- An Integrative Approach to Diversity in the College Classroom
Many colleges and universities have difficulty incorporating diversity and diverse perspectives into their curricula. This volume of New Directions for Teaching and Learning helps address this concern by focusing on intersectionality and exploring how this framework can be applied effectively into college classrooms. An intersectional approach involves the consideration of multiple identities simultaneously, because it assumes that examining a single social identity category (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation, social class, dis/ability)—or even multiple categories in isolation from each other—is not sufficient to fully understand people’s lived experiences. For example, a person using an intersectional perspective would assume that the experiences of African American male students cannot simply be understood as the “additive” qualities of being African American (a marginalized group) and being male (a privileged group). The first chapter provides an overview of intersectionality and its use in college teaching. Chapters 2 through 9 each address an issue or topic related to intersectionality and provide a case study of how the author(s) applied this perspective within their own classes (and in one instance, within a faculty learning community). While not all chapters focused specifically on the intersection of multiple identities per se, they all draw from some key attributes of intersectionality.
In chapter 1, Jones and Wijeyesinghe provide a conceptual and historical overview of intersectional analysis. In doing so, they discuss four theoretical interventions that stem from an intersectional approach: (a) centering the experiences of people of color, (b) complicating identity, (c) unveiling power in interconnected structures of inequality, and (d) promoting social justice and social change. In chapter 2, Longstreet delineates some of the concerns with entrenched disciplinary perspectives and describes a course in which he promoted the questioning of these disciplinary norms.
Chapters 3 and 4 focus on collaborative teaching. DiGrazia and Stassinos reflect upon their development of a co-taught course in criminal justice and writing. After hearing students’ lack of knowledge about cultural difference the first time they offered the course, they revised the curriculum to directly question students’ assumptions and cause them to think critically about the criminal justice system. In the following chapter, Pliner, Iuzzini, and Banks describe not only their pedagogy for a co-taught, interdisciplinary course on intersectionality, but also their consideration of their own social identities before the course and how that consideration influenced the course itself.
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 primarily examined the blurring of (seemingly) fixed categories and dichotomies. In chapter 5, Carlin used queer theory to complicate the traditional views of the perceived alignment of gender, sex, and sexuality in a gender studies and literature course. Boucher discussed a course on trans issues (which explored the intersection of gender, sex, sexuality, and other social categories) and argued that this topic should become a more central part of the curriculum and of academe in chapter 6. In the following chapter, Tang and Kiang describe their pedagogy of PTSD, in which they sought to improve the outcomes of both [End Page 361] refugees and veterans within Asian American studies courses.
The last two chapters examine potential methods for promoting institutional change. In chapter 8, Alejano-Steele, Hamington, MacDonald, Potter, Schafer, Sgoutas, and Tull argue that faculty learning communities can be a useful means of incorporating intersectionality, and they describe one such community that focused on “critical conversations.” Finally, Schlund-Vials argues for the use of comparative ethnic studies as one means of maintaining the relevance and viability of ethnic studies programs in the 21st century.
Overall, the chapters nicely balanced the discussion of relevant issues and ideas with the use of case studies; these real-world examples illustrated how instructors can bring these concepts and pedagogies to fruition. In some chapters, the authors shared challenges that they faced in their courses and noted how they would change (or did change) their courses to better address those challenges. This disclosure of trial and error can be helpful for those who wish to follow their lead, and these...