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The ideas behind intersectional feminism existed long before the term was coined. Sojourner Truth 's " Ain't I a Woman? Though intersectionality began with the exploration of the interplay between gender and race, over time other identities and oppressions were added to the theory. This anthology explored how classifications of sexual orientation and class also mix with those of race and gender to create even more distinct political categories.

Many black, Latina, and Asian writers featured in the collection stress how their sexuality interacts with their race and gender to inform their perspectives.

The broken mirror: intersectionality and the loss of the universal

Similarly, poor women of color detail how their socio-economic status adds a layer of nuance to their identities, ignored or misunderstood by middle-class white feminists. According to black feminists and many white feminists, experiences of class, gender, and sexuality cannot be adequately understood unless the influence of racialization is carefully considered. This focus on racialization was highlighted many times by scholar and feminist bell hooks , specifically in her book Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism.

Marie-Claire Belleau argues for "strategic intersectionality" in order to foster cooperation between feminisms of different ethnicities. Furthermore, the performances of these nat-cult feminisms are also not essentialist. Instead, they are strategies.

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Similarly, Intersectional theorists like Vrushali Patil argue that intersectionality ought to recognize transborder constructions of racial and cultural hierarchies. About the effect of the state on identity formation, Patil says: "If we continue to neglect cross-border dynamics and fail to problematize the nation and its emergence via transnational processes, our analyses will remain tethered to the spatialities and temporalities of colonial modernity. Du Bois theorized that the intersectional paradigms of race, class, and nation might explain certain aspects of black political economy.

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Collins writes: "Du Bois saw race, class, and nation not primarily as personal identity categories but as social hierarchies that shaped African-American access to status, poverty, and power. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes expands on this by pointing out the value of centering on the experiences of black women. Joy James takes things one step further by "using paradigms of intersectionality in interpreting social phenomena". Collins later integrated these three views by examining a black political economy through the centering of black women's experiences and the use of a theoretical framework of intersectionality.

In her article "Black Political Economy" she describes how, in her view, the intersections of consumer racism , gender hierarchies, and disadvantages in the labor market can be centered on black women's unique experiences.

The intersectionality of race and gender has been shown to have a visible impact on the labor market. Those who experience privilege within the social hierarchy in terms of race, gender and socio-economic status are less likely to receive lower wages, to be subjected to stereotypes and discriminated against, or to be hired for exploitative domestic positions. Studies of the labor market and intersectionality provide a better understanding of economic inequalities and the implications of the multidimensional impact of race and gender on social status within society.

Collins refers to the various intersections of social inequality as the matrix of domination. These are also known as "vectors of oppression and privilege". This construct is characterized by its focus on differences rather than similarities. Flores suggests, when individuals live in the borders, they "find themselves with a foot in both worlds.

Both Collins and Dorothy Smith have been instrumental in providing a sociological definition of standpoint theory. A standpoint is an individual's unique world perspective.

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The theoretical basis of this approach views societal knowledge as being located within an individual's specific geographic location. In turn, knowledge becomes distinctly unique and subjective; it varies depending on the social conditions under which it was produced. The concept of the outsider within refers to a unique standpoint encompassing the self , family, and society. Their personalities, behavior, and cultural being overshadow their value as an individual; thus, they become the outsider within.

Speaking from a critical standpoint, Collins points out that Brittan and Maynard say "domination always involves the objectification of the dominated; all forms of oppression imply the devaluation of the subjectivity of the oppressed. Practicing self-awareness helps to preserve the self-esteem of the group that is being oppressed and allow them to avoid any dehumanizing outside influences. Marginalized groups often gain a status of being an "other".


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Intersectionality can be applied to nearly all fields from politics, [44] [45] education [13] [32] [46] healthcare, [47] [48] and employment, to economics. Additionally, applications with regard to property and wealth can be traced to the American historical narrative that is filled "with tensions and struggles over property—in its various forms. From the removal of Native Americans and later Japanese Americans from the land, to military conquest of the Mexicans, to the construction of Africans as property, the ability to define, possess, and own property has been a central feature of power in America Over the last couple decades in the European Union, there has been discussion regarding the intersections of social classifications and the need to acknowledge their functions.

Before Crenshaw coined her definition of intersectionality, there was debate on what these societal categories were, and how they played a role in the lives of many minorities. What was once a more cut and dried categorization between gender, race, and class has turned into a multidimensional intersection of "race" including religion, sexuality, ethnicities, etc.

In the EU and UK they refer to these intersections under the notion of multiple discrimination. The EU passed a non-discrimination law which addresses these multiple intersections; however, there is debate on whether the law is still proactively focusing on the proper inequalities. People around the world are taking a new approach when identifying others identities as well as their own; although, there are still places that follow the traditional process of categorization as stated in the following quote. For example, Chandra Mohanty discusses alliances between women throughout the world as intersectionality in a global context.

