Intersectionality & Higher Education: Theory, Research, & Praxis
reviewed by Rachelle Brunn-Bevel - April 02, 2017
Title: Intersectionality & Higher Education: Theory, Research, & Praxis
Author(s): Donald Mitchell Jr., Charlana Y. Simmons, & Lindsay A. Greyerbiehl (Eds.)
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433125889, Pages: 292, Year: 2014
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Over the past twenty-five years, intersectionality has been increasingly incorporated into the academy as a theory, framework, lens, conceptual model, or analytical tool. More recently, higher education scholars have begun demonstrating the benefits of applying intersectionality to the campus context. Given the growing demographic diversity of the U.S. population as a whole and the youth cohort in particular, this is a fruitful time to consider the contribution of intersectionality to higher education research or practice.
Editor Donald Mitchell, Jr. makes it clear in his introduction to the book that intersectionality has not been given adequate attention in higher education research. The purpose of Intersectionality & Higher Education: Theory, Research, & Praxis, co-edited by Mitchell, Charlana Y. Simmons, and Lindsay A. Greyerbiehl, is to add to the nascent literature addressing this same gap. This volume is organized into three sections. Part One, Theory, is comprised of the first to the ninth chapter. Part Two, Research, includes the tenth to the seventeenth chapter. Part Three, Praxis, consists of the eighteenth to the twenty-third chapter. Throughout the text, the contributors apply an intersectional lens to contextualize, study, and support often overlooked undergraduate and graduate student populations in higher education. These populations include Indigenous students, undocumented students, female veterans, survivors of sexual violence, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students of color.
Chapter One discusses models of identity development that are prevalent in higher education scholarship. Wijeyesinghe and Jones conceptualize the relationship between identity and intersectionality as tension points that negotiate the impact of individual identity or larger social structures. Similarly, Chapter Four reviews the literature on Indigenous students who attend post-secondary institutions. Reyes concludes that, the racial, gendered, cultural, and political identities of Native peoples all play roles in forming Native students college experiences (p. 50).
In Chapter Five, authors Whitford and McCrink integrate intersectionality and organizational learning theory to shed light on how higher education institutions should best address the needs of undocumented students. Part One will likely most benefit readers who are continuing to learn about the fundamental tenets of intersectionality and how it can be used to theorize in the field of higher education. Chapter Three is particularly useful as a resource to trace the roots of intersectionality through author Kimberle Crenshaw's writing with her colleagues on critical legal studies and critical race theory.
The contributions in the research section of the volume use a variety of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods analyses. In Chapter Ten, authors Tillapaugh and Nicolazzo argue that the impact of intersectionality on a project should begin with its research design. The collaborators call this process backward thinking. These authors reflect on their intersectional identities, epistemologies, and how working together has impacted how they conduct and interpret their research. In Chapter Twelve, author Iverson visually maps constellations that represent the apparent magnitude of each dimension of identity (e.g., class, age, race, and veteran status) based on individual interviews with female student veterans.
Chapter Fifteen uses national survey data to spotlight an understudied student population, namely Black middle class and upper class students. Author Dorimé-Williams asserts that most research on Black collegians assumes that these students are from low income backgrounds. In Chapter Sixteen, Narui interviews domestic or international Asian undergraduate and graduate students who self-identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This author focuses on how higher education environments (e.g., classrooms, residence halls, campus events, or student organizations) influence the time when students disclose their sexual orientation and how they negotiate their race or ethnicity. Chapter Seventeen catalogs 10 national surveys administered by education nonprofit organizations that were analyzed in articles published in five tier one higher education journals and student affairs journals during the period 2010 to 2012. Garvey notes that there is both an increasing interest in intersectional survey research and an awareness of the challenge to adequately represent intersectional identities quantitatively. The author focuses on the use of demographic variables of interest to intersectional scholars (e.g., gender, age, and citizenship). Garvey's findings illustrate the infrequent use of ability, sexual identity, or transgender identity variables in quantitative analyses. This limits the scope of intersectional research in flagship higher education journals and student affairs journals.
The chapters in the Praxis section of the book discuss higher education interventions that make institutions more inclusive and additionally supportive for marginalized students. Although Chapter Thirteen is included in the research section, Hardees study of a federal TRIO program could have been positioned in Part Three as well. Chapter Twenty profiles the living and learning community in Huntley House. This community is open to all male students registered at the University of Minnesota, but focuses on the needs of Black males. They take classes together and participate in community engagement projects. In addition, peers, staff members, and university faculty members mentor these same participants.
Chapter Twenty-One focuses on how student affairs professionals work to support Latino, Latina, and first generation college students. Oropeza Fujimoto and Luna feature the leaders in a Midwest program that targets Latinas and female students from small towns by providing academic support, scholarships, and mentorship. These authors use the concept of community cultural wealth to implement a parent workshop led by Latina mothers with children who attend college. The authors of Chapter Twenty and Chapter Twenty-One urge higher education researchers to move away from deficit frameworks. Instead, they urge these scholars to move toward asset models that nurture the skills and competencies students already possess. Chapter Twenty-Two spotlights the PhD Pathways mentoring program that encourages racial or ethnic minority students (at the undergraduate and graduate level) to pursue careers in academia. The authors create a model for a formal mentoring program that includes all members (e.g. students, staff members, and faculty members) and divisions (e.g., colleges, academic affairs, and student affairs) of higher education institutions.
Overall, Intersectionality & Higher Education holds true to the central tenets of intersectionality. First, its call for social justice throughout the higher education landscape threads the chapters together. This emphasis is probably most explicit in the final chapter's focus on a semester long Change U: Social Justice Training workshop. Second, the book engages with both micro- and macro-level contexts in higher education. The various chapter contributors note that using intersectionality in higher education involves more than simply considering individual or group identities. It is also necessary to provide adequate attention to inequality, power, and oppression. As Susan R. Jones notes in her foreword, each chapter in the volume can stand by itself. However, most of them are short and are approximately 10 pages in length. This allows instructors to assign multiple chapters at the same time. The book will be useful for classes in higher education and disciplines such as sociology, gender studies, and ethnic studies. It will also be helpful for administrators and practitioners.