{ positionality }


How to avoid reinforcing colonial and oppressive practices while taking a stance in a situation of injustice? Who has the right to speak?

Positionality is the nature of our position defined through the characteristics of who we are in class, gender, religion, language, race, sexuality, and all that comprises our identity from present and background references.
The recognition of that identity, and the acknowledgement of the power dynamics within other identity groups, is crucial for social justice. To be critically conscious about your own position opens up the capacity to support other identity groups in resisting an oppressed condition.

Identity politics keep the boundaries of each group, creating distinct exclusive goals related to that identity. In doing so, interference is avoided, as is repetition within the oppression being fought against. However, this also risks dissolving the debate, rejecting cooperation or losing the chance to create alliances.

On the other hand, the fear of stepping on someone’s toes could paralyze and prevent action, which is as dangerous as neutrality. Not taking a clear stance from your position infers a lack of responsibility. Conversely, being placed on the ‘wrong’ side or even outside is a strength when looking for allies. That ‘wrong’ person creates bridges and brings different views to and from their peers’ identities. Sylvia Pankhurst took a stand between Benito Mussolini and Haile Selassie, even though she was an outsider. With her own means, from who she was, her position, using her methods and tools, she could support Haile Selassie in the fight against Italian fascist occupation.

Positionality needs to be understood as a tool to create awareness of our own position and privileges within it. However, it should not be used to cancel our positioning.


Tatiana Letier Pinto