Intersectionality by Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge (review)
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Reviewed by
Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge. Intersectionality. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2016. 224 pp. $26.95 sc; $76.95 hc.

Since the early 21st century, the idea of "intersectionality" has been widely discussed by scholars, policy advocates, practitioners, and activists in Canadian and international contexts. In 2016, Patricia Hill Collins, a distinguished university professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, and Sirma Bilge, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Montreal, posited that contemporary configurations of global capital that fuel and sustain growing social inequalities foster a rethinking of gender, race, and class as distinct social categories of identity, postulating that systems of social oppression are mutually constituted and work together to produce social inequality. Intersectionality was the culmination of their work.

Intersectionality opens with an insightful conversation on the definition of intersectionality as an analytic tool for understanding complexity in the world, diversity of people, and individual experiences. It then pays special attention to intersectionality as critical inquiry and praxis since interpretations of intersectionality may underestimate the influence of practices, especially how the intersecting of power relations is vital for understanding social inequality. By examining the importance of historical needs of intersectionality beginning in the 1960's to 1970's female African-American movements, Intersectionality documents the transitions from social movement politics to institutional incorporation, thereby framing the impact of intersectionality as a form of critical inquiry and praxis. It then traces global dispersal within human rights and equality policy arenas and integrates the idea of digital media and new information and communications technologies into the discussion. By examining how intersectionality travelled into these perspectives, Collins and Bilge are able to differentiate between critical inquiry and praxis. Furthermore, they expound on the critical articulations of race, gender, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, demonstrating the complexity in how an individual politic of identities emerges within various compositions of interlocking systems of oppression.

Collins and Bilge then expand on their earlier arguments by indicating that the growing social protest against social inequalities stirs up the local milieu, constituting new forms of social interrelations in a neoliberal context. The neoliberal policies are intertwined with the local and grassroots communities. This book illustrates the changes in how nation states grapple with neoliberalism and how people respond to those policies. [End Page 125] The authors further examine contemporary challenges that confront critical education in its own placement within the normative standards of higher education and the changing meaning of diversity within public schools, colleges, and universities, especially concerning issues of equity and social justice. In revisiting intersectionality, Collins and Bilge claim that critical inquiry and praxis, as a form of intersectionality, needs to sustain a critical and growing endeavour and impose self-reflexive understanding on social truth and practices. They also contend that intersectionality simultaneously manages to maintain intellectual and political dynamics and challenge individual, social, and institutional dimensions to achieve the expansion of global conversations.

This book proposes three major concepts of intersectionality: first, intersectionality as an analytic tool to understand global complexity in the combinations of gender, class, race, sexuality, and citizenship; second, intersectionality as critical inquiry and praxis to interpret the individual, social, and institutional relationship and how it fosters praxis; and, third, the importance of identity politics analyzed through an intersectional lens. In order to further examine intersectionality in different dimensions, the authors fully discuss these three perspectives in detail; namely, rationality in gender, race, and class, power relation in social context, and social inequality and social justice in intersectionality complexity. Relationality reappears as a theme with diverse interconnections that straddle the relationship between systems of gender, race, class, sexuality, age, ability, and citizenship. This book insightfully examines the relationality of multiple identities within the interpersonal domain of power and the relationality of analysis required to understand how class, race, and gender collectively shape global social inequality. However, it would be helpful to contextualize this discussion in the experiences of recent immigrants regarding how crucial they are to the authors' argument and how this importance influences social development. In Canada, recent immigrants who own the intersections of these elements often endure complex and stressful migration journeys and struggle to readapt to new relationships...


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