Forging the Woke One Ring: Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “Mapping the Margins”

The New Discourses Podcast with James Lindsay, Episode 24

“Mapping the Margins,” by Kimberlé Crenshaw, is an academic law paper that changed the world (abridged pdf here). It was published in the Stanford Law Review in 1991 and makes the case for putting intersectionality into all cultural analysis. It is also more or less unambiguously the birthplace of Wokeness, as in this paper, Crenshaw indicates explicitly that, to her, intersectionality is “a provisional concept linking contemporary politics with postmodern theory,” that is, as Jordan Peterson has it, postmodern neo-Marxism. Crenshaw is no minor figure, by the way. She is the creator of intersectionality as well as the co-creator (with her mentor Derrick Bell) and namer of Critical Race Theory. This paper is, in all likelihood, by far her most influential.

In this episode of the New Discourses Podcast, James Lindsay reads through the introduction to “Mapping the Margins” and offers his commentary on the paper and its role as the birthplace (though not gestation) of the Woke movement and, as he and Helen Pluckrose named it in Cynical Theories, applied postmodernism. It is in this paper that intersectionality became the Woke One Ring, which would bring all of the other aspects of identity politics and Critical Theory under the dominion of one mode of analysis from which they cannot deviate. Join him as he reads through the text of the paper and explains what Crenshaw means, where she is coming from, and where she intends for this idea to go.

This episode of the New Discourses podcast is the first part of a two-part series reading an abridged version of Crenshaw’s “Mapping the Margins.”

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