When western feminists write about women in the global South in this way, they dismiss the inherent intersecting identities that are present in the dynamic of feminism in the global South. Mohanty questions the performance of intersectionality and relationality of power structures within the US and colonialism and how to work across identities with this history of colonial power structures.

This is elaborated on by Christine Bose who discusses a global use of intersectionality which works to remove associations of specific inequalities with specific institutions, while showing that these systems generate intersectional effects. She uses this approach to develop a framework that can analyze gender inequalities across different nations and differentiates this from an approach the one that Mohanty was referring to which, one, paints national-level inequalities as the same and, two, differentiates only between the global North and South.

This is manifested through the intersection of global dynamics like economics, migration, or violence, with regional dynamics, like histories of the nation or gendered inequalities in education and property education.

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Third World feminists and transnational feminists criticize intersectionality as a concept emanating from WEIRD Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic [57] societies that unduly universalizes women's experiences. Grabe wrote, "Transnational intersectionality places importance on the intersections among gender, ethnicity, sexuality, economic exploitation, and other social hierarchies in the context of empire building or imperialist policies characterized by historical and emergent global capitalism.

In the field of social work , proponents of intersectionality hold that unless service providers take intersectionality into account, they will be of less use for various segments of the population, such as those reporting domestic violence or disabled victims of abuse.


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According to intersectional theory, the practice of domestic violence counselors in the United States urging all women to report their abusers to police is of little use to women of color due to the history of racially motivated police brutality , and those counselors should adapt their counseling for women of color. Women with disabilities encounter more frequent domestic abuse with a greater number of abusers. Health care workers and personal care attendants perpetrate abuse in these circumstances, and women with disabilities have fewer options for escaping the abusive situation.

According to political theorist Rebecca Reilly-Cooper intersectionality relies heavily on standpoint theory , which has its own set of criticisms. Intersectionality posits that an oppressed person is often the best person to judge their experience of oppression; however, this can create paradoxes when people who are similarly oppressed have different interpretations of similar events.

Such paradoxes make it very difficult to synthesize a common actionable cause based on subjective testimony alone. Rekia Jibrin and Sara Salem argue that intersectional theory creates a unified idea of anti-oppression politics that requires a lot out of its adherents, often more than can reasonably be expected, creating difficulties achieving praxis. They also say that intersectional philosophy encourages a focus on the issues inside the group instead of on society at large, and that intersectionality is "a call to complexity and to abandon oversimplification Writing in the New Statesman , Helen Lewis adds that in emphasizing internal differences over hegemonic structures, and having complex and at times contradictory recommendations, it can create paralysis because it is not very accessible.

The moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt , in a speech at the American conservative think tank Manhattan Institute , criticized the theory by saying:. America is said to be one giant matrix of oppression, and its victims cannot fight their battles separately. They must all come together to fight their common enemy, the group that sits at the top of the pyramid of oppression: the straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied Christian or Jewish or possibly atheist male. This is why a perceived slight against one victim group calls forth protest from all victim groups.

This is why so many campus groups now align against Israel. Intersectionality is like NATO for social-justice activists. Barbara Tomlinson is employed at the Department of Women's Studies at UC Santa Barbara and has been critical of the applications of intersectional theory. She has identified several ways in which the conventional theory has been destructive to the movement.

She asserts that the common practice of using intersectionality to attack other ways of feminist thinking and the tendency of academics to critique intersectionality instead of using intersectionality as a tool to critique other conventional ways of thinking has been a misuse of the ideas it stands for. Tomlinson argues that in order to use intersectional theory correctly, intersectional feminists must not only consider the arguments but the tradition and mediums through which these arguments are made, Conventional academics are likely to favor writings by authors or publications with prior established credibility instead of looking at the quality of each piece individually, contributing to negative stereotypes associated with both feminism and intersectionality by having weaker arguments in defense of feminism and intersectionality become prominent based on renown.

She goes on to argue that this allows critics of intersectionality to attack these weaker arguments, "[reducing] intersectionality's radical critique of power to desires for identity and inclusion, and offer a deradicalized intersectionality as an asset for dominant disciplinary discourses".

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Sharon Goldman of the Israel-America Studies Program at Shalem College also criticized intersectionality on the basis of its being too simplistic. Goldman stipulates that many of the people championed by intersectionality truly are victims of oppression, but her reading of the ideology is that it favors the powerless over the powerful regardless of context. Any group that overcomes adversity, achieves independence, or defends itself successfully is seen as "corrupt" or "imperialist" by intersectionality adherents.

The examples Goldman gives are American Jews who, inspired by the abject victimhood of the Holocaust , engaged in politics to successfully advance their ideas into the American mainstream. American Jews are not given the benefit of the doubt by intersectionality adherents because they proudly reject victimization. Researchers in psychology have incorporated intersection effects since the s [ example needed ]. These intersection effects were based on studying the lenses of biases, heuristics, stereotypes, and judgments. Psychologists have extended research in psychological biases to the areas of cognitive and motivational psychology.