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Intersectionality & Higher Education

Theory, Research, & Praxis

Edited By Donald Jr. Mitchell, Jakia Marie and Tiffany Steele

Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. A scholar of law, critical race theory, and Black feminist thought, Crenshaw used intersectionality to explain the experiences of Black women who – because of the intersections of race, gender, and class – are exposed to exponential forms of marginalization and oppression. Intersectionality & Higher Education documents and expands upon Crenshaw’s ideas within the context of U.S. higher education. The text includes theoretical and conceptual chapters on intersectionality; empirical research using intersectionality frameworks; and chapters focusing on intersectional practices. The volume may prove beneficial for graduate programs in ethnic studies, higher education, sociology, student affairs, and women and gender studies alike.
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Chapter Three: Intersectionality: A Legacy from Critical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory


← 30 | 31 → CHAPTER THREE

A Legacy from Critical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory


Activists, scholars, and researchers in education studies (Bettie, 2003; Patel, 2013), higher education (Abes, Jones, & McEwen, 2007; Mitchell & Means, 2014; Strayhorn, Blakewood, & DeVita, 2008, 2010), human rights (Raj, Bunch, & Nazombe, 2002), political science (Berger, 2004), and women’s studies (Collins, 2008; Davis, 1983; Lorde, 1984) have studied experience at the intersection of multiple identities and have argued for understandings and practices that acknowledge them. In this chapter, we argue that studying the legacies of critical legal studies, critical race theory, and, in particular, intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991a, p. 58), a term first used by Kimberlé Crenshaw, can guide research about multiple targeted identities in productive ways. Crenshaw (1991b), an African American Woman, legal scholar, and critical race theorist, argued that dominant social patterns and systemic inequities affect the lived experience of groups and individuals who embody multiple targeted identities and that such patterns and inequities often produce “intersectional disempowerment” (p. 1245). Crenshaw’s conceptions of intersectionality deepen opportunities for activists, scholars, and researchers in higher education who are committed to studying racial and social justice, to theorize about experience at the intersection of multiple targeted identities and to strategize against dominant social patterns and systemic inequity.

Not only because Crenshaw (1991a) emphasized the importance of “the experiences and concerns of Black women” (p. 58), but also because too often White...

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