Intersectionality & Higher Education

Research, Theory, & Praxis, Second Edition

by Donald "DJ" Mitchell Jr. (Volume editor) Jakia Marie (Volume editor) Tiffany L. Steele (Volume editor)
©2019 Textbook XXIV, 242 Pages


Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Crenshaw, a scholar of law, critical race theory, and Black feminist legal theory, used intersectionality to explain the experiences of Black women who—because of the intersection race, gender, and class—are exposed to exponential and interlocking forms of marginalization and oppression often rendering them invisible. The second edition of Intersectionality & Higher Education: Theory, Research & Praxis further documents and expands upon Crenshaw’s articulation of intersectionality within the context of higher education. The text includes (a) theoretical and conceptual chapters on intersectionality; (b) empirical research and research-based chapters using intersectionality as a framework; and (c) chapters focusing on intersectional practices, all within higher education settings. The volume may prove beneficial for graduate programs in ethnic studies, higher education, sociology, student affairs, and women and gender studies and programs alike.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Advance Praise for Intersectionality & Higher Education: Research, Theory, & Praxis, Second Edition
  • Contents
  • List of Figures and Tables
  • Foreword (D-L Stewart)
  • Preface (Donald “DJ” Mitchell, Jr.)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Part One: Theory
  • Chapter One: Intersectionality, Identity, and Systems of Power and Inequality (Charmaine L. Wijeyesinghe / Susan R. Jones)
  • Chapter Two: Living Liminal: Conceptualizing Liminality for Undocumented Students of Color (Rose Ann E. Gutierrez)
  • Chapter Three: Intersectionality: A Legacy from Critical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory (Allison Daniel Anders / James M. DeVita)
  • Chapter Four: Thinking Theoretically with and beyond Intersectionality: Frameworks to Center Queer and Trans People of Color Experiences (Antonio Duran / Romeo Jackson)
  • Chapter Five: Intersectionality within the South Asian American Student Population: Breaking Down the “Asian Box” (Shadab Fatima Hussain)
  • Chapter Six: Realizing the Power of Intersectionality Research in Higher Education (Samuel D. Museus / Natasha A. Saelua)
  • Chapter Seven: Living Intersectionality in the Academy (Leah J. Reinert / Gabriel R. Serna)
  • Part Two: Research
  • Chapter Eight: Backward Thinking: Exploring the Relationship among Intersectionality, Epistemology, and Research Design (Daniel Tillapaugh / Z Nicolazzo)
  • Chapter Nine: Metaphorically Speaking: Being a Black Woman in the Academy Is Like (Christa J. Porter)
  • Chapter Ten: Challenges Conducting Intersectional Research with LGBQ Students: Reflecting on Studies Exploring Spirituality and Disability (Ryan A. Miller / Ashley P. Jones)
  • Chapter Eleven: Identity Collisions: An Intersectional Analysis of Students’ Experiences in the McNair Scholars Program (Susan V. Iverson / Chinasa Elue / Kelly E. Cichy / Emily P. McClaine)
  • Chapter Twelve: Intersectionality and Student Leadership Development: Advancing the Quantitative Research Agenda (Jasmine D. Collins)
  • Chapter Thirteen: Gaps in the Rainbow: Finding Queer Women of Color in Higher Education (Cobretti D. Williams)
  • Chapter Fourteen: Demographic Information Collection in Higher Education and Student Affairs Survey Instruments: Developing a National Landscape for Intersectionality (Jason C. Garvey)
  • Part Three: Praxis
  • Chapter Fifteen: No Longer Cast Aside: A Critical Approach to Serving Queer and Trans Students of Color in Higher Education (Meg E. Evans / Jason K. Wallace)
  • Chapter Sixteen: When Sisters Unite: Overcoming Oppression to Persist and Thrive in a PhD Program (Patricia P. Carver / Tamekka L. Cornelius / Kristie S. Johnson)
  • Chapter Seventeen: Intersectional Praxis in Higher Education and Student Affairs Supervision (Scott Burden / Jimmy Hamill / Chelsea Gilbert)
  • Chapter Eighteen: Innovations in Student Affairs: Applying an Intersectionality Framework to Stakeholder Personas (Natesha L. Smith / Thomas J. Holvey / Nuray Seyidzade)
  • Chapter Nineteen: Intersectionality as Praxis for Equity in STEM: A WiSE Women of Color Program (Dawn R. Johnson / Michelle M. Blum / Katharine E. Lewis / Sharon W. Alestalo)
  • Editor Biographies
  • Author Biographies

| ix →

Figures AND Tables


Figure 2.1. Conceiving a Frame of Liminality Interlaced in Racism, Nativism, and Xenophobia.

