Intersectional Pedagogy emerges from Intersectionality, a formal theoretical framework developed by Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, American civil rights advocate and leading critical race theory scholar. Intersectionality starts from the premise that people live multiple, layered identities derived from social relations, history and structures of power (AWID 2004). It recognizes that people are members of more than one community at a time, and can simultaneously experience privilege and oppression (e.g. a professor may be a respected academic yet experience racism as an underrepresented racial and ethnic woman). Intersectionality requires that we focus on how identity, equality, and power intersect in complex and dynamic ways.
What is Intersectional Pedagogy?
Intersectional Pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning by which inequality and exclusion resulting from intersecting social identities are understood, explained, and challenged. A successful intersectional approach must take into consideration individual complexity, systemic oppression, and should seek to unveil power while also making visible complex and layered aspects of oppression. As such, Intersectional Pedagogy is rooted in an understanding that:
- Identity is a complex layering of multiple social locations.
- Intersectionality is a mechanism for unveiling privilege, power, and oppression.
- The application of intersectionality in the classroom requires an emphasis on political social action.
- Curriculum must be open to multiple voices and perspectives that highlight privilege and oppression.
Benefits of Intersectional Pedagogy
The goal of Intersectional Pedagogy is to offer students new ways of understanding persistent patterns of inequality that both reflect and respect complexity and diversity. Pedagogically, the intersectional approach provides instructors and students with a critical framework for validating subjugated knowledge, unveiling power and privilege, examining the complexity of identity and developing action strategies for empowerment (Collins, 1990; Dill & Zambrana, 2009).
The benefits of intersectional pedagogical design include:
White privilege awareness and acknowledgment of blatant racism (Cole, Case, Rios, & Curtin, 2011).
Increased positive attitudes toward Muslim women (Greenwood & Christian, 2008).
Increased openness to experience and awareness of the perspective of others, especially “out-groups”. (Curtin, Stewart and Cole, 2015).
Decreased over-emphasizing of any single characteristic or quality in the understanding of individual realities (Dill & Zambrana, 2009).
Intersectionality at the Cross-Roads
Unmirroring Pedagogies: Teaching with Intersectional and Transnational Methods in the Women and Gender Studies Classroom
As the U.S. academy increasingly markets “the global” and “diversity” for under-graduate student consumption, feminists face new challenges with respect to the decolonizing goals of teaching.Read the Article
Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color
Drawing from the strength of shared experience, women have recognized that the political demands of millions speak more powerfully than the pleas of a few isolated voices.Read the Article
Symington, A. (2004). Intersectionality: A Tool for Gender and Economic Justice. Women’s rights and economic change, 9(August), 1-8.
Case, K. A. (2016). Toward an Intersectional Pedagogy Model: Engaged Learning for Social Justice. In Intersectional Pedagogy (pp. 1-24). Routledge.
Cole, E. R. (2016). “Forward,” in Intersectional Pedagogy: Complicating Identity and Social Justice, ed. Kim A. Case. Routledge, 2016. (ix–xii.)
Cole, E. R., Case, K. A., Rios, D., & Curtin, N. (2011). Understanding What Students Bring to the Classroom: Moderators of the Effects of Diversity Courses on Student Attitudes. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(4), 397-405.
Curtin, N., Stewart, A. J., & Cole, E. R. (2015). Challenging the Status Quo: The Role of Intersectional Awareness in Activism for Social Change and Pro-Social Intergroup Attitudes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39(4), 512-529.
Dill, B. T., & Zambrana, R. E. (2009). Emerging intersections: Race, class, and gender in theory, policy, and practice. Rutgers University Press.
Greenwood, R. M., & Christian, A. (2008). What happens when we unpack the invisible knapsack? Intersectional political consciousness and inter-group appraisals. Sex Roles, 58.
Oleksy, Elżbieta H. “Intersectionality at the Cross-Roads.” Women’s Studies International Forum 34, no. 4 (July 1, 2011): 263–70.
Davis, Dawn Rae. “Unmirroring Pedagogies: Teaching with Intersectional and Transnational Methods in the Women and Gender Studies Classroom.” Feminist Formations; Baltimore 22, no. 1 (2010): 136–62.
Crenshaw, Kimberlé . “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (1991): 1241–99.
Effective intersectional pedagogy aims to:
Conceptualize intersectionality as a complex analysis of both privileged and oppressed social identities that simultaneously interact to create systemic inequalities. These, in turn, alter lived experience of prejudice and discrimination, privilege and opportunities, and perspectives from particular social locations.
Teach intersectionality across a wide variety of oppressions; including not only gender and race, but also the long list of social identities typically neglected in the curriculum.
Uncover invisible intersections, analyzing the consequences of that invisibility for the privileged and the oppressed, and lifting the veil to make these crucial intersections more visible.
Include privilege as an essential aspect of learning about intersectional theory by extending learning goals to consistently deconstruct privileged identities and how privilege operates to maintain oppression.
Analyze power in teaching about intersectional theory, pushing the boundaries of teaching multiculturalism, diversity oppression, and discrimination.
Involve educator personal reflection on intersecting identities, biases, assumptions, and the ways instructor social identity impacts the learning community.
Encourage student reflection and writing about their own intersecting identities and careful consideration of how those identities shape their own lives, psychology, perceptions, and behaviors.
Promote social action to dismantle oppression through student learning that extends beyond the classroom walls via service learning, public education projects, community engagement assignments, and ally action for social change.
Value the voices of the marginalized and oppressed by avoiding claims of equal validity awarded to all perspectives and maintaining critical analysis of the ways power and privilege limit individual perspectives and experiences with oppression; and infuses intersectional studies across the curriculum, including a wide variety of disciplines as well as courses not typically associated with diversity content.