Session: Enacting Critical Intersectionality in Research: Concepts, Methods and Implications for Practice (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

245 Enacting Critical Intersectionality in Research: Concepts, Methods and Implications for Practice

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
Union Square 22 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Gender (G)
Symposium Organizer:
Beth Glover Reed, Ph.D, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Conceptual frameworks for this symposium draw from critical social theory and intersectionality approaches, emphasizing “strong” intersectionality (Thornton Dill and Kohlman, 2014). These focus on how societal structures, systems of meaning, and social processes create multiple interacting systems of power, resulting in differential opportunities and barriers depending on particular mixes of “positionalities”. Important positionalities vary from culture to culture, and within a culture; in the United States, these include gender/gender expression, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic class, religion, age, dis/ability, immigration status (and others). Everyone has multiple positionalities; the forces around them work together to create varying conditions and consequences, even in the same environments. Contexts shape their salience, meaning and consequences in ways that differentially impact life chances, health and well-being. Intersectionality is not just a means of critique and explanation, but also a transformative practice that can further or inhibit health and capacity, thus especially relevant for social work's commitment to social justice research and action.

This symposium addresses two overarching questions: • How can major concepts within intersectionality frameworks and epistemologies be operationalized in research? • What methodologies and methods can be used to illuminate complex intersectionality patterns, in different contexts, over time?

The papers focus on different questions and populations, using multiple types of data and methods. The first paper defines important dimensions within critical intersectionality, using qualitative analyses of focus group data, within grounded theory frameworks, with a sample of Arab/Middle Eastern youth and young adults. It illustrates important contexts and variations by age, gender, religion and other positionalities, how different positionalities are more or less salient in different locations, and how health and well-being are influenced by experiences in these settings. The second paper inter-relates life course perspectives with critical intersectionality in a sample of older, gay, African American men to explore how different and changing contexts shape transitions in the meaning, salience, and consequences of positionalities across the life course and how participants navigated these transitions. The third paper uses survey data from a national sample to examine adolescent opioid use in relation to residential contexts, SES, race/ethnicity and sex/gender. Complex patterns (in rates of use, rural and other contexts, and various positionalities) suggest different implications for prevention and interventions that address inequalities. The fourth paper returns to the sample from paper one, but focuses on complex survey data about positionalities, disparities, health and well-being. The paper compares different analytic methods, including Comparative Qualitative Analyses (CQA) conceptualizing each survey as a case study. This paper illustrates a promising methodology for analyzing and depicting complex patterns with a relatively small sample.

Together, these papers illuminate different approaches to implementing “strong intersectionality” in research, across different mixes of positionalities and types of data, all of which have implications for health and well-being. Each grapples with complex definitional questions, and how contexts influence the meanings and consequences of particular combinations of positionalities. They also illustrate different research methods, which we will compare and contrast in the discussion, elaborating on the benefits and dilemmas encountered in each.

* noted as presenting author
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