Article

Intersectionalities

Judith A. Howard

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online May 2014 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0111
Intersectionalities

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  • Sociology
  • Comparative and Historical Sociology
  • Economic Sociology
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Health, Illness, and Medicine
  • Population and Demography
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Social Movements and Social Change
  • Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility
  • Social Theory

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Individuals are shaped by the multiple categories to which they are perceived to belong and the social structures that undergird systems of categorization. Systems of social categorization are virtually always associated with differential, unequal resources. Intersectionality is a concept fundamental to understanding these societal inequalities; the key assertion of intersectionality is that the various systems of societal oppression do not act independently of each other. Different systems of inequality are transformed in their intersections, the fundamental principle of intersectionality. The phrase “race, class, and gender,” still in use, is a precursor of the concept of intersectionality. The preferred use of the latter term reflects in part the awareness that there are more than three intersecting systems of societal inequalities. The metaphors noted in the section Metaphors of Intersectionality below have been powerful visualizations of this complexity. Further, some identities may be privileged categories, others marginalized. Thus oppression and privilege may be experienced simultaneously, complicating the analysis of inequality. These issues are addressed in the section Critiques of Intersectionality below. Intersectionality crosses levels of analysis, from the micro-level experiences of individual actors to the macro-level structural, organizational, and institutional contexts in which human interactions and experiences are formed. Intersectionality is an analytic approach, a way of thinking about social categories that articulates similarity and difference, always inflected by relations of power. Research adopting an intersectional lens falls into several not entirely distinct groups: theoretical and methodological debates, evident in the sections Organizational Frameworks of Intersectionality and Methodologies, and applications of intersectional dynamics and political interventions, evident in the sections Intersectional Praxis and Transnational Intersectionalities. Intersectionality is also a deeply interdisciplinary concept, an analytic approach that can be found in almost all of the social sciences as well as the humanities; examples here are drawn from political science and psychology, in addition to the sociological examples appropriate to this series.

Article.  8528 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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