Intersections of interventions: On development, difference, dispossession and discourse

In this session, we invite participants whose work engages with intersectionality to examine social power within development interventions. The concept of intersectionality – originally coined by Crenshaw (1989) – has been developed through vital contributions from critical race scholars and Black Feminist Thought (hooks, 1984; Collins, 2000; McKittrick, 2006; Moraga and Anzaldua, 1983), as well as feminist geographies of work (Rose, 1993; Kobayashi, 1994; Pratt, 1999; Massey, 2005). As a “broad-based knowledge project” (Collins, 2015), intersectionality refers to the mutual constitution and articulation of multiple subjectivities and embodied practices that shape social inequalities and power relations within political economic and discursive structures. However, intersectionality has been used in divergent ways (Cho et al, 2013), and methodological approaches vary in how they deal with complexity across, within, or beyond categories (McCall, 2005).


The concept is gaining ground in studies of global environmental change and agrarian transformation (Kaisjer and Kronsell, 2014; Osborne, 2015; Sultana, 2014; Luna, 2018; Nightingale, 2011; Sundberg, 2004; Birkenholtz, 2013; Hanson, 2016). Mollett and Faria (2013; 2018) argue for apostcolonial intersectional analysis within feminist political ecology that engages with critical race theories. According to Mollett and Faria (2013: 120), “Postcolonial intersectionality acknowledges the way patriarchy and racialized processes are consistently bound in a postcolonial genealogy that embeds race and gender ideologies within nationbuilding and international development processes.” Hence, our call to discuss the intersections of interventions.


This session is inspired by scholars of political ecology, like Sharlene Mollett, who expand the frontiers of intersectional studies into new paradigms of research and praxis. We are interested in looking at intersectionality not just as a lens for “mapping the margins” (Crenshaw, 1989), but as a lens for understanding social processes themselves. Scholars of agrarian transformations of the Global South have a long history of prolific investigations into how dynamics of social differentiation contribute to, hinder, or shape processes of capital accumulation, rural transformation, and resistance. What can an intersectional lens contribute to these investigations? Building upon these understandings, how do intersectional identities/locations within axes of power shape processes of social change, affecting outcomes?


Paper themes and discussions may include, but are not limited to:


  • How do social changes resulting from development interventions affect people due to their intersectional subjectivities?

  • How can intersectional subjectivities shape processes of social change mediated by development interventions?

  • How can understandings of intersectionality inform/influence policymaking, activism and research in the context of development?

  • How do intersectional subjectivities influence the politics of knowledge in development?

  • How do axes of social difference beyond gender and class matter in shaping political ecological processes and outcomes such as access to resources, constructions of knowledge? 

  • What are the benefits and limits of the concept of intersectionality for political ecology?

  • Has the term become a catch-all for a patchwork of difference and oppression, or does it offer analytic power? If so, how?

  • How can understandings of intersectionality foster emancipatory South-South solidarities?

  • How can understandings of intersectionality challenge the patriarchy of racial capitalism?


The aim of this session is to address topics relating to development interventions, preferably from a postcolonial lens (Mollett and Faria, 2013; Mollett, 2017). We are open to broad interpretations of processes of D/development and its interventions (Hart, 2001). Following Rodo-de-Zarate and Baylina (2018), we ask for intersectional research that is centered in space and specific context (see also Mollett and Faria, 2018). Finally, we envision a session that builds on abolitionist, feminist and queer scholarships in political ecology (Heynen, 2016; Heynen, 2018).


We anticipate generative discussions that lead to new theoretical and methodological approaches. This session is open to scholars from all academic (and non-academic) fields, including (not limited to) human geography, political ecology, environmental sociology, anthropology, gender and women’s studies, urban planning, etc. Interested participants or inquiries should email Ryan Stock (University of Illinois; with paper titles and abstracts (300 words) by Saturday, December 1st, 2018. Please put “DOPE 2019: (your name)” as the subject line of your email. Per DOPE regulations, interested participants must have already registered and paid by the final registration deadline (12/15/2018). See you in Lexington!




Birkenholtz, T. (2013). ‘On the network, off the map’: Developing intervillage and intragender differentiation in rural water supply. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 31 (2), 354-371.


Cho, S., Crenshaw, K. W., McCall, L. (2013). Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies: Theory, Applications, and Praxis. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 38 (4), 785-810


Collins, P. H. (2000). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Revised, 10th Anniversary, 2nd. London: Routledge.


Collins, P. H. (2015). Intersectionality’s definitional dilemmas. Annual Review of Sociology, 41, 1–20.


Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist policies. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1, 139-167.


Hanson, A. S. (2016). Women's ecological oral histories of recycling and development in coastal Yucatán, Gender, Place & Culture, 23 (4), 467-483, DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2015.1013445


Hart, G. (2001). Development critiques in the 1990s: Culs de sac and promising paths. Progress in Human Geography, 25 (4), 649–58.


Heynen, N. (2016). Urban political ecology II: The abolitionist century. Progress in Human Geography, 40 (6), 839–845.


Heynen, N. (2018). Urban political ecology III: The feminist and queer century. Progress in Human Geography, 42 (3), 446-452.


hooks, b. (1984). Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Boston, MA: South End.


Kaijser, A., Kronsell, A. (2014). Climate change through the lens of intersectionality. Environmental Politics, 23 (3), 417-433. DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2013.835203


Kobayashi, A. (1994). Unnatural discourse: ‘Race’ and gender in geography. Gender, Place and Culture, 1, 225–243.10.1080/09663699408721211


Luna, J. K. (2018). The chain of exploitation: Intersectional inequalities, capital accumulation, and resistance in Burkina Faso's cotton sector. The Journal of Peasant Studies.


Massey, D. (2005). For Space. London: Sage.


McCall, L. (2005). The complexity of intersectionality. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 30 (3),1771–1800.


McKittrick, K. (2006). Demonic grounds: Black women and the cartographies of struggle. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis Press.


Mollett, S. (2017). Irreconcilable differences? A postcolonial intersectional reading of gender, development and human rights in Latin America. Gender, Place & Culture, 24, 1-17.


Mollett, S., Faria, C. (2013). Messing with gender in feminist political ecology. Geoforum, 45, 116-125.


Mollett, S., Faria, C. (2018) The spatialities of intersectional thinking: Fashioning feminist geographic futures. Gender, Place & Culture, 25 (4), 565-577. DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2018.1454404


Moraga, C., Anzaldúa, G. (1983). This Bridge Called My Back: Writing by Radical Women of Color. Watertown, MA: Persephone Press.


Nightingale, A. (2011). Bounding difference: Intersectionality and the material production of gender, caste, class and environment in Nepal. Geoforum, 42, 153–162.


Osborne, N. (2015). Intersectionality and kyriarchy: A framework for approaching power and social justice in planning and climate change adaptation. Planning Theory, 14 (2) 130–151.


Pratt, G. (1999). Geographies of identity and difference: Making boundaries. In Human Geography Today, edited by D. Massey, J. Allen and P. Sarre, 151–168. Cambridge: Polity Press.


Rodo-de-Zarate, M., Baylina, M. (2018). Intersectionality in feminist geographies. Gender, Place & Culture, 25 (4), 547-553. 


Rose, G. (1993). Feminism & Geography: The limits of geographical knowledge. Cambridge: Polity Press.


Sultana, F. (2014). Gendering climate change: Geographical insights. Professional Geographer, 66 (3), 372-381.


Sundberg, J. (2004). Identities in the making: Conservation, gender and race in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala. Gender, Place and Culture, 11 (1), 43-64.


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