Inclusive Teaching

Intersectionality in Action

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Intersectionality, a term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989), “provides a critical lens to interrogate racial, ethnic, class, physical ability, age, sexuality, and gender disparities and to contest existing ways of looking at these structures of inequality” (Dill & Zambrana, 2009, p.1). A recent edited volume by Elon University Professors Brooke Barnett and Peter Felten invites readers to develop the knowledge and capacities necessary to create inclusive campus communities and learning environments mindful of these complex intersections. Of particular interest are the chapters focused on learning intersectionality, which offer different practical accounts of teaching about and for inclusion. Below is a brief excerpt from the editors’ introduction that states the goals of the volume and general organization of its chapters.

From, “Intersectionality in Action: A Guide for Faculty and Campus Leaders for Creating Inclusive Classrooms and Institutions”:

“This book explores the practices and perspectives necessary for rethinking higher education to focus on the intersections of identity. Building on the emerging literature on intersectionality and on the rich scholarship about diversity and inclusion and rooted in the context of a range of different campuses, this book includes chapters by an array of experts from different institutions and roles. Each chapter offers action-oriented analysis focusing on particular campus intersections, rather than attending to specific demographic groups. Chapter authors also build on their own local expertise of doing this work on campuses that often do not have deep pockets or rich histories of such efforts.

The book is organized into three parts:

  1. People focuses on the broad concept of diversity, considering how we recruit and engage the students, faculty, and staff in the campus community and how we work with governing boards and others to promote inclusive excellence.
  2. Environment focuses on inclusion, including residence life, the local community, the working and learning environment, and external factors, such as national and international news events or town-gown relationship.
  3. Learning focuses on perspective taking and learning about difference in the core curriculum, the disciplines, and the co-curriculum, as well as professional development for faculty and staff.

The practices and scholarship in these chapters capture some of the power of using intersectionality to think about and organize diversity and inclusion work on campus. Moving from theory to practice is rarely easy, but it is fundamental to the mission and purpose of higher education” (pp. xv-xviii).

Please stop by the Reinert Center to look at our copy of this volume. Also, contact us at if you would like to schedule a teaching consultation to discuss intersectionality.


Barnett, B., & Felten, P. (2016). Intersectionality in action: A guide for faculty and campus leaders for creating inclusive classrooms and institutions. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago legal forum, feminism in the law: Theory, practice and criticism, vol. 1989 (139-167). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Legal Forum.

Dill, B. T., & Zambrana, R. E. (2009). Emerging intersections: Race, class, and gender in theory, policy, and practice. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.


This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at