Printer Friendly

Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge. Intersectionality.

Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge. Intersectionality. Maiden, 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 1960s to 1970s 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 poli cies. 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 and to establish identities as a result of multiple institutional barriers and shifting gender and generational roles in the family (Guo 2013, 2015).

This book discusses the challenges that confront intersectionality to remain critical within varying venues that increasingly adopt neoliberal frameworks. Furthermore, power and relations can be reflected across domains of power, thus creating confounding meanings of identity within intersectionality: specifically, the structural, disciplinary, cultural, and interpersonal. The authors illustrate the term "culturally competent" rather than "embrace diversity" (186) to encourage practitioners and students to become involved in culturally diverse activities such as developing cross-cultural training for both sides. Moreover, they argue that this transition needs to further analyze how structural inequality in higher education could cause social inequality in curriculum and pedagogy and how intersectionality may provide an expansive lens to shift the complexity of such inequality in education. This idea can be reflected in a multicultural classroom within a Canadian higher education context. For example, East and South Asian international students in Canadian universities may experience various acts of racism on campus. Their host institutions have an obligation to protect students from such discrimination and practitioners need to help marginalized students through racial experiences on campus and support them to achieve their educational goals (Houshmand, Spanierman and Tafarodi 2014). In light of this, it is not clear how effective the cultural approach advocated by the authors would be in addressing issues of racial discrimination.

According to Collins and Bilge, social inequality, power, relationality, and social context are intertwined, introducing an element of complexity into intersectional analysis. Driven by economic needs from a neoliberal lens, the intersecting of power relations shapes the features of identities and ideologies, and potentially complicates the complexity of reflection on knowledge that ultimately influences social practices. In Intersectionality, Collins and Bilge show that intersections of community portray the interlocking nature of social oppression through digital and social media, which helps communities establish their inclusion in the online global communities. However, this book fails to identify the digital divide in the online space that may trigger social inequality through the lens of intersectionality. While the causes of such a Canadian digital divide can be attributed to a lack of internet access and digital literacy, digital divides can also occur when there is a lack of understanding in power relations and social oppression (Howard, Busch and Sheets 2010). In addition, digital inequality can also be found in Canadian schools related to students' school age, rural-urban location, parenting education, and their attitudes toward technologies (Looker and Thiessen 2003).

The significance of Intersectionality is its democratization of the rich and growing literature of intersectionality and deconstruction of its concepts into a more comprehensive and insightful analysis. This book accomplishes this by demonstrating intersectionality as an analytic tool pivotal to critical inquiry and praxis so we might better understand social inequality. More importantly, it critically revisits intersectionality by creating capacity for us to consider how intersectionality as an analytic tool can examine social inequality related issues in a Canadian context. It is also an excellent guidebook for scholars, policy advocates, activists, and practitioners who are interested in understanding the richness and intensity of intersectionality and fulfilling the needs of their lifelong studies on intersectionality.


Guo, Shibao. 2013. Economic Integration of Recent Chinese Immigrants in Canada's Second-tier cities: The Triple Glass Effect and Immigrants' Downward Social Mobility. Canadian Ethnic Studies 45.3: 95-115.

--. 2015. The Colour of Skill: Contesting a Racialised Regime of Skill from the Experience of Recent Immigrants in Canada. Studies in Continuing Education 37.3: 236-250.

Houshmand, Sara, Lisa B. Spanierman, and Romin W. Tafarodi. 2014. Excluded and Avoided: Racial Microaggressions Targeting Asian International Students in Canada. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 20.3: 377-388.

Howard, Philip N., Laura Busch, and Penelope Sheets. 2010. Comparing Digital Divides: Internet Access and Social Inequality in Canada and the United States. Canadian Journal of Communication 35.1: 109-128.

Looker, E. Dianne, and Victor Thiessen. 2003. Beyond the Digital Divide in Canadian Schools From Access to Competency in the Use of Information Technology. Social Science Computer Review 21.4: 475-490.

Jingzhou Liu, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary
COPYRIGHT 2017 Canadian Ethnic Studies Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Liu, Jingzhou
Publication:Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2017
Previous Article:La construction sociale de la migration: le role de l'experience et des representations sociales.
Next Article:Michel Hogue. Metis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters