Intersectionality and Ethnography

For this book, this leads to the necessity of a multi-dimensional approach to actively including the multiplicity of not only migration but of the research field and its different intersecting layers in general. Gabriele Dietze has shown that football research can only profit from an intersectional perspective to reveal the interplay of the recent ‘big four’ in football: nationalism, sexism, racism, and homophobia (2012). The intersectional analysis was initially conceptualised to reveal social hierarchies and hegemonies with special regard to the interdependence of sexism and racism (cf. Crenshaw 1989; Collins 2000 [1990]; hooks 1998 [1981]). Even though the term ‘intersectionality’ was not explicitly mentioned in early analyses the argument stays the same: discrimination is rarely a stand-alone phenomenon but connected to various other social power structures and forms of oppression. In Germany, for example, this became particularly obvious during the first feminist movement. Helene Lange, amongst others, was fighting for women’s rights but from a middle class perspective. Clara Zetkin of the socialist feminist movement, on the other hand, fought for the rights of working class women that had to deal with a very different set of problems in their everyday lives (Honeycutt 1976; Frandsen 1982).

Approaching the research field with the concept of intersectionality has proven to be helpful in order to avoid generalisations. It is useful to tackle the general lack of focus on milieus and subcultures in migration research (cf. Romhild 2014, p. 260; Binder and Hess 2011). An intersectional approach underlines the multi-facetted construction of social phenomena. Vera Kallenberg, Johanna M. Muller and Jennifer Meyer suggest ‘a flexible, self-reflexive and pragmatic concept of intersectionality’ (2013, p. 30). This follows Beate Binder and Sabine Hess who argue for the case of anthropology to not work with predetermined categories but to use the strength of ethnography. Thereby, they plead for an open-minded approach for situative, dynamically constructed contexts and their analysis from an inductive approach as part of an intersectional analysis (2011, pp. 49-52). This argument is important because the term ‘intersectionality’ has particularly been criticised because it encapsulates the danger to essentialise and simplify those categories that are seemingly intersecting (Knapp 2011, pp. 259-60).

Kallenberg, Muller and Meyer summarise this critique:

Figuratively speaking, the picture of a crossing could only apprehend the

interplay of already set categories, but not their co-constitution. (Kallenberg

et al. 2013, p. 24)

Nevertheless, they further argue for the use of intersectionality as a method of analysis when the researcher is eager ‘to outline categories historically and to historicize intersectional analysis’ (ibid., p. 26). In this book, I will therefore use the following definition of an intersectional analysis as a theoretical and also a methodological approach:

We understand “intersectionality” as a provisional heuristic instrument that does not, however, claim to be able to disentangle the complexity of social mediacy. What it does, though, is to examine the production of difference and inequality in a given historical constellation from a situated point of view both synchronically and diachronically. Here, “intersection- ality” appears as both process and result of intertwined, often contradicting, mediated (social, economic, juridical, political and cultural) processes of transformation, and (socially, normatively, symbolically) entangled practices. The possible results of an analysis are constituted by the process of entwining and the viewpoint of the researcher. (ibid., pp. 30—31)

They suggest that the role of the researcher is central to the analysis. This is, however, not specific to an intersectional analysis but one of the basic requirements of an anthropological study. A reflexive approach to understand the interview sections and the fieldnotes is therefore not only necessary but essential for the following analysis.

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