A few months ago I read a Guardian article about a scholar who had decided to honour his friend by telling his traumatic story. The friend had killed himself due to his lack of success (widely defined) in academia. The men met during a fellowship a few years back and had remained friends despite one of them (the author) eventually attaining a position outside academia while his friend struggled with short-term postdoc positions until his tragic end. “Over the course of five years, Dolan held positions in Cambridge, Dublin, Southampton, Amsterdam and Crete, most of which meant living away from his partner.” When I read this piece, my six months of unemployment had just started and I couldn’t sleep for a couple of nights wondering: when will I reach the point where suicide becomes an option actually worth considering?
Intersectionality and intersectional theories are currently some of the most important and influential theoretical, methodological and pedagogical approaches within sociology and other social sciences, especially in their critical approach. According to the most common understanding, intersectionality is not only a theory but most of all an analytical tool that “(…) provides a framework for explaining how social divisions of race, gender, age, and citizenship status, among others, positions people differently in the world, especially in relation to global social inequality” (Hill Collins & Bilge 2016: 15). Therefore, teaching sociology students how to use this tool seems to be a very important task. However, because understanding the entire spectrum of the intersectional approach is rather complex, and even among experienced researchers some misunderstandings and simplifications occur (Naples 2009), teaching intersectionality to undergraduate and graduate students can be both beneficial and challenging and strongly depends on a) teacher expertise and auto-reflexivity, and b) the composition of the student group and the level of heterogeneity. Continue reading