Theorizing Intersectionality and Sexuality (Genders and Sexualities in the Social Sciences)
Taylor, Dr Yvette, Hines, Dr Sally and Casey, Mark E. (eds.)
Palgrave Macmillan Ltd, Basingstoke
This book offers a unique contribution to the literatures on both sexualities (and gender identities) and intersectionalities. Drawing together previously published and new material the book highlights the vibrancy and relevance of discussions of sexualities and gender identities in considerations of intersectionalities, as well as seeking to develop the potentials and move beyond the limitations of intersectional studies. At its best this book is groundbreaking, however at times the chapters promise much at the outset but do not fully deliver through their analyses. This is perhaps because of the underdevelopment of this area of scholarship.
Weston's reprinted chapter published in 1996 reminds us that exploring sexualities and intersectionalities is not 'new'. In the chapter by Dean longstanding intersectional thinking is highlighted, such as lesbian feminisms, that has had sexualities as its core. Theorizing Intersectionality and Sexuality contributes to a small and growing literature and demonstrates that discussions of sexualities and intersectionalities are necessarily ongoing. However, as many of the authors, as well as the editors, note sexualities and gender identities are often overlooked. Sexualities, Taylor at al in their introduction argue, can fall to the bottom of the pile in terms of the intersectional categories that are identified and researched. On the other hand, as Yehani et al. contend in their contribution there needs to be more done in queer thinking, with it's 'white geneology' (p. 78), to develop intersectional analyses.
The challenges of intersectionality both theoretically and methodologically are explored throughout Theorising Intersectionality and Sexuality, finding various difficulties, complexities and possibilities of this line of enquiry. The critique of linear, additive models runs throughout the book and authors deploy various techniques to develop thinking in this area. Inckle for example, develops a queer conceptualisation of the complexities of oppression and opportunities that are offered through intersectional positionings. There is also a suspicion of singular categorisations, as Stella notes the uncritical use of categories can reiterate established hierarchies such as East/West. Yet, as Hines contends anti-categorical approaches can find new marginalised identities, but she contends that these are not necessarily anti- identitarian. She and others contribute to a feeling of unease regarding the uncritical adoption of intersectionality.
There is a desire that runs throughout the book not to lose sight of power relations, hierarchies and materialities, that might perhaps happen within discussions of intersections and anti-categorical positionings. Indeed most authors are wary of moving beyond identities recognising the importance of analytical and social categories such as class, race, gender, and age, as well as heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer. Taylor warns of the danger that complexity and multiplicity can 'lose sight' of 'old enduring divisions' that continue to manifest along lines such as class. Intersectionality is not a panacea for all. Erel et al., offer insightful and necessary theorisations of intersectionalities and the ways that this thinking also requires a consideration of the 'effects, relationships and interdependencies of power and domination' (p. 64).
One of the key challenges that is addressed head on is how the complex identities, lives and subject positions created by theorising intersectionalities can be operationalised to undertake research. Chapters such as Stella and McDermott seek to put the complexities of intersectionalities into empirical research, where categories are both limiting and necessary. Kendal Broad notes how these complexities have been negotiated between LGBTQ empirical research and queer critiques. Issues of policy and legislation are also addressed through Monro and Richardson's discussion of public sector, O'Neill and Campbell's research on sex work and Hines's engagement with the Gender Recognition Certificate. In this way alongside important theorisations (and sometimes within the same chapter), the reader is grounded in the materialities of everyday lives where intersectionality is manifest.
It is of course impossible in such a short review to explore all of the arguments presented in an edited collection, instead here I have pointed to some of the key highlights that I found in the book. There are many more and this book is of interest to all who seek to understand the complexities and hierarchical power relations that constitute everyday lives. It should be taken note of at the very least in queer, sexualities, LGBTQ and intersectional bodies of work.
If successful this book will contribute to an ongoing and detailed discussion of sexualities, genders and intersectionalities. However, the danger is it is seen as an end point such that this 'turn' is seen as 'over' and 'done to death'. This book seeks to deploy intersectionality, but also develop the potentials of thinking through complexities without losing sight of the material injustices that began this line of thinking.
My main 'critique' has more to do with the publication forces at play rather than the authors/editors excellent work. As a book that is very pricey it is out of the range of many, even those with institutional resources, particularly in contexts where there are ever tightening budgets. It is a position that (UK?) sexuality authors are finding themselves in as they seek to publish research orientated books. Although there can be little doubt of the importance of publications such as these collections, perhaps it is time to reconsider how we achieve this. What other avenues we might explore in order to ensure books are accessible for those who we are seeking to reach, maintaining the rigour and perhaps the support of publishing houses?
University of Brighton