- Rethinking with Patricia Hill Collins: A Note Toward Intersectionality as Interlocutory Interstitiality
Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. . . . But it is not always easy to reconstruct an accident.—Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex”
Stop, for a moment, at an intersection, a busy one, and you might get smashed in no time; if lucky, you could get spotted in time, which would also be a way to delay some other oncoming death. Intersections are where we get caught and where we find our bearings. Structurally tricky, fatally slippery, they can save us or sever us. An intersection can stop you short or spur you on. Such are the elusive vicissitudes of crossings—but cross we must, that ironic vitality of beings at crossroads.
Cross how? Block by block, one at a time. A trick, I suppose, is to keep moving: Move in there while looking around, up and down, left and right, or move right through without looking back. Confusing? I know. It’s a mixed signal. That’s partly why there is that yellow sign, as I understand, a cushion for transitional chaos. It is there as a buffer zone of active inaction [End Page 466] that strollers and drivers alike must learn to inhabit to live together, to move along. Of course, such a regulative codification of temporal boundaries solves neither the chronic traffic problems nor the Aristotelian riddle of time, once or for all; in fact, that is where we tend to expect more clashes, shifts, and accidents, literally or metaphorically. In any case, however, this material allegory of time at work does keep us reminded of and returning to this question that just won’t disappear: What happens—or rather, flows, comes, or intervenes—between green and yellow, and yellow and red? Who can account for, and bear witness to, events taking place in, and surging from, that luminal space of perpetual decision and indecision? No one and everyone.
So what happens there, in each case, stays there, like a blood stain at a crime scene; each, thus itemized, produces and carries effects of confluences of issues irreducible to any explanatory or justificatory epistemic apparatuses, however complex or comprehensive. Now, the situation is even trickier for what happened, including what will have happened: an accident that just happened or waiting to happen, neither can stay “there there,” as Gertrude Stein would say. Once registered, recorded, witnessed, experienced, remembered, interpreted, narrated, predicted, assumed—even distorted or forgotten or totalized—or predicted or speculated as such, what (will have) happened cannot be spatiotemporally isolated in any clear and distinct form or fashion, except in ripple effects and auto-archived traces and trajectories. Quite simply, “it is not always easy to reconstruct an accident” at an intersection, at this site that therefore functions more simply as a placeholder: “Sometimes the skid marks and the injuries simply indicate that they occurred simultaneously, frustrating efforts to determine which driver caused the harm. In these cases the tendency seems to be that no driver is held responsible, no treatment is administered, and the involved parties simply get back in their cars and zoom away.”1 The courtroom, for example, another locale, is where what happened in the past and outside is “reconstructed,” that is, debated, deconstructed, and restitutively decided on, almost to the structural exclusion of what happens there there in the courtroom, that black boxy space that itself, in turn, becomes an object of inquiry as it passes through the narrative sieve of time. Something else then, almost time itself, unfurls and keeps piling on, serially, massively, obscurely. What becomes of this radical void and avoidance at the heart of trillion-plus “events,” “incidents,” “cases,” and so on? [End Page 467]
Back at that intersection: theoretical reflections start in and through a silhouette of life, after the fact, with all the countless, priceless, motionless layers of time folded, compressed “there there,” and the various corners of the world suddenly brought to light, to the center stage. This seems how a life, instantly, becomes an afterlife, serial constellations of Nachträglichkeit (belatedness or deferred effects), as...