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Intersectionality & Higher Education

Theory, Research, & Praxis

Donald Jr. Mitchell, Charlana Simmons and Lindsay A. Greyerbiehl

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 Eight: Living Intersectionality in the Academy


← 87 | 88 → CHAPTER EIGHT


From its establishment, higher education has operated within a patriarchal system. Institutions of higher education are still overwhelmingly led and run by White men (Bystydzienski & Bird, 2006). Indeed, the reward system in the academy is heavily influenced by a historical legacy that decidedly values Whiteness, maleness, and heterosexuality over other identities (Cress & Hart, 2009). The literature indicates that the academy continues to operate within a distinctly patriarchal and androcentric structure (e.g., Acker, 2006; Cress & Hart, 2009; Dill & Kohlman, 2012; Hirshfield & Joseph, 2011; Mason & Goulden, 2004). Encompassed in the patriarchal and androcentric structure is the assumption of the normative “straight, White, and male” that supports and sustains heteronormativity within the climate and culture of academia (Bilimoria & Stewart, 2009; Danby, 2007; Rankin, 2005). Within the academic culture and climate, identities socially marked as subordinate to the dominant norm are often pressured to exist on the periphery, to be within the culture but to make invisible certain identities in particular contexts, in order to enable achievement and success (Carbado, 2013; Dill, 2009). For those in academia who are already on the periphery, the academic environment can serve to further marginalize those multiple identities that inform their research and teaching. It also can mediate the way policies in the academy, especially around these two areas, are experienced and understood. Within academia, often, the more intersecting minority identities one experiences, the more opportunities...

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