Intersectionality and the United Nations World Conference Against Racism

Abigail Bakan, Yasmeen Abu-Laban

Abstract


This article analyzes the 2001 World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) held in Durban, South Africa. Utilizing original interviews with civil society delegates in the United States and Canada, along with government documents and media and academic accounts, we challenge prevailing interpretations of the WCAR to show that it was an important space for expressions of an explicit feminist intersectionality approach, especially the intersection of racism with gender. Our findings demonstrate how intersectionality was relevant to the discussions of both state and civil society delegates and served to highlight racialized, gendered, and other discriminatory patterns. Based on this evidence, we argue that the WCAR process played a significant role in advancing a global conversation about intersectionality and therefore carried significant potential for advancing an anti-racist agenda for the twenty-first century. That this is not widely understood or highlighted has to do with challenges to the WCAR, particularly the withdrawal of key states from the process and a negative discourse concerning discussions and scholarly analysis of the WCAR process. We suggest that acknowledging the presence of intersectionality in the WCAR process gestures towards a more accurate historical record. It also suggests both the opportunities and constraints afforded by intersectional analysis in moments of transition and mainstreaming. As such, the “Durban moment,” and the WCAR more broadly, are highly relevant for the study of women, politics, and human rights over the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Résumé

Cet article analyse la Conférence mondiale contre le racisme (CMCR) de 2001 qui s’est tenue à Durban, en Afrique du Sud. À l’aide d’entretiens originaux avec des délégués de la société civile aux États-Unis et au Canada, ainsi que de documents gouvernementaux et de rapports médiatiques et universitaires, nous contestons les interprétations dominantes de la CMCR pour montrer qu’elle a été une plate-forme importante pour les expressions d’une approche féministe intersectionnelle explicite, en particulier l’intersection entre la race et le genre. Nos résultats démontrent comment l’intersectionnalité était pertinente aux discussions des délégués des gouvernements et de la société civile et a permis de mettre en évidence des schémas racialisés, axés sur le genre et autres schémas discriminatoires. Sur la base de ces preuves, nous soutenons que le processus de la CMCR a joué un rôle important pour faire progresser la conversation mondiale sur l’intersectionnalité et a donc eu un potentiel important pour faire progresser la cause antiraciste au 21e siècle. Le fait que cela ne soit pas largement compris ou mis en évidence est dû aux contestations de la CMCR, en particulier au retrait d’états clés du processus et à un discours négatif concernant les discussions et l’analyse scientifique du processus de la CMCR. Nous suggérons que le fait de reconnaître la présence de l’intersectionnalité dans le processus de la CMCR va en direction d’un compte-rendu historique plus correct. Cela évoque également à la fois les possibilités fournies et les contraintes imposées par l’analyse intersectionnelle dans les périodes de transition et d’intégration. En tant que tel, le « moment Durban », et la CMCR de manière plus générale, sont très pertinents aux études sur les femmes, les politiques et les droits de la personne au cours de la première décennie du 21e siècle.


Keywords


Intersectionality; United Nationn; Racism and Anti-racism

Full Text:

220-235 PDF

References


Abu-Laban, Yasmeen. 2008. “Gendering the Nation-State: An Introduction.” In Gendering the Nation State: Canadian and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Yasmeen Abu-Laban, 1-18. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press.

Abu-Laban, Yasmeen, and Abigail B. Bakan. 2008. “The Racial Contract: Israel/Palestine and Canada.” Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture 14 (5): 637-660.

____. 2012. “After 9/11: Canada, the Israel/Palestine Conflict, and the Surveillance of Public Discourse.” Canadian Journal of Law and Society 27 (3): 319-340.

____. 2013. “Human Rights, the Question of Palestine, and the Paradox of the United Nations.” Paper presented to Canadian Political Science Association Annual Conference, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, June 6.

Abu-Laban, Yasmeen, and Abigail B. Bakan (forthcoming). Israel, Palestine and the Politics of Race: Exploring Identity and Power in a Global Context. London, UK: IB Tauris Press.

Abu-Laban, Yasmeen, and Christina Gabriel. 2002. Selling Diversity: Immigration, Employment Equity and Globalization, 2nd Edition. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

African American Policy Forum (AAPF). n.d. A Primer on Intersectionality. New York, NY: AAPF. http://www.aapf.org/publications/.

