The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House. Forms of Feminist Praxis

(Unbounded [sic]-Vibrational [sic] Always [sic]-on-the-Move [sic]) Praising Flesh (An _ExtraaSubjective p,n,e,u,m,a-mode of Being T,o,g,e,t,h,e,r), 2019 by Ima-Abasi Okon

(Unbounded [sic]-Vibrational [sic] Always [sic]-on-the-Move [sic]) Praising Flesh (An _ExtraaSubjective p,n,e,u,m,a-mode of Being T,o,g,e,t,h,e,r), 2019 by Ima-Abasi Okon


Who Said It Was Simple

There are so many roots to the tree of anger   

that sometimes the branches shatter   

before they bear.


Sitting in Nedicks

the women rally before they march   

discussing the problematic girls   

they hire to make them free.

An almost white counterman passes   

a waiting brother to serve them first   

and the ladies neither notice nor reject   

the slighter pleasures of their slavery.   

But I who am bound by my mirror   

as well as my bed

see causes in colour

as well as sex


and sit here wondering   

which me will survive   

all these liberations.


Audre Lorde, 1973, From a Land Where Other People Live


Audre Lorde, a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, worked her whole life to speak out against injustices of race, sex and class, in her poetry, as a university scholar and in her broader political life. She did  not separate those issues but saw them as forces that require a combined, multi-dimensional answer to challenge them and bring about actual change in the world, naming a position that civil rights advocate and feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw later named intersectionality. By reading one of Lorde’s most important works ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House’ (1979) we will explore what intersectionality means and can do. This text was originally a speech that Lorde gave at a feminist conference named after Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, where Black women were underrepresented. In questioning the role of power and who holds it (the master) Audre Lorde wrote: ‘For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.’ For Lorde, letting go of the master’s tools is the way forward. It is to see how the personal is political, to see how, as she says, personal visions help lay the ground for [collective] political action.

During the semester, working in groups, we will build on this starting point, exploring feminist ideas - artistic, theoretical and political - in space. We will look at the relations between the psychic and the spatial, artistic and architectural. Using methods, including silent conversation and exhibiting, we will work on how Lorde’s words, among many other examples, can help develop our own tools to build different worlds to come.