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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 Nine: The Tapestry Model: Exploring Social Identities, Privilege, and Oppression from an Intersectional Perspective


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Exploring Social Identities, Privilege, and Oppression from an Intersectional Perspective


An intersectional perspective requires a shift in how social identities and social oppression are often conceptualized. Instead of a multiple identities or additive approach, which treats different social identities and forms of inequality as separate and independent from each other, an intersectional approach focuses on understanding how different social categories simultaneously interact, shaping people’s identities and lived experiences. I have found for myself and others that this shift in perspective is clearer on a theoretical level but more challenging to fully embody in practice. Even when there is an intention to examine situations with an intersectional lens, there is a tendency to default to a single identity/oppression analysis.

As I have tried to fully grasp, apply, and teach about intersectionality. I have searched for ways to conceptualize key aspects of an intersectional approach and highlight its distinctiveness from a multiple identities/additive approach. To this end, I developed the Tapestry Model. The Tapestry Model (TM) uses the metaphor of weaving a tapestry to explicate some of the main tenets of an intersectional framework and other aspects of how people experience social identities within larger systems of structural inequality. In this chapter, I first provide background and context for the TM and then describe how it can be used to illustrate concepts of intersectionality. Next, I suggest additional ways the TM can be used to explore other...

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