Ahmed, Sara. 2004. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. New York, NY: Routledge.

Baden, Sally, and Anne Marie Goetz. 1997. “Who Needs Sex When You Can Have Gender? Conflicting Discourses on Gender at Beijing.” Feminist Review 56: 3-25.

Bakan, Abigail B., and Audrey Kobayashi. 2000. Employment Equity Policy in Canada: An Interprovincial Comparison. Ottawa, ON: Status of Women Canada.

Bakan, Abigail B., and Yasmeen Abu-Laban. 2009. “Palestinian Resistance and International Solidarity: The BDS Campaign.” Race and Class 51 (1): 29-54.

____. 2010. “Israel/Palestine, South Africa and the ‘One-State Solution’: The Case for an Apartheid Analysis.” Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 37 (2-3): 331-351.

Bannerji, Himani. 1995. Thinking Through: Essays on Feminism, Marxism and Anti-Racism. Toronto, ON: Women’s Press.

____. 2014. “Marxism and Anti-Racism in Theory and Practice: Reflections and Interpretations.” In Theorizing Anti-Racism: Linkages in Marxism and Critical Race Theories, edited by Abigail B. Bakan and Enakshi Dua, 127-141. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Bayefsky, Anne. 2002. “The UN World Conference Against Racism: A Racist Anti-Racism Conference.” American Society of International Law Proceedings, 96th Annual Meeting, 65-74.

Black, Allida. 2012. “Are Women ‘Human’? The UN and the Struggle to Recognize Women’s Rights as Human Rights.” In The Human Rights Revolution: An International History, edited by Akira Ireye, Petra Goedde, and William I. Hitchcock, 133-155. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Blackwell, Maylei, and Nadine Naber. 2002. “Intersectionality in an Era of Globalization: The Implications of the UN World Conference Against Racism for Transnational Feminism Practices – A Conference Report.” Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 2 (2): 237-248.

Bunch, Charlotte. 2012. “Opening Doors for Feminism: UN World Conferences on Women.” Journal of Women’s History 24 (4): 213-221.

Chappell, Louise. 2008. “Women’s Rights and Religious Opposition: The Politics of Gender at the International Criminal Court.” In Gendering the Nation-State: Canadian and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Yasmeen Abu-Laban, 139-161. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press.

Columbia Law School. 2011. “Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies Established.” Press Release, October 12. http://www.law.columbia.edu/media_inquiries/news_events/2011/october2011/Intersectionality.

Combahee River Collective. 1977. “A Black Feminist Statement from the Combahee River Collective.” The Feminist eZine. http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/modern/Black-Feminist-Statement.html.

Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1989. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 140: 139-167.

____. 2000. “Background Paper for the Expert Meeting on the Gender-Related Aspects of Race Discrimination.” Zagreb, HR. November 21-24. http://www.scribd.com/doc/59911382/Background-Paper-for-Expert-Meeting-on-

Gender-Related-Aspects-of-Race-Discrimination-WCAR-Crenshaw.

____. 2011. “Demarginalising the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.” In Framing Intersectionality: Debates on a Multi-Faceted Concept in Gender Studies, edited by Helma Lutz, Maria Teresa Herrera Vivar, and Linda Supik, 25-42. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing.

Davis, Angela. [1981] 1983. Women, Race and Class. New York, NY: Random House, Vintage.

Davis, Kathy. 2011. “Intersectionality as Buzzword: A Sociology of Science Perspective on What Makes Feminist Theory Successful.” In Framing Intersectionality: Debates on a Multi-Faceted Concept in Gender Studies, edited by Helma Lutz, Maria Teresa Herrera Vivar, and Linda Supik, 43-54. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing.

Dhamoon, Rita K. 2011. “Considerations on Mainstreaming Intersectionality.” Political Research Quarterly 64 (1): 230-243.

Dutt, Mallika. 1996. “Some Reflections on US Women of Color and the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women and NGO Forum in Beijing, China.” Feminist Studies 22 (3): 519-528.

Farris, Sara. 2015. “The Intersectional Conundrum and the Nation-State.” Viewpoint Magazine, May 4. https://viewpointmag.com/2015/05/04/the-intersectional-conundrum-and-the-nation-state/.

Gaer, Felice. 2009. “Women, International Law and International Institutions: The Case of the United Nations.” Women’s Studies International Forum 32 (1): 60-66.

