Bhopal, Kalwant and Preston, John
Race and intersectionalities: theorising difference in education
At British Educational Research Association, United Kingdom.
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This paper examines contemporary theoretical and empirical debates in applying conceptions of intersectionality to the study of ‘race’ in education. We consider that intersectionality is currently being approached through multiple theoretical perspectives in education and that it is possible to identify post-structural, queer, psychoanalytic, Marxist, class-culturalist, feminist and Critical Race Theory strands in analysing ‘race’ intersections. This theoretical pluralism means that it is not possible to speak of an independent ‘intersectional approach’ and that, as might be expected, all such approaches arise from established social theories. However, it is possible to distinguish between ‘grand narrative’ social theories which often tend to collapse intersectional approaches into a single explanatory framework (sometimes even to the extent that intersections are collapsed into a single element of social existence such as the collapsing of ‘race’ into ‘class’ in what could be called vulgar theories of racialisation) and approaches that attempt theoretical integration by combining social theories. We consider that the way in which this is being performed does not fit easily into established models of the development of educational theory, even by metaphors of the ‘toolbox’ of theory. Rather, it requires elements of theoretical bootstrapping (using metaphor or artifice to create a self sustaining theory) and retrofitting (adding new theoretical elements to existing theories). The theories that emerge, rather than being (necessarily) consistent social theories can be best thought of ‘mash ups’ (a term that has previously been applied to the development of music or software).
We consider that ‘mash up’ social theories are a productive way to consider the development of intersectional theorising by not only examining what might be called the cross-roads of personhood but also in terms of new theoretical integrations (or disintegrations). We give examples from our book ‘Race and Intersectionality in Education’ (authors, 2011) to show how specific incidences of Marxism / Critical Race Theory; Feminism / Post-structuralism and class cultural / ethnic pluralist theories in tension can be useful for future theorising in this area through suggesting possible ‘mash ups’. The implications for educational theorising extend beyond the scope of ‘race’ and intersectionality in education and suggest a space for theory that is playful and idiosyncratic.
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