Intersectionality and Representation

Dr. Anika Gauja
Panel Code

Panel Proposal by Prof. Dr. Dorothée de Nève, University of Gießen, Germany, and Prof. Dr. Eva Maria Hinterhuber, Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, Germany

The Theory of Intersectionality proposes that while social movements and the academic study of marginalization have been focused largely on single-axis discrimination, such as racism or sexism, real life experiences are marked by the intersection of social categories. It states the importance of focusing on the intersection of marginalizations to avoid erasing those who are affected by more than one form of discrimination at once (Crenshaw, 1989). In addition, intersectionality is needed to capture forms of oppression that cannot be conceptualized purely in terms of one category of social organization, such as race or gender, but only by their combination (Crenshaw 1991).
Thus far, empirical studies on representation have largely assumed a simple understanding of representation focused on numerical criteria and have examined the presence of a certain type (Pitkin 1967, 1989). Their analysis is centered on one trait, for example, gender, age or ethnicity and investigates its representation within a specific institution (e.g. parliament) or arena (e.g. stock companies). Implicitly this suggests that there are some socioeconomic or cultural traits of citizens which are relevant, while others are seldom or never the object of study. This is similarly true for the empirical analysis of interdependence. In addition, this research approach assumes that individuals can be sorted into categories defined by deduction without any difficulty or ambiguity. Fluid and hybrid forms of identity are not accounted for.
It is the goal of our panel to combine both research contexts in a relevant and productive way. First, this concerns the methodical question how the theory of intersectionality can be operationalized to make it useful for empirical enquiry. Secondly, the empirical analysis of representation or problems of under-representation will be examined from the perspective of research on intersectionality. Both theoretical papers and explorative empirical approaches are very welcome in this panel.