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Exploring intersectionality in context: gender, ethnicity and class
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Human Work Science.
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Human Work Science.
University of East London.
University of East London.
2009 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Intersectionality has become an object of considerable interest as an analytical tool for feminist and ethnicity scholars who use it to theorize identity and oppression (or inclusion - and exclusion processes).  Yet intersectionality, as an analytical tool, has become criticised for its lack of clear definition or defined methodology, the difficulty of operationalisation, the use of black/Asian women as typical intersectional subjects and its doubtful empirical validity. Furthermore, gender and ‘race'/ethnicity, as well as the concept of social class, are all problematic concepts and any theorising or empirical work making use of them faces the difficulty of their meaning potentially shifting in different social contexts. For theorists of gender and class politics one or other of these dimensions of inequality has tended to be taken as primary, depending on the starting point of the theorist. If writing in the tradition of labour process theory, for example, social class has been taken as the framework within which gender is considered, even if there are different schools at work within the labour process approach. The same applies for theorists of gender who tend to analyse social class from one of a number of feminist perspectives. Intersectionality, on the other hand, suggests that speaking of gender apart form social class, as well as race/ethnicity and other such ‘divisions', distorts analysis. This is because there is no such thing as gender which stands apart from other dimensions such as ethnicity and social class, just as there is no such thing as ‘race' devoid of gender and social class, and no such thing as class apart from gender and ‘race'. Seen from this perspective, ignoring the intersectional nature of these seemingly different levels of analysis suggests that we systematically overlook aspects of experience. The notion of intersectionality grew out of recognition that social structures intersect to shape social positions. This assumes that social positions and corresponding social groups are created and delineated by social structures such as norms, laws, institutions and traditions that intersect. Intersectionality has been very important in pointing out the limitations of existing theoretical approaches to gender analysis, and in explaining the political benefits of organizing intersectionally marginalized groups. Intersectionality has also been helpful in showing how thinking in terms of gender analyses that seek simply to add on dimensions such as social class and race/ethnicity are incomplete and obscure the experiences of women at the intersection of these social relations. Yet intersectionality can, it seems, to lead to an infinite regress, a non-ending process of splitting social relations until one is left with nought but individuals.  The empirical focus of this article is a group of nurses from Finland who migrated to Sweden to secure employment in their chosen occupation. With the exception of one man, the nurses were all women. The paper explores the utility of an intersectional analysis in examining the interplay of gender, ethnicity and class in order to understand the experience of these people as it unfolded in context, or location.(493 words)Indicative bibliographyAcker, J. (2006) Class Questions: Feminist Answers. Lanhan, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Alcoff, L. (1988) Cultural feminism versus Post-Structuralism: The Identity Crisis in Feminist Theory. Signs, 13, 3, 405-436.Alcoff, L. and Mendieta, E. (2006) Identities - Race, Class, and Nationality. Oxford: Blackwell.Crenshaw, K. (1994) Intersectionality and Identity Politics: Learning from Violence against Women of Color". In Albertson Fineman M and Mykitiuk R (Eds) The Public nature of Violence (178-193). New York: Routledge.De los Reyes, P., Mulinari, D. (2005) Intersektionalitet; kritiska reflektioner över (o)jämlikhetens landskap. Lund: Liber.Lykke, N. (2003) Intersektionalitet - ett användbart begrepp för genusforskningen, Kvinnovetenskaplig tidskrift, 1, 45-57.Lykke, N. (2005) Nya perspektiv på intersektionalitet. Problem och Möjligheter, Kvinnovetenskaplig tidskrift, 2-3, 7-17.McCall, L. (2005) Inersektionalitetens komplexitet. Kvinnovetenskaplig tidskrift, 45, 2/3, 31-56.Nash, J. C. (2008) Re-thinking Intersectionality, Feminist Review, 89, 1-15.Nicholson,  L. (1990) (Ed) Feminism/Postmodernism. New York: Routledge.Phoenix, A. (2006) Interrogating intersectionality: Productive ways of theorising multiple positioning. Kvinder, Kön og Forskning, 2-3.Yuval-Davis, N. (1997) Gender and Nation. London: Sage.Yuval-Davis, N. (2006) Intersectionality and Feminist Politics. European Journal of Women's Studies, 13, 3, 193-2009.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Intersectionality, Ethnicity, Class, Gender, Social sciences - Sociology
Keyword [sv]
Etnicitet, Klass, Genus, Socialvetenskap - Sociologi
Research subject
Industrial Work Environment
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-35887Local ID: a9afaa80-e024-11de-bae5-000ea68e967bOAI: diva2:1009141
Dilemmas for Human Services : 10/09/2009 - 11/09/2009
Godkänd; 2009; 20091203 (sapi)Available from: 2016-09-30 Created: 2016-09-30Bibliographically approved

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