- Combahee River Collective StatementA Fortieth Anniversary Retrospective
The year 2017 marks the fortieth anniversary of the Combahee River Collective Statement. To commemorate and reflect on the importance of this statement for feminist praxis, Frontiers invited feminist thinkers to respond to three questions: 1. How has the CRC statement transformed feminism? 2. What is the intellectual genealogy of women of color feminisms? 3. What is the relationship among women of color feminisms and other forms of feminisms? From these questions, themes emerged that emphasize the CRC's impact on our collective formations as feminist scholars, the perpetual renovation of feminist concepts, and the new directions in which feminist theories take us. After an introductory section on how some of our roundtablists first encountered the CRC statement, the roundtable then explores two key concepts that the statement articulated, namely intersectionality and identity politics. Our commentators next analyze the genealogy of women of color feminisms as well as the connections and dissonances with Indigenous and transnational feminisms. The roundtable concludes with brief meditations on the importance of feminist remembrance and the continued significance of the CRC statement in the current political context.
Four of our authors (Diane Harriford, Tricia Lin, Zenaida Peterson, and Becky Thompson) had the good fortune to share their ideas in person as they attended a yoga retreat in Greece! Additional scholars (Leslie Bow, Avtar Brah, Mishuana Goeman, Shari Huhndorf, AnaLouise Keating, Laura E. Pérez, and Tiffany Willoughby-Herard) participated in this conversation through the sharing of writings. All these voices are presented in conversation, which we hope reflects the communal spirit of the Combahee River Collective.
first encounters and feminist inspirations
When Frontiers asked us to contribute to this roundtable, we just [End Page 164] happened to be sitting at a literal roundtable together in Lesvos, Greece. We were participating in a two-week yoga retreat led by the incomparable Angela Farmer and Victor Van Kooten, whose teaching first brought us to the island. This travel led us to witness and provide support in Lesvos for what has evolved into the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.1 The Frontiers invitation catapulted a number of conversations among us about the deep influence of "A Black Feminist Statement" by the Combahee River Collective on our lives, conversations that have woven into our yoga practices, walks, and dinners together. We share some of our responses in this compilation.
As a recent arrival to United States feminism from Taiwan, I have found that "Combahee" has had a profound impact on my feminist formation. I was not in the United States in 1977 when it was first published, nor was feminism made accessible for a "good" daughter of Taiwan. But I remember a wakening of a sort when I finally came upon "Combahee," reading it with much hunger and thirst that I had never realized was in me. Since my first encounter, "Combahee" has made tremendous global links for me to other feminisms, in particular transnational Indigenous feminisms. The Black feminist statement in "Combahee" allowed me a critical insight into the lived conditions of other sisters of color often invisible in the mainstream feminist literature. How much do I not know, I asked myself. How much has been hidden from me? This insight and awakening from my first "Combahee" contact became a bridge, a knowledge, and a method in itself. This bridge called "Combahee" led me to the diverse, rich, and dazzling Indigenous feminist articulations, collaborations, and manifestations in action/activism, art, literature, and critical scholarship. It ultimately led me home, back to the Pacific, to Taiwan: to Taiwan Indigenous feminism, its roles in Indigenous movements, and its decades of work globally and internationally. Indigenous feminist work has always been plural, transnational, and border/boundary crossing, as evidenced in the three...