition, progressive, referring to the decision to run for higher office once someone is already in office. Multiple works agree that women’s initial and progressive political ambition are lower than their comparable male counterparts’ levels, and such works give us valuable hypotheses and evidence about the reasons for this gender gap. Recent studies have begun to examine race as well as gender in order to perform studies of political ambition that are intersectional in approach and methodology, although these are limited in number, often due to the small numbers of women of color as candidates and elected officials. However, this article profiles some of the excellent work being done on this topic. By first looking at previous thinking and empirical work on intersectionality, doing the same for political ambition, and then bringing together these two fields of study, this article addresses the theoretical and empirical issues involved in studying political ambition in an intersectional way. In particular, at this point in the study of political ambition, it is crucial that we see more studies examining the different types of identification that make up intersectionality, how they can fit together, and how this overlap can affect women’s political ambition. Although this article is focused on American women, as they are the subject of much of the intersectionality and political ambition literature, this framework can be used more broadly by scholars studying women outside of the United States, who would certainly face many of the same challenges and questions.


Queer as Materialism  

Sophie Noyé and Gianfranco Rebucini

Since the 2000s, forms of articulation between materialist and Marxist theory and queer theory have been emerging and have thus created a “queer materialism.” After a predominance of poststructuralist analyses in the social sciences in the1980s and 1990s, since the late 1990s, and even more so after the economic crisis of 2008, a materialist shift seems to be taking place. These recompositions of the Marxist, queer, and feminist, which took place in activist and academic arenas, are decisive in understanding how the new approaches are developing in their own fields. The growing legitimacy of feminist and queer perspectives within the Marxist left is part of an evolution of Marxism on these issues. On the other side, queer activists and academics have highlighted the economic and social inequalities that the policies of austerity and capitalism in general induce among LGBTQI people and have turned to more materialist references, especially Marxist ones, to deploy an anticapitalist and antiracist argument. Even if nowadays one cannot speak of a “queer materialist” current as such, because the approaches grouped under this term are very different, it seems appropriate to look for a “family resemblance” and to group them together. Two specific kinds of “queer materialisms” can thus be identified. The first, queer Marxism, seeks to theorize together Marxist and queer theories, particularly in normalization and capitalist accumulation regimes. The second, materialist queer feminism, confronts materialist/Marxist feminist thought with queer approaches and thus works in particular on the question of heteropatriarchy based on this double tradition.


What’s a “Norm” After Queer Movements?  

Antoine Idier

The question of “norm” is central to queer theory. As this reading of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990), regarded as one of the pioneering texts in queer theory, shows, queer theory has consistently discussed the actual power of the norm, how it works, and how it is appropriate for minority movements to position themselves in relation to norms to abolish them. As many writings and discussions on this subject suggest, the reflection on the norm is based on an internal feminist discussion of identity. Just as there is no naturalness of sex, there is also no natural, preexisting identity. Denaturalizing identity by asserting that identities do not preexist when they are invoked calls for strategic use of identity while at the same time conducting a critique of how identities are produced. More fundamentally, the discussion of norms is linked to a reflection on “priority.” By asserting that there is no being or ontology that precedes socialization and the application of social norms, Butler denies any relevance to the project of reconnecting with practices and identities that have not been shaped by these norms and are thus considered free, escaping power. Postulating that there is no state prior to law, norm, and power calls for strategies of resistance and subversion. There is a need to place oneself within the normative devices and structures produced by power to subvert them. The notion of “performativity” condenses this conclusion by describing the possibility of producing acts that, within the normative system, displace normative meanings. Resistance and subversion lie in the parodic game, in the displacement of gender norms within the structure that produces them. The assertion that “there is no political position purified of power, and perhaps that impurity is what produces agency as the potential interruption and reversal of regulatory regimes” leads to a radical redefinition of politics. All subversive politics thus remain dependent on prevailing norms and structures, within which it acts to contest them. Subversion can only ever be local and never total, as much temporally as geographically. It can only intervene in a place, at a given moment, with reference to a given normative apparatus. Insofar as it remains necessary always to draw on a norm in order to challenge and resignify it, it will never be possible to contest all social norms definitively; it will only be possible to weaken certain ones from time to time. It then remains to identify, at some point, the power with which one wishes to fight, and the most effective strategies to weaken it.