Toward a field of intersectionality studies: Theory, applications, and praxis

Sumi Cho, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Leslie McCall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2193 Scopus citations


Intersectional insights and frameworks are put into practice in a multitude of highly contested, complex, and unpredictable ways. We group such engagements with intersectionality into three loosely defined sets of practices: applications of an intersectional framework or investigations of intersectional dynamics; debates about the scope and content of intersectionality as a theoretical and methodological paradigm; and political interventions employing an intersectional lens. We propose a template for fusing these three levels of engagement with intersectionality into a field of intersectional studies that emphasizes collaboration and literacy rather than unity. Our objective here is not to offer pat resolutions to all questions about intersectional approaches but to spark further inquiry into the dynamics of intersectionality both as an academic frame and as a practical intervention in a world characterized by extreme inequalities. At the same time, we wish to zero in on some issues that we believe have occupied a privileged place in the field from the very start, as well as on key questions that will define the field in the future. To that end, we foreground the social dynamics and relations that constitute subjects, displacing what often seems like an undue emphasis on the subjects (and categories) themselves as the starting point of inquiry. We also situate the development and contestation of these focal points of intersectional studies within the politics of academic and social movements-which, we argue, are themselves deeply intersectional in nature and therefore must continually be interrogated as part of the intersectional project.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-810
Number of pages26
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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