Archives January 2020


Overcoming the margins: intersectionality.

By Elena Alban.

Even if in advanced and developed countries, the judiciary system has developed consistently during the history and many results have been reached in the recognition of human rights toward all humankind, in the practice people still face many obstacles in having their rights granted.

In the article “Mapping the margins: Intersectionality. Identity Politics and Violence Against Women of Colour” by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, the issue is focused on the difficulties that black women face in denouncing acts of violence in the U.S. According to the article, the problem within the African-American communities concerns the suppression of domestic violence mainly for two reasons.

First of all, according to Crenshaw’s view, there is a resistance from the community itself in recognizing such a type of violence, by privileging other rights, such as the fact that saving the honor of the family from shame has the priority over the violation toward the woman. Moreover, most of the time violence is not denounced for the will of the minority community not to disrupt the integrity of the community and not to be stereotyped as a violent community. There is a general tendency within antiracist discourse to regard the problem of violence against women of color as just another manifestation of racism.

Secondly, according to a field study of battered women’s shelters located in minority communities in Los Angeles, the refusal to denounce battering or rape comes from women themselves. They are more reluctant to call the police and the authorities as there is a generalized community ethic against public intervention.

These feelings are a consequence of the racist policies of the past. Moreover, they have contributed to shifting what was born as segregation during the Jim Crow period into what is seen today as congregation, based on the assumption according to which the black community is seen as a “safe place”. Indeed, in the past in the US, because of racism, black communities developed as closed communities, where all black people could find a safe shelter from the intervention of the State. Nowadays, this sense of belonging and inclusiveness is still present and strong.

As Crenshaw writes, this mentality and approach toward an ongoing changing world are limiting the evolvement of those communities that first of all need to see their rights to be recognized by public authorities. Isolating themselves contributes to the adoption of the identity-politics approach by the State. In particular, this approach limits the category of black women that are not fairly taken into account in policies provided by the States.

The problem of identity-politics issues is that it ignores intragroup differences. It is based on the identification of groups following specific targets, such as black or white, man or woman, middle-class person or worker, …. It risks falling in stereotypes that crystallize the identity of a person reducing it to a mere single category. Mainly, the category of black women is a convergence of two different categories: sex and race. These two categories, taken individually, normally define policies against sexism (based on white women’s experiences) and against racism (based on black male experiences). It is in this context that policies do not take into consideration an intersection between the two phenomena. Indeed, black women are less likely to have their cases pursued in the criminal justice system, because of limited meaningful intervention by institutions based on a non-intersectional context that do not foresee cases of multiple-subordination.

Moreover, besides sexism and racism, other status can affect the access of black women to escape from situations of battering or rape, like the immigrant status. An example is provided by the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986, according to which a person who immigrated to the United States to marry a United States citizen or permanent resident had to remain “properly” married for two years before applying for permanent resident status, at which time applications for the immigrant’s permanent status were required by both spouses. Predictably, under these circumstances, many women are not willing to leave from an abusive marital situation in order not to be deported. As reported by Crenshaw, when facing the choice between living with your batter or being deported, many immigrant women decide to choose the former one.

That’s why Crenshaw introduced an important concept in the literature on the violence against women: intersectionality.

Intersectionality refers to what can be called “multiple identities”: it is a concept used to understand how different dimensions can affect different grounds of one’s identity.

Intersectionality helps us in understanding why policies generally fail in addressing a type of subordinated group that does not fall within the categories provided by the identity-politics approach, such as black women, but also immigrant women too.

In particular, by applying this type of study in Europe, given the refugee crisis of 2015, intersectionality should become a fundamental principle on which creating policies focused on the integration of immigrants in the European society. It obliges authorities to take into consideration the fact that “new-comers” arrived in Europe do not always shape the European basic values and many times discriminations are placed within their original cultural background. National and European authorities should be aware of these aspects and of the fact that they can obstacle the enjoyment of rights in Europe, by producing policies that take into consideration the people to whom they are destined. It means, with reference to women, not to conceive them just as immigrant women, but to take into account the different degrees of subordination that are imposed on them because of their race, because of their class, their gender, because of cultural factors, etc…. Intersectionality implies to take into account different aspect shaping one’s identity to create policies that could better address the needs of people.


