Annotation: Learning from the Outsider Within

Annotation: Patricia Hill Collins: “Learning from the Outsider Within: The Sociological Significance of Black Feminist Thought

In Patricia Hill Collins piece, “Learning from the Outsider Within: The Sociological Significance of Black Feminist Thought,” insight is offered on how black feminism emerged as a  critique of already existing movements that marginalized them. Due to their dissociation with preexisting movements, yet their close ties as well, Black Women have developed the “outsider within” status which provides a “special standpoint on self, family and society” (page 308). The “outsider within” must take on the ever dynamic role of self-definition and self-valuation as a means of “survival” in a world which seeks to delegitimize their stories and the facts and theories that define each and every subject’s experiences (page 310). From here, it is discussed how the “outsider within” functions in an “interlocking nature” or world of intersectionality which is a “recurring theme in the works of Black Feminists” (page 310). Because of this interlocking view, they adopt “dualistic thinking” in their approach to the world as well as assess how “the oppression experienced by most “Black women is shaped by their subordinate status in an array of either/or dualities” (page 311). In addition, Black feminist thought “involves efforts to redefine and explain the importance of Black women’s culture” (page 312). Written in between all of these lines is the idea that black women’s culture has been “socially constructed” and is in dire need of redefinition. However, Collins says that this culture is born when “intellectuals learn to trust their own personal and cultural biographies as significant sources of knowledge” (page 317). While we know that research and knowledge can be cultivated through individuals stories and the outsider within status calls for no one experience to be “subordinate to the other” (317), to what extent do individual identities and knowledge go beyond “critiquing sociological facts and theories” and actually allow people to organize within them? (page 317)