Intersectionality and Well-being

Thematic Lead: University Leiden (LEI) & University of Western Cape (UWC)
Coordinators: Prof. Marleen Dekker & Dr William Ellis
Teaching Fellows: Drs Madi Ditmars & Tihana Nathen

Intersectionality is an approach to tackle social injustices and find ways to create just and inclusive societies that treasure diversity and equity. It offers an analytical framework to examine complexities that multiple identities bring about. Exploring the interconnection between different social constructed identities interacting in shared power systems, exposes confronting issues such as racism, classism, sexism, etc. Dismantling these intersectional systems of oppression and supremacy that feed inequity is imperative to improve global well-being.

Students who participated in the ‘Intersectionality and Well-Being’ theme examined the extent to which social categories impact on education and employability from interdisciplinary and intercultural perspectives. Exploring well-being through these lenses they compared how physical, social and political identities shape the daily lives of privileged and marginalised individual living in their environments.

In their quest to identify and track disparities, their focus was initially based on demographic or identity factors which lead to reducing people to only members of that group. After different lines of reasoning were put forward, they considered how multiple social identities shape their respondent’s world views and concepts of well-being rather than only one axis of analysis such as race, gender or income. Acknowledging the diversity in social groups they reflected on who they included in their research and whose experiences were not represented, and assessed underlying social and cultural patterns that lead to education and employment inequalities.

Comparing their finding across borders lead to different realisations, amongst others that social groups are not homogeneous. Coming to the conclusion that critical introspection of how individuals – as part of institutions, as well as how institutions themselves produce, maintain, and benefit from systems of oppression is necessary for global well-being to be realised. This theme enabled participants to step out of their perceived and socially constructed binaries and question the full spectrum of individuals’ experiences and range of emotions. Diving deeper and asking these questions revealed insights often overlooked, as shared and expressed in their collective blogs.