Guillaumin, Colette. [1995] 2003. Racism, Sexism, Power and Ideology. New York, NY: Routledge.

Hill Collins, Patricia. 1986. “Learning from the Outsider Within: The Sociological Significance of Black Feminist Thought.” Social Problems 33 (6): 514-532.

Klein, Naomi. 2009. “Minority Death Match: Jews, Blacks and the ‘Post-Racial’ Presidency.” Harper’s Magazine, September: 53-67.

Lutz, Helma, Maria Teresa Herrera Vivar, and Linda Supik. 2011. “Framing Intersectionality: An Introduction.” In Framing Intersectionality: Debates on a Multi-Faceted Concept in Gender Studies, edited by Helma Lutz, Maria Teresa Herrera Vivar, and Linda Supik, 1-22. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing.

McCall, Leslie. 2005. “The Complexity of Intersectionality.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30 (3): 1771-1800.

Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). n.d. “An Intersectional Approach to Discrimination: Addressing Multiple Grounds in Human Rights Claims.” http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/intersectional-approach-discrimination-addressing-multiple-grounds-human-rights-claims#sthash.dpzfkg7H.dpuf.

Puar, Jasbir K. 2012. “‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’: Becoming-Intersectional in Assemblage Theory.” PhiloSOPHIA 2 (1): 49-66.

Qureshi, Shazia. 2013. “The Recognition of Violence Against Women as a Violation of Human Rights in the United Nations System.” South Asian Studies 28 (1): 187-198.

Razack, Sherene. 1998. Looking White People in the Eye: Gender, Race and Culture in Courtrooms and Classrooms. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Robinson, Mary. 2001. “Voices of Victims Are Calls to Action, Secretary-General of World Conference Tells Racism Hearings.” World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. New York, NY: Department of Public Information – News and Media Services Division, September 1. http://www.un.org/WCAR/pressreleases/rdd20.htm.

____. 2012. Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice. New York, NY and London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

____. 2016. “A Conversation with Mary Robinson.” Hosted by James Edwards. Special Ceremony to Confer an Honorary Doctor of Laws on Mary Robinson. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta, June 21. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNP_5rffWrA

Said, Edward. 1992. The Question of Palestine. New York, NY: Vintage Books. Schechter, Michael G. 2005. United Nations Global Conferences (Global Institutions). London, UK: Routledge.

Sharp, Ingrid. 2013. “Feminist Peace Activism 1915 and 2010: Are We Nearly There Yet?” Peace and Change 38 (2): 155-180.

Siltanen, Janet, and Andrea Doucet. 2008. “Analyzing the Complexity of Gender: Intersectionality and Beyond.” In Gender Relations in Canada: Intersectionality and Beyond, by Janet Siltanen and Andrea Doucet, 172-201. Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press.

Stasiulis, Daiva K. 1990. “Theorising Connections: Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Class.” In Race and Ethnic Relations in Canada, edited by Peter S. Li, 269-305. Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press.

Stasiulis, Daiva K., and Abigail B. Bakan. 2005. Negotiating Citizenship: Migrant Women in Canada and the Global System. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

The Toronto Star. “Canada Skipping UN Racism “Hatefest” Again, Ottawa Says.” the star.com, November 25. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2010/11/25/canada_skipping_un_racism_hatefest_ag ain_ottawa_says.html.

United Nations. Durban Review Conference. 2009. “Voices: Everyone Affected by Racism has a Story that should be Heard.” Geneva, CH: April 20-24. http://www.un.org/en/durbanreview2009/side_voices.shtml.

United Nations. World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). 2001a. “World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.” Durham, ZA: August 31-September 7. http://www.un.org/WCAR/.

United Nations. World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). 2001b. “Report of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.” Durham, ZA: August 31-September 7. http://www.un.org/WCAR/.

United Nations. World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). 2001c. “NGO Forum Declaration.” Durban, ZA: September 3. http://i-p-o.org/racism-ngo-decl.htm.

Yuval-Davis, Nira. 2006. “Intersectionality and Feminist Politics.” European Journal of Women’s Studies 13 (3): 193-209.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Creative Commons License
Articles published in Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice/Études critiques sur le genre, la culture, et la justice are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

ISSN: 1715-0698

If the page is not displaying images and text correctly, adjust viewing to fullscreen.