Beyond Intersectionalities of Identity or Interlocking Analyses of Difference: Confluence and the Problematic of “Anti”-oppression

Ameil J. Joseph


Intersectional approaches are often called upon in social work education and practice to conceptualize identities (race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc.) and forms of oppression and privilege (racism, sexism, heteronormativity, patriarchy, mentalism, etc.) as separate yet mutually constitutive categories. An ongoing problematic within such approaches is the propensity to rely on predetermined analytical systems of oppression interlocking or aspects of identity intersecting. I suggest that it is possible to consider the material effects of oppression that are targeting delineated groups without requiring the technologies of difference (including analytical categories named upon difference, i.e., racism, patriarchy, ableism, sexism, etc.) to advance positions of social justice. These technologies of difference were forged through violent means for colonial and imperial projects. As formulated through a study of the practice of deportation for those identified with mental illness in Canada, an analysis of confluence is offered as a departure from an intersectional or interlocking analysis in that a confluence is never static, no part is completely distinct from another, and there are multiple perspectives from which one can examine or trace the same idea, system, or influence. An appreciation of confluence acknowledges that all categories and systems of difference are suspect and focuses our attention toward their common projects as well as their resulting fields of knowledge and practices. An analysis of confluence also acknowledges identity qua difference as complicit within and a product of historically perpetrated violence rendering positions of “anti-(racist, oppressive, etc.)” impossible.


critical social work, confluence, anti-oppression, privilege, social justice

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