- Intersectionality in Educational Research by Dannielle Joy Davis, Rachelle J. Brunn-Bevel and James L. Olive
Dannielle Joy Davis, Rachelle J. Brunn-Bevel, & James L. Olive, Editors
Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2015, 330pages, $35.00 (softcover)
Intersectionality is gaining traction as a critical concept in higher education, generally, and student affairs specifically. Intersectionality can be extremely difficult to define, but is perhaps best understood as unique ways in which the confluence of an individual’s identities exposes them to unique forms of privilege and marginalization (Davis, Brunn-Bevel, & Olive, 2015). The term was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw (1991) as she described how women of color are often left out of efforts to promote equity and justice for women (where the focus is largely on White women) or people of color (where the focus is largely on men). Work on intersectionality continues to largely center race and gender; however, the field has expanded to include consideration of how class, sexuality, and nation of origin create differences within marginalized groups, particularly groups that have been perceived as having a monolithic experience in education.
I have engaged with many students, scholars, and student affairs professionals who are excited about intersectionality and its potential to offer deeper insights into the experiences of individuals from marginalized populations and how structures function to maintain the disparities we observe. However, this excitement is tempered at times by difficulties determining how to ask research questions, design studies, and analyze data in ways that leverage the strengths of intersectionality as a frame. Dannielle Joy Davis, Rachelle Brunn-Bevel, and James Olive have edited a text Intersectionality in Educational Research that aims to help readers learn the core tenets and principles of intersectionality, consider how it can be applied in the analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data, and develop deeper awareness of the experiences of diverse learners across multiple educational contexts. While previous texts on intersectionality have focused on the experiences of Black students (e.g., Strayhorn, 2013) and applications of the theory in mixed methods research (e.g., Griffin & Museus, 2011), this book is unique in its attention to K–12 and higher education, and its inclusion of chapters centering marginalized identities beyond race and gender.
The text is well organized and divided into four sections, offering applications of intersectionality to various populations and problems across all stages of the educational pathway. The first section focuses on methodological issues, offering insight into how queer theory can be utilized as a complementary frame (Olive), why and how qualitative methods can illuminate the convergence of multiple forms of oppression (Annemarie Vaccaro), and an example of how the differences across Latina/o/x students in identity salience are revealed through the disaggregation of survey data (Adriana Ruiz Alvarado and Sylvia Hurtado). This section of the text was particularly helpful in providing researchers with guidance, offering recommendations and insight into how intersectionality can be used as a concept, theoretical framework, and analytic tool. In fact, I would have liked to see more of this emphasis on how to engage [End Page 469] in intersectional research throughout the text. Few of the subsequent chapters offered detailed insights into their methods, documenting the strategies they used to actually see patterns in their data that revealed unique experiences shaped by power, privilege, and oppression.
The chapters in sections 2, 3, and 4 all follow a similar structure, presenting the experiences of various populations across multiple social locations and educational contexts. Each chapter offers context for the specific topic it will engage, a description of the core principles of intersectionality, and a study that provides insight into how educational structures and individuals within systems perpetuate multiple forms of identity-based marginalization. While they are connected conceptually and all engage intersectionality as a framework, each chapter stands on its own. If reading the text from beginning to end, the sections of each chapter describing intersectionality may feel a bit redundant. However, the structure does make it easier to isolate the chapters and sections most relevant to the reader’s use, and it was also helpful to be able to have a specific understanding of how the authors understood intersectionality...