Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Alyson Cole

Subject Categories

American Politics | Political Theory | Social Justice


Black Feminist Thought, Intersectionality, Dignity, Critical Social Theory, Politics of Care, Social Movements


This master's thesis delves into Intersectionality as an organizing framework and critical social theory, emphasizing the significance of Black feminist thought to social justice initiatives that challenge prevailing intersectional violence. The central inquiry of this project is uncovering a Black feminist conceptualization of dignity as articulated in foundational texts. I scrutinize the essence of dignity within Black feminist theory and praxis, particularly addressing the question: How valuable is a "right" when societal experiences consistently undermine one's basic needs and protections required to live a dignified life beyond survival?

Black feminist thought, encompassing praxis, is posited as a profound space for understanding dignity. I argue that dignity is integral to Black feminist theory and praxis. I set out to recover and reclaim a politics of dignity in Black Feminist thought and praxis analyzing groundbreaking works, with a focus on Patricia Hill Collins, The Combahee River Collective, and Kimberlé Crenshaw. Inspired by cultural historians like Saidiya Hartman and Christina Sharpe, I maintain that Black feminist thought and praxis employ strategies that prioritize intersectional spaces, drawing from and caring for collective historical memory, both archived and in the present-day afterlives of slavery.

Leveraging multidisciplinary texts both within and beyond political science, this thesis underscores the importance of Black women's lived experiences across genre, geography, and personal history. I propose that a politics of dignity stands central to Black feminist thought's aspirations for freedom and justice. The exploration of dignity through possession, capabilities, and a politics of care is guided by the needs of the most vulnerable and essentiality of dignified forms of life for all living beings.