Strategies of success for black and minority ethnic academics: intersectionalities of difference

Bhopal, Kalwant (2011) Strategies of success for black and minority ethnic academics: intersectionalities of difference At British Sociological Association Annual Conference, United Kingdom. 06 - 08 Apr 2011.


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This paper will explore issues of intersectionality and ‘race’ with a focus on theorising difference, specifically in relation to the success of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) academics. There is little research which has explored issues of intersectionality and the career success of BME academics. The research that does exist has examined issues of class and gender (Skeggs, 1997; Reay, et al, 2001), ‘race’ and gender (Bhopal, 2008; Gillborn and Mirza, 2000; Mirza, 2009; Shain, 2003) but has failed to engage with debates around the intersection of difference particularly in relation to ‘race’ and other dimensions of difference. Discourses around ‘race’, diversity and inclusion have tended to be analysed as disparate issues. ‘Race’ has been compartmentalised (in racial, ethnic or area studies), or has been emphasised as the defining characteristic of identity (in studies of national identity or in some versions of critical race theory) (see Gillborn, 2009; Leonardo, 2004) rather than as one aspect of a complex web of intersections, oppressions and identity formations (Bhopal and Preston forthcoming, 2010; Preston, 2007). In this paper, I will make connections between these disparate issues in order to understand the wider context of the problematisation of ‘race’ and inclusion where ‘race’ is seen as one aspect of personhood (Ladson-Billings, 2006), specifically in relation to how BME academics manage their success. These debates will be analysed by exploring these aspects of difference by bringing together particular aspects inequality within education. The paper will draw upon empirical research with a total of twenty seven academics from BME backgrounds. It is based on seventeen telephone interviews and ten face to face interviews. The respondents were all academics working in a variety of UK universities. The paper will examine how intersectionalites, specifically ‘race’, gender and class have a significant impact on their experiences. The main findings reveal that the majority of respondents felt that their ‘race’, gender and class had a significant impact on their career trajectories and some even said that they were held back because of this (specifically their ‘race’). The paper argues that policy making within higher education must take into consideration the inclusion of BME groups to provide particular understandings of these issues and for the career progression of these groups. The focus should be to work with policy makers towards an intersectional understanding of not only the subjects of policy but of policy itself, examining the ways in which ambiguities and certainties about ‘race’ have parcelled it off from other areas of social theory. Ambiguities about race (its ‘socially constructed’) nature have led some academics and policy makers to construe ‘race’ as an epiphenomena of class whereas for others its centrality has led to a privileging of ‘race’ above other categories (see also Ball, 2008). As an alternative, this paper will explore what it would mean to have ‘intersectional’ policymaking and its relationship to the career trajectories of BME academics

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Venue - Dates: British Sociological Association Annual Conference, United Kingdom, 2011-04-06 - 2011-04-08
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ePrint ID: 188335
Date :
Date Event
April 2011Published
Date Deposited: 25 May 2011 09:22
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 02:06
Further Information:Google Scholar

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