Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Intersectionality Queer Studies and Hybridity: Methodological Frameworks for Social Research

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Intersectionality Queer Studies and Hybridity: Methodological Frameworks for Social Research

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article seeks to draw links between intersectionality and queer studies as epistemological strands by examining their common methodological tasks and by tracing some similar difficulties of translating theory into research methods. Intersectionality is the systematic study of the ways in which differences such as race, gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity and other sociopolitical and cultural identities interrelate. Queer theory, when applied as a distinct methodological approach to the study of gender and sexuality, has sought to denaturalise categories of analysis and make normativity visible. By examining existing research projects framed as 'queer' alongside ones that use intersectionality, I consider the importance of positionality in research accounts. I revisit Judith Halberstam's (1998) 'Female Masculinity' and Gloria Anzaldua's (1987) 'Borderlands' and discuss the tension between the act of naming and the critical strategical adoption of categorical thinking. Finally, I suggest hybridity as one possible complementary methodological approach to those of intersectionality and queer studies. Hybridity can facilitate an understanding of shifting textual and material borders and can operate as a creative and political mode of destabilising not only complex social locations, but also research frameworks.

Keywords: intersectionality, hybridity, queer studies

Introduction

Intersectionality is the systematic study of the ways in which differences such as race, gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity and other sociopolitical and cultural categories interrelate. In research employing the formulation of intersectionality (see Crenshaw 1989, 1991), this interrelation--but not conflation--of differences is seen as central in how subordination is experienced and lived. At the same time, queer studies as a distinct approach to the study of gender and sexuality has sought to denaturalise categories of analysis and separate 'the normal (statistically determined) from the normative (morally determined)' (Giffney, 2004, p.75). I thus find it important to trace the two frameworks side by side, and to rethink what they can offer to feminist research. To be sure, neither the concept of intersectionality nor that of 'queer' indicate set tools for conducting research. In what follows, I examine existing research projects framed as 'queer' alongside ones that use intersectionality, in order to primarily indicate some difficulties in translating theory and philosophical ideas into research methods; secondly, to consider how the concepts of intersectionality and 'queer' could come together in dynamic ways in interdisciplinary studies; and thirdly, to suggest hybridity as one possible way to creatively and politically addresses the 'intracategorical complexity' (McCall, 2005) of the research process.

Development of the Concept of Intersectionality

In feminist scholarship, intersectionality has been accepted as an approach of major importance, although it often criticized as ambiguous (Davis, 2008). There are different formulations in intersectionality scholarship, including that of a crossroad (Crenshaw, 1991), of a dynamic process (Staunaes, 2003) and that of 'axes' of difference (Yuval-Davis, 2006). The term was originally coined by Kimberle Crenshaw (1989) who foregrounded the experiences of women of colour and developed a Black feminist critique of both anti-racist policy discourse and feminist theory. In 'Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex', Crenshaw (1989) began with 'All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies' (Hull et al., 1982), a text issued in 1977 by Black US feminist lesbians of the Combahee River Collective. The latter was an influential manifesto which placed issues of gender, race, class, and sexuality at the centre of any feminist project. Since the late seventies, efforts to tackle class, race and ethnicity differences as single categories (by way of inclusivity) has been criticised as ethnocentric and imperialistic (Lugones & Spelman, 1983; Mohanty, 1988). …

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