During this Women’s History month, we want to consider, in particular, the intersectional oppression that impacts the lives and experiences of women and girls. In this post, we explore the concept of intersectionality by focusing on our own Dr. Saran Stewart’s work with several colleagues of conceptualizing an Intersectional Methodology (IM).
Intersectionality is a concept coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1991. Crenshaw offered the idea that legal analyses on a single-axis of Black women and women of color’s identities (race only, or gender only), contributes to their erasure (Haynes et al., 2020). Crenshaw argued for an analysis that examines the intersections of race, gender, and class in understanding the unique forms of domination that Black women experience. As Haynes and colleagues (2020) point out, Crenshaw’s analysis was “…rooted in the legacy of Black feminism, which contends that the experiences of Black women and girls illuminate a particular understanding of their position in relation to sexism, class oppression, racism, and other systems of domination” (Haynes et al., 2020, p. 3). Intersectionality is often used as a theoretical framework in higher education research, but Dr. Stewart and colleagues aimed to understand how intersectionality is used in research methodology.
In a 2020 paper, Dr. Stewart and several colleagues used a literature synthesis to explore how scholars drew on intersectionality within their research methods, with the aim of “provid[ing] scholars with a nuanced methodological approach for taking up intersectionality in their study of Black women in education research, and social science research broadly” (Haynes et al., p. 13). They found that scholars who engaged Crenshaw’s intersectionality framework tended to employ four strategies in applying intersectionality to their research methods, which they termed Intersectional Methodology (IM):
- Feature 1: Centralize Black Women as the Subject
- Feature 2: Use of a Critical Lens to Uncover the Micro-/Macro-Level Power Relations
- Feature 3: Address How Power Shapes the Research Process
- Feature 4: Bring the Complex Identity Markers of Black Women to the Fore
“Our analysis suggests that intersectional interventions in higher education are needed because not all Black women (or Black people or women of color, for that matter) experience oppression in exactly the same way. IM presents researchers with the opportunity and ability to generate data-driven intersectional interventions that are transdisciplinary, effective, and focused on the needs of Black women” (Haynes et al., 2020, p. 31).
Dr. Stewart and her colleagues’ work articulating Intersectional Methodology “presents researchers with the opportunity and ability to generate data-driven intersectional interventions that are transdisciplinary, effective, and focused on the needs of Black women” (Haynes et al., 2020, p. 31). To read the full article, click here.
Dr. Stewart also presented a talk for the Center for Education Policy Analysis, Research, and Education this fall on Intersectional Methodology. You can view the full recording and transcript of the talk here. Dr. Stewart and her colleagues’ work provides an important guide for scholars conducting research about Black women, ensuring that intersectionality is not an abstraction, but meaningfully applied into research methods and interventions.