Blogging the Theoretical

Knowledge (Final) by Emily Marvin

September 23, 2011 · No Comments

Epistemology is a consistent subject matter throughout Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought as the theory of knowledge created by a particular group to incorporate their standpoint and values based on their experience and beliefs. Collins argues that knowledge is frequently influenced by the politics of race and gender. She supports a common theme throughout the book that Black feminist thinkers are a single group consisting of individuals wanting to maintain their social theory, which “reflects the interests and standpoint of its creators” (Collins 269). Historically, what Black women know has not been considered knowledgeable because of the power relations and their control over who is believed in society and why. Collins looks into this subjugated epistemology and the validation process that must exist for a powerful group to be overcome in our society. African American women spent decades waiting for an epistemology that included their own beliefs until the arrival of Black feminist theory. This theory is a result of their collective treatment by political economies, as a segregated unit with a different ideology.

In her book, Collins discusses the differences between group knowledge and collective identity and its relation to epistemology. She makes a clear point to distinguish these two subjects and their relation to Black feminist theory. She argues that epistemologies are built upon experiences rather than learned positions, which is why many Black feminist thinkers support the theory based on their own knowledge and experiences. However, there is a particular strain in this standpoint. In discussing the common challenges, Collins says, “despite the fact that U.S. Black women face common challenges, this neither means that individual African-American women have all had the same experience nor that we agree on the significance of our experience” (Collins 29). These experiences, both similar and different from each other, have shaped how Black feminist thinkers view and understand the world. These individuals have shaped their claims based on their encounters and treatment while building this particular standpoint, which furthermore structures their knowledge. However, in order to convince others that Black feminist theory is justifiable, the convincing must come from a group other than Black females themselves who may have emotional or moral connections. This deals with the epistemology of the group, how their knowledge is conceptualized as “different”, and how individuality within Black feminist thinkers should cease to exist.

In order to influence empowerment, Black feminist thinkers have created their own way of thinking through dialectical and dialogical relationships. The dialectical relationship “link[s] oppression and activism [while] a dialogical relationship characterizes Black women’s collective experiences and group knowledge” (Collins 34). These particular types of knowledge influence Black feminists and their individual understanding of the knowledge surrounding their unique epistemology. They also pay attention to the ethics of caring and personal accountability and their impact on Black feminist theory.

The presence and importance of wisdom and knowledge is shown throughout Collins work, especially when she says, “living life as Black women requires wisdom because knowledge about the dynamics of intersecting oppressions has been essential to U.S. Black women’s survival” (Collins 275). She discusses the value of wisdom and how “being an academic and an intellectual are not necessarily the same thing” (Collins 19). The shared experience of oppression can lead to a source of familiar resistance. Collins makes a point that many Black women’s experiences cannot be solely measured by empirical means. It is based from the institutionalized racism they have faced from slavery to our contemporary system of inequality. These types of relationship are what form Black feminist theory and give Black women their own way of thinking to create knowledge.


Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought. Routledge, 2009. Print.

Categories: Emily · Group Three

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