Intersectionality and syndemics: A commentary

Thurka Sangaramoorthy*, Adia Benton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

This commentary addresses the possibilities and pitfalls of putting intersectionality and syndemics into conversation with each other. We engage with two studies published in this issue: the first on the health-related vulnerabilities among LGBTQ + Latinx men in Orlando after the Pulse nightclub shooting, and the other on syndemic health issues brought about by social and structural inequities among young Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBM). Both manuscripts suggest that intersectionality and sydemics can be integrated or possibly merged to build effective health equity focused interventions for marginalized populations. We, however, argue that there are several methodological, ontological, and epistemological challenges in bringing together intersectionality and syndemics. Our argument coalesces around three key points. First, we contend that while it is feasible to think of their integration as useful to the study of health disparities, syndemics offers no added benefit to health scholarship grounded in intersectional analysis. Second, we argue that assumptions of common ground between intersectionality and syndemics rest on equating theories of interaction and additivity with critiques of mutual configurations of ideology, power structures, and social categories. Finally, we maintain that if intersectionality and syndemics are to be in conversation with each other, it must be done with the recognition and examination of where each framework situates itself relative to methodology, praxis, and power. Using our own work and those of intersectional feminist scholars, we demonstrate how the stakes of intersectionality diverge radically from those of syndemics, and how syndemics has the potential to undermine the significance of intersectionality for addressing issues of health equity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113783
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Critical race studies
  • Health equity
  • HIV
  • Intersectionality
  • Syndemics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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