Figure 14.1. Primary Analyses Used across Tier-One Higher Education and Student Affairs Journals from 2010 to 2012.

Figure 14.2. Percentage of Quantitative Articles in Tier-One Higher Education and Student Affairs Journals that Included Demographic Variables.


Table 11.1. Identity Characteristics of Respondents.

Table 13.1. Participant Demographics.

Table 14.1. Higher Education and Student Affairs Survey Instruments Used Three or More Times across Tier One Journals from 2010 through 2012.

Table 14.2. Demographic Questions Included within 10 Widely Used Higher Education and Student Affairs Survey Instruments. ← ix | x →

Table 14.3. Comparison of Demographic Variables Included within 10 Widely Used Higher Education and Student Affairs Survey Instruments with Quantitative Articles in Tier One Journals that Included Demographic Variables.

Table 18.1. Questions to Consider.

Table 19.1. WiSE Women of Color in STEM Program Outcomes: 2014–2018.

| xi →



Kimberlé Crenshaw, the original midwife for bringing the concept of intersectionality into academic discourse, said the following in a printed interview:

What’s exciting is that I really don’t remember a time when a political academic concept generated by people of [C]olor—and particularly a concept that is the home of women of [C]olor—has gotten this much elite attention. There’s a way in which the mad attention on intersectionality by the left and the right—the fight over what it means, the fight over how it gets deployed, who gets to use it—is a recognition that we’re sitting on some valuable conceptual real estate, and we just need to double down and figure out how to develop and protect it. (Guobadia, 2018, para. 13)

The concept of intersectionality in higher education and student affairs has reflected the phenomenon that Crenshaw notes above. Slow to the conceptual party—as fields such as critical legal studies, feminist studies, and ethnic studies had been entrenched in the use of and debates about intersectionality for nearly two decades—the field of higher education and student affairs has grabbed ahold of intersectionality and as a core idea in theory and practice. Broached in the early 2000s in higher education research by me, Susan Jones, and Charmaine Wijeyesinghe, intersectionality quickly became a “buzzword” bandied about in conference spaces, academic research, and graduate preparation classrooms.

Despite its ever-increasing popularity in the field, a certain “illiteracy” as Crenshaw noted accompanies its misuse generally (Guobadia, 2018, para. 9) as being merely about recognizing the multiple identities of individual students leading to critiques of intersectionality as representing excessive tribalism. Unfortunately, ← xi | xii → the misuse of intersectionality by student affairs researchers and practitioners has added fuel to the general illiteracy about the concept whose origins lay in the intellectual thought of Black women.

Due to an insular approach, some reviews of intersectionality begin with the work of White scholars in higher education, despite what those scholars have written themselves. Missing are its roots in the writing of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Black women, such as Anna Julia Cooper, let alone the academic work of Kimberlé Crenshaw and Patricia Hill Collins, or even later scholars such as Lisa Bowleg and Leslie McCall—all writing prior to the boom of intersectionality research in higher education and student affairs. Theoretical literature that seeks to employ an intersectional analysis has been misinterpreted and taught as being merely about multiple identities, while the label of intersectionality is applied inappropriately to theory and practice involving merely the convergence of multiple identities for individuals and student groups.

In contrast to these abuses, this text seeks to “double down and figure out how to protect and develop” (Guobadia, 2018, para. 13) intersectionality, defined by Crenshaw as

From this starting point, how can intersectionality be useful in higher education theory and practice and why is it necessary? As Crenshaw noted, the interlocking systems and structures of oppression create overlapping vulnerabilities that are particularly felt for people at the crossroads of multiple minoritized social groups. These interlocking systems are apparent in higher education and student affairs as well. Here are just three examples.

