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Writing 10 (Ruiz): Topics & Questions

Reading & Composition

Assignment

This essay will ask you to look at a particular social issue / movement through an intersectional lens. For example, what happens when we add the concept of race to women's rights? Does it complicate the history and definition of feminism? How?

1. Pick a social issue / movement.

2. Explore the problems between race / ethnicity / gender / sexuality dynamics and the social issue / movement you choose.

Answering questions like the ones below will help you to make an intersectional analysis of an otherwise simplified social problem or social movement.

  • Essentially, what happens when you add concepts related to race / ethnicity / gender to your particular issue? How does it complicate the issue?
  • What was happening in history that inhibited the consideration of complex and multiple sources of oppression?
  • When did the issue / movement begin to consider other layers of oppression within your particular issue?

Intersectionality

"Intersectionality refers to the interaction between gender, race, and other categories of difference in individual lives, social practices, institutional arrangements, and cultural ideologies and the outcomes of these interactions in terms of power" (Davis, 2008, p. 68).

The Urgency of Intersectionality

Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced intersectionality in her 1989 paper “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.” (18:49)

You can find Crenshaw's paper in the eBook Feminism and Politics.

Finding the Right Scope for Your Topic

It's very common to select a topic or formulate a question that starts out too broad.

Example: Black power movement

When the scope of your topic is too big, it's hard to dig through the huge volume of information available to find something relevant.  It's also hard to write a paper or give a presentation with any depth. 

Most scholarly research examines fairly narrow topics and looks at relationships between concepts.  For example, the black power movement is a pretty broad topic, but looking at the relationship between the black power movement and feminism might be a more manageable topic.

There are many ways to narrow a topic that is too broad by asking one or more W questions. Let's use the topic of the black power movement as an example:

  • Black power and feminism (what)
  • Black power and gender (what)
  • Black power and California (where)
  • Black power and Oakland (where)
  • Black power and women (who)
  • Black power and feminism (what)

Using a few W concepts and doing some background reading can help me narrow to a specific question within the black power movement.

Example: In what set of circumstances did the Black power movement begin to consider the oppression of black women?

Examples

Here's are three examples of intersectional investigations.

Example 1

  • Social issue / movement: Black power movement
  • Race / gender: African-American/Black women
  • What I'm going to explore: the relationship between the Black power movement and black women. In particular, I want to learn when/under what set of circumstances did the Black power movement begin to consider the oppression of black women.

Example 2

  • Social issue / movement: equal pay
  • Race / gender: African-American/Black women
  • What I'm going to explore: the relationship between equal pay and black women. In particular, I want to learn how race plays a part in the difference in pay between white and African-American/Black women.

Example 3

  • Social issue / movement: school discipline
  • Race / gender: African-American/black girls
  • What I'm going to explore: the relationship between race, gender, and school discipline. In particular, I want to learn what contributes to black girls being more heavily punished than white students and how schools may be trying to address this problem.