Each of us holds multiple identities based upon numerous social categories including race, gender, class, religion, and education, among others. These identities, depending on situation and context, differentially impact our experience of power and discrimination. How these identities intersect and compound both privilege and oppression is the heart of intersectionality research. This page intends to provide resources for better understanding intersectionality and its importance in academia and beyond.
The term "intersectionality" is credited to American legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw (1989) originally as a means of describing the unique discrimination Black women-identified people face by being members simultaneously of two groups commonly facing barriers due to racism and sexism. The roots of intersectionality go back further than this coining with Anna J. Cooper's A Voice from the South (1892) and the Statement from the Black Feminist Combahee River Collective (1977). In their Statement, the Combahee River Collective examine in great detail the "interlocking" nature of their identities as black women-identified lesbians and socialists and how these multiple identities compound their oppression in a predominately straight, white, and male-dominated society. The video below also offers a summary of intersectionality from Dr. Crenshaw.
Given the countless combinations of identities one might have, it is evident that different experiences of power and privilege in specific contexts are novel as well. As these identities interact with the established systems (e.g. laws, policies, and political and economic bodies) it is imperative we recognize and strive to mitigate the injustices these systems create.
As an example, in a predominately white capitalist culture such as the US, a black cisgender woman from the working class might experience both racism and sexism. As someone from the working class, she also may face economic barriers her more wealthy counterparts do not. These multiple forms of oppression might be different for a black man-identified person, though (e.g. sexism). However, as a cisgender woman, she would not be a target of transphobia, thus in this instance this cisgender identity provides some amount of privilege. Understanding and acknowledging how intersecting identities operate to produce both privilege and oppression gives us the ability to disrupt the unjust status quo by addressing and dismantling the inequities it perpetuates.
Intersectionality provides a lens to consider identity and the unique structural barriers people face - including in academia. Among our faculty are individuals who identify by their foreign-born status, their gender, their ethnic/racial minority status, their sexual orientation, their caregiver roles and many others. Disciplinary domains also influence individual identities. Some of our UCCS faculty share many of these identities or none, and yet, all experience different degrees of privilege and oppression at the intersections of these identities.
Although Project CREST primarily focuses on supporting mid-career women-identified faculty, the project's initiatives are laying the foundation to improve the culture for future generations of UCCS faculty by engaging in systemic change.
For further readings on Intersectionality, visit the resources below.