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Intersectionality as critical method: asking the other question

NASP International and Interdisciplinary Webinar
25th February 2022, h. 14.30
Room B, Via Pace 10 Milan
and on Zoom

Speaker: Helma Lutz, Goethe University Frankfurt
Chair: Paola Rebughini University of Milan

While most scholars in the field of gender studies are convinced that intersectionality is essential to good feminist theory, it is not always clear how intersectionality should actually be used in the context of research. Many believe that intersectionality is just what they need to do the kind of critical, cutting-edge research they want to do. However, appreciating intersectionality as theoretical perspective and knowing how to use it are two different things. In practice, intersectionality raises a lot of questions that prove quite difficult if not impossible to answer. For example, which categories should be included in an intersectional analysis? Lutz and Wenning (2001) have provided a list of no less than fourteen lines of difference (gender, sexuality, race or skin colour, ethnicity, national belonging, class, culture, religion, able-bodiedness, age, migration or sedentariness, property ownership, geographical location, and status in terms of tradition and development) and, in fact, the list may be even longer. The idea that one would need to use that many categories in a single analysis seems pretty daunting. Sometimes we assume that particular categories will always be part of an intersectional analysis. For example, as feminist scholars, shouldn't gender always be included? Some scholars have suggested that we should always stick to the Big Three - gender, race, and class – and then add on other differences, depending on the context or the specific research problem. Others have been less worried about which categories to use than whether we should be using categories at all. Often essentialism is regarded by gender studies scholars as a cardinal sin, causing us/them to wonder whether the focus on categories is not going to get them into even more serious theoretical trouble (from the frying pan into the fire). Their main concern is, therefore, how to actually analyse the intersections, once it has been decided which ones were relevant. And still others question whether intersectionality alone is sufficient to make their research critical/cutting-edge/subversive or whether additional theoretical tools are necessary. Taken together, these questions indicate that many feminist researchers struggle with uncertainties concerning how to apply intersectionality to their own research concerns. In short, they feel they need a methodology.

This seminar is part of the NASP International and Interdisciplinary Seminars Series 2022.

For information, please contact: graduate.school@unimi.it

17 febbraio 2022
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