But who will be more affected?

By Elena Alban.

On the 23rd June 2016, an event marked the history of the United Kingdom and the European Union.

«Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?>> was the question that could change the future of Europe. And it did, even if the referendum that took place in the UK was a consultative one, not legally binding, and whose results were far from being clear and decisive. The “leave” percentage won over the “remain” one just for 3,78% more, as BBC data reported.

A strong difference in the reception of the European Union can be detected in the different age of people voting “remain” or “leave”. According to BBC data, young people seem to trust more the European Union and to see it as an opportunity for their future.  In particular, the Brexit will have substantial implications on students:

  1. The automatic direct of the citizens of the EU to enter directly in the UK will be no more granted: there will be the necessity to have the passport;
  2. It will be required a visa or a work permit to enter the country;
  3. The touristic visa will last only 3 months and for what concerns the working visa, it will be easier to access jobs for skilled workers (researches, doctors, etc…) than for unskilled workers like “pizzaiolo”, barmen, etc…
  4. Studying in the UK will become more and more an opportunity destinated to an elite as the cost of education in Great Britain is higher than in Europe and many European citizens will be disadvantaged by the fact that part of the funds used to study there were provided by the EU through the application of different programmes such as the Erasmus +.

With reference to the last point, recent news has shed light on the Erasmus+ programme. On the 30th of January 2019, the European Commission proposed a set of emergency measures to avoid the interruption of the mobility period of the students of the Erasmus + Programme in the case the UK would leave the EU without an agreement.  According to the European Commission, the regulation should grant that in the day in which the UK will leave the EU, Erasmus + mobility periods should not be interrupted. This rule should be valid for all the activities financed by the Erasmus + (including international activities in countries not part of the programme) that started before the 30th of March 2019, both for European citizens in the UK and for English citizens in the EU.

And for those who started their mobility period after the 30th March 2019?

The Commission proposed an emergency cross-sectional regulation based on more restrictive measures and specific conditions as specified in the “Council Regulation on measures concerning the implementation and financing of the general budget of the Union in 2019 in relation to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union”.

The destiny of the Erasmus + programme is not known. It will depend on the will of the UK and the EU to find an agreement and to renegotiate the programme not to deny students an important opportunity as the Erasmus+ is.

However, at the end of the story, what this sad situation leaves us is a strong sense of disappointment.

Besides the will to reach an agreement in order to go on granting students the opportunity to study in the UK, being the mainland of the English language, the international language used all over the world, the Brexit is the result of a losing approach toward the construction of a more united world. Cutting the bridges with the rest of Europe is the sign of the disbelief on the European Union. It could make sense, as the European Union is full of incoherencies and lacks, but it is important to look at all these negative aspects by balancing them with the positive ones. The EU is not perfect and it will never be as such, but it is the best result of international cooperation ever achieved in the course of history. To make it work, the solution is not to get away from it, but to stay in it, to get your country involved, to make your voice be heard. Escaping is never the solution as neither isolation. To get a stronger Union, there is the need for more dialogue and listening at the higher institutional level and, most of all, there is the need of creating a common culture and a common awareness on the principles on which our European society is based and that have granted more than half a century of peace for the first time in Europe. Culture is the key point to building a strong basis to deal with future challenges that mankind will have to face. These new challenges do not always refer only to events caused by human decision (such as wars, conflicts, …), but they will oblige mankind to deal with problems that it is not even able to manage, such as climate change.

The Erasmus+ is one of the best achievements of the EU in reaching an important goal like this: it helps in creating a common culture through the confrontation among different knowledges, through dialogue and mutual understanding, through strengthening links among people of different countries to create a more favourable environment for cooperation and collaboration.

Isolation cut you off the game and, in an interdependent world like ours, it will be worst first of all for UK citizens than for the European ones.