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Intersectionality theory applied to whiteness and middle-classness

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Despite the ubiquity of intersectionality in feminism and allied methodologies, it is typically associated with the elaboration of oppression. A consideration of intersectionality theory as applied to the ‘other side’ of power relations – that is to the intersections of whiteness and middle-classness (and the complications arising from ethnicity) – enables the exploration of power in relation to the enduring inequities between groups. Dominant positionality is embedded in intersectionality theory in two ways: (1) as part of a complex, postmodern identity formation in which – even at the individual level – oppression co-exists alongside domination; (2) in the emphasis on relationality in which oppression and domination are co-conditional. Building on an essay by Floya Anthias, the intersections of whiteness and middle-classness are further elaborated by showing that, along with ethnicity and gender, these positions (and positionings) reinforce each other in some circumstances and contradict each other in different circumstances. This inquiry introduces a complexity into intersectionality theory that enables a truly relational approach to the analysis of power often neglected in writing on the topic.
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Keywords: Anthias; feminism; identity; intersectionality; middle class; power; social class; whiteness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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