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Teaching Intersectionality - Catherine Butler

The term Intersectionality has been attributed to law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who in the 1980s developed the theory to capture how different types of discrimination interact to oppress people in multiple and simultaneous ways, contributing to social inequality and systemic injustice. These patterns of oppression are cultural and intersecting, binding together axes of social identity. Intersectionality also provides a model for exploring and considering what is constructed when different axes of social identity intersect. Riggs and das Nair (2012, p.25) invite us to move from ‘matrices of oppression to conditions of possibility’, with Rothblum (2012, p. 268) suggesting that Intersectionality allows us to consider ‘multiple, interlocking dimensions, each one adding colours, shades and hues to a rainbow tapestry’.

It can be difficult to consider the ‘multidimensional conceptualisations’ (Browne & Misra, 2007) that Intersectionality can produce in attempting to explain how socially constructed categories of differentiation interact. Burnham (2012) suggests that while such complexity can lead to frustration and confusion, it can also be an opportunity for excitement and curiosity. Helping therapy students to seek out the uniqueness of their clients’ understandings and lived experiences, as well as their own, can only make them more competent and ethical therapists. The challenge for trainers is how to break down complexity to make it understandable and useful, so that it becomes a useful tool for clinical practice.

This study aims to investigate whether the concept of Intersectionality holds potential practical application for Clinical Psychology trainees for their clinical practice or research. As the teaching of Intersectionality has not been researched, the study will also investigate the usefulness of using Problem Based Learning (PBL) as a method for teaching this complex concept. Participants completed two identical questionnaires, one at the start of the PBL session to measure attitudes and knowledge about Intersectionality prior to the exercise, the second at the end of the session to measure any changes in these variables. The data will not be analysed and written up.



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