Critical political theorist and feminist scholar, Iris Marion Young encourages us to understand the concept of identities and collective action as happening through “series” rather than categories that serve to group by distinctions/similarities which are omnipresent and monolithic to external circumstance. Adopting the framework of series instead encourages us to locate our identity as both multiple and singular, and to recognize that we all occupy different series in the various sociopolitical and economic situations we find ourselves engulfed in. When entering different spaces—both physical and social—we band together utilizing these different series to go from the individual to the collective, to organize and protest.
For instance, I am a fat Indian, immigrant woman. However, when fighting and protesting violence against women, I do not explicitly refer to myself in all of the preceding series (can be compared to category for the sake of comprehension), I just refer to myself as a woman, and on occasion, a woman of colour. This does not mean I do not hold positions as both an immigrant and Indian woman, but that in changing spaces, I overtly identify and occupy a specific series(‘) to band with others who also identify as part of that collective.
There is a fluidity in the ways we come together to organize and protest, but that fluidity does not obliterate other collectives we occupy. I occupy several series simultaneously however—and this is where I think Young’s point can be more salient—I can overtly manifest into a series(‘) depending on my particular positionality and given spatial and temporal place. This is where we can understand and capture the intersectional processes exhibited in the France Burkini ban for instance. Take a look at this photo on Independent, and come back.
A woman, occupying a specific religion, culture, race, gender, and class—true or perceived—while also occupying a specific temporal and physical location when the photo was captured, has other parts of her identity (series as Young encourages) manifesting themselves over her gender. Other white women and men are gathered around her, but at this moment in time, she is alone. That does not mean she does not occupy the space of a woman, or of a specific class, or exact location and time, but that her race and religion have overtly come into play in determining the way she is both perceived in protest, and the way she may view her own self.
Our identity can then be located at these translocations of series, and the way we flow through them as the world around us ebbs and flows.
Young, Iris Marion.“Gender as Seriality: Thinking about Women as a Social Collective.” Signs 19, no. 3 (Spring 1994): 713-738.