A child holds a prism to the sun, mesmerized by the scattered array of colorful light that results. She cannot look away. Her vision of a solitary and monolithic light fundamentally shifts to one that reveals variation and difference, sharing some seemingly important properties but diverging in a myriad of directions.
The prism serves as an illustrative metaphor for the concept of intersectionality. Borne out of feminist thought, early intersectional writing brought attention to the ways that women’s life experiences were significantly diverse by way of race and social class, and defied encapsulation by a singular narrative. An intersectional lens instead identifies how the confluence of status characteristics produce a constellation of social locations, identities, and experiences. In particular, intersectional perspectives allow us to explore lives on the margins of society, and the inequality and disadvantage that accumulates and results along overlapping race, class, and gender lines.
The objectives of this workshop include review of the origins and theory of intersectionality, discussion of contemporary case studies that utilize intersectional perspectives, and workshop activities that will help illuminate the prism metaphor. We will conclude the session by returning to the workshop series theme of “Democratic Governance, Public Policy, and Social Justice,” and discuss ways that intersectional perspectives both challenge and empower us as a polity. Just as the child could not look away from the prism, intersectionality similarly commands our attention as an essential lens for understanding both strife and social change in contemporary global society today.