Management Seminars: Caroline Osella

7 March 2017, 4.00 PM - 7 March 2017, 5.30 PM

Dr Caroline Osella (SOAS, University of London)

G.15, 15-19 Tyndall's Park Road, BRISTOL BS8 1PQ

Title: Asian, Woman, Migrant: how intersectionality silences our research respondents and shuts down analysis


I draw upon long-term intermittent fieldwork among some Indian migrants I have known since 1989, both in their home state of Kerala and in the Gulf - where they live and work.  If I were using intersectionality, and working outwards from an analytic frame, I might well say that in India, these respondents are positioned as ‘woman’; and in the Gulf as ‘woman’ and as ‘migrant’, hence in a worse position - doubly disadvantaged.  But engaging in finely textured interview and long-term participant observation work repeatedly teaches me that we cannot remember enough or take on forcefully enough the - hardly new, but still sadly unworked - knowledge that ‘woman’ (or ‘Indian’ or ‘migrant’) is at once both empty of meaning and too-replete with meaning.  A subject only comes to being in very specific located contexts of performance and normative expectations, and the analyst cannot presume to know what those locations might actually be.  In an ironic gesture, intersectionality - designed to bring black womenfolk into the ambit of establishment definitions of the ‘human’ - becomes a profoundly de-humanising tool.  Fieldwork narrative pushes me away from static framings like intersectionality and towards more process-oriented approaches.

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