Intersectional thinking

©Matthew Tizzard

‘An intersectional approach to creativity is as necessary as are inclusive contexts of learning’

(Hatton, 2019: 11)

‘Intersectional theory’ is a term rarely heard in creative arts education – though it has been around for some 30 years, coined in response to black feminist recognition that 70s feminism was a white middle-class construct that did not fit the black experience well.

There is now some disagreement about the exact meaning of the term. Hill Collins and Bilge (2016:25) say intersectionality ‘references the critical insight that race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nation, ability, and age operate not as unitary, mutually exclusive entities, but rather as reciprocally constructing phenomena that in turn shape complex social inequalities.’

‘Diversity initiatives must always embrace intersectional thinking and should not be wary of addressing the needs of a whole population of students’

(Hatton, 2019: 8)

It is perhaps most usefully seen as a reminder that we are all clusters of experiences. Being dyslexic, say, or an international student cannot be seen in separate bubbles: dyslexic students may have mental health issues and/or be wheelchair users; the international student may be deaf. And the way these differences intersect in individuals is important to how we might support them.

The importance a student attaches to their disabilities or differences may also fluctuate: there may, for example, be periods when identifying as dyslexic or LGBTQ+ is more important to a student than, say, their ethnicity or international status. Their social background may also influence their attitude towards difference and disability.


Crenshaw, K. (2016) ‘The Urgency of Intersectionality’ TED talk

Hatton, K. ed. (2019) Inclusivity and Intersectionality in Visual Arts Education London: UCL Institute of Education Press

Hill Collins, P. and Bilge, S. (2016) Intersectionality Cambridge: Polity Press

Further reading:

Crenshaw, K. (2016) The Urgency of Intersectionality. TED Talk.

Hatton, K. (2019) Inclusivity and Intersectionality in Visual Arts Education. UCL Institute of Education Press. London: UK

Hill Collins, P. and Bilge, S. (2016) Intersectionality. Cambridge: Polity Press