First, at some institutions, students who sign up for mandatory on-campus housing well after the deadline for priority consideration, often end up in the oldest residence halls with the fewest amenities. From a neoliberal perspective, this is simply good business and should incentivize on-time submission of housing applications. From a single-lens perspective, perhaps only classism would be put at the forefront. However, when we consider that these students also tend to be people of Color, first-generation, and low-income, it becomes evident that no single-issue analysis will be sufficient to resolve the current situation. Not only classism is at play, but rather the intersection of neoliberalism, classism, racism, and college knowledge work to put these students in a unique predicament where there are certain sections of campus residences that are called “ghettos,” “the projects,” and worse.

Second, a building’s third-floor bathrooms are closed down for renovations. On that floor is the only ADA-compliant, all gender bathroom in the building. ← xii | xiii → Initially, no plan is in place to provide bathroom access in the building for people with disabilities, people who need relief assistance, and transgender people made unsafe in gendered restroom facilities. The closest ADA-compliant and all gender restrooms are in the building across the center mall. This is no mere oversight, but rather the function of interlocking systems and structures of ableism and trans-antagonism. These oppressive systems pull together not only two social groups, but also those who overlap across those groups.

Third, some institutions still close down the dining halls during holiday breaks and require an extra fee per night for those students who remain in the residence halls. Often international students are thought of as harmed by this policy and they are, yet initiatives are often put in place for those students to have home stays with local families. However, for low-income, emancipated foster youth, who are often racially minoritized, queer, and/or transgender, this policy creates a unique precarity. It is assumed that domestic students can go “home” during the break and have their housing and dining needs met by parents, other relatives, or other guardians. The interlocking systems of neoliberalism, classism, racism, and heteronormativity intersect in this case.

These three examples demonstrate that no single oppressive system creates inequitable and unjust conditions in higher education. Rather, if we are to build a truly socially just movement we must attend to the -isms within the -ism that may be our focus. As Crenshaw noted,

There is much research in higher education and student affairs that focuses on either racism or classism as the main issue that policymakers and college administrators need to address. Yet, to adapt Crenshaw, a class analysis that does not critique racism, heteronormativity, and neoliberalism does not recognize how queer people of Color are particularly affected by classist institutional policies and practices, then leaves out significant numbers of our students. In the same vein, a race analysis with no critique as Crenshaw points out above also leaves out the particular ways that people at the intersections of racism with other forms of oppression experience the college environment or are pushed out from it altogether. This is not intersectional praxis.

If higher education and student affairs scholars and practitioners are going to promote social justice, then we must commit to an authentic practice of intersectionality. I have noted in previous research that perhaps the articulation of a truly intersectional perspective about one’s self and lived experiences may be a matter ← xiii | xiv → of gaining increasing complexity (Stewart, 2010). It may be the same for the field and those studying and practicing within it. However, growing up into intersectionality must happen if we seek to transform institutional policy and practice to be equitable and just. Through addressing theory, research, and praxis, this text is a vital element in doing what Crenshaw recommends, “developing and protecting” intersectionality (Guobadia, 2018, para. 13).

D-L Stewart
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado


Guobadia, O. (2018, August 31). Kimberlé Crenshaw and Lady Phyll talk intersectionality, solidarity, and self-care. them. Retrieved from https://www.them.us/story/kimberle-crenshaw-lady-phyll-intersectionality

Stewart, D. L. (2010). Researcher as instrument: Understanding “shifting” findings in constructivist research. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 47(3), 291–306.

| xv →




XXIV, 242
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XXIV, 242 pp., 3 b/w ill., 7 tables

Biographical notes

Donald "DJ" Mitchell Jr. (Volume editor) Jakia Marie (Volume editor) Tiffany L. Steele (Volume editor)

Donald "DJ" Mitchell, Jr., received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. He is professor of education at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. His scholarship explores the race, gender, and identity intersections, and intersectionality in higher education contexts. Jakia Marie is a Ph.D. candidate in Pan-African studies at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Her scholarship explores race and ethnicity with an emphasis in cultural identity, immigration, and international education and identity development and experiences of minoritized students in higher education. Tiffany L. Steele is a Ph.D. student in higher education and student affairs at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Her scholarship explores the retention of minoritized students and staff members at predominantly White institutions with an emphasis on the lived experiences of Black women.


Title: Intersectionality & Higher Education
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