Session 8A: The Commute of Power & Oppression: How Intersectionality Resists Inequality

Session 8A

The Commute of Power & Oppression: How Intersectionality Resists Inequality

4.22.2017 | 4:45p-6:00p | Laurel Hall 110

This workshop is a guide for students and instructors who wish to use intersectionality within their classrooms. The discussant will provide an overview of the term as it relates to inequality and identity, and then use the session as an interactive space to build pedagogical tools and learning.

Workshop Discussant: Simone Kolysh, MPH, M.Phil (Sociology; The Graduate Center-CUNY)


In this workshop, I want to talk about the way intersectionality can help fight inequality. First I want to work through its definition, which I put forth as the following: an academic theory that states one’s race (black), gender (women), and class (poor) intersect to determine one’s relationship to power and oppression. I will talk about Kimberle Crenshaw’s work and that of Patricia Hill Collins and Moya Bailey. Then I will define what I mean by ‘theory,’ ‘power’ and ‘oppression.’ Next, I will provide a visual exercise to ‘see’ intersectionality in our lives. I do this by drawing train tracks on the board (The Commute of Power and Oppression) where power (and privilege) would be at the top and oppression (and discrimination) would be at the bottom. Both power and oppression are discussed as unearned and composing of both structural and daily inequalities. As to the specific train tracks I would draw ones for ‘Race,’ ‘Gender,’ ‘Class,’ ‘Sexuality,’ ‘Education,’ ‘Age,’ ‘Ability,’ ‘Citizenship,’ ‘Religion’ and others depending on how the workshop goes. For each of the train tracks, I would place groups that hold power at the top and groups that face oppression at the bottom while placing others in the middle. For example, for the ‘Race’ train track, I’d have ‘white’ at the top, ‘indigenous’ at the bottom, and ‘asian’ in the middle. During our discussion, I’d talk about the social construction and history of race and racism in the U.S., how other groups of color fall on the hierarchy and ask each participant to place their train at their particular spot. The exercise asks people to put their train somewhere even if their particular (identity) train spot isn’t on the train track, because that’s how society treats us, by only using a few categories that have little to do with how we actually identify. I would repeat the hierarchy mapping for every train track and ask participants to place their trains on each track. At the end of the workshop, we’d work out where many of our train stops are and how such placements manifest in our daily lives. This portion helps participants see themselves as both marginalized and in positions of power, depending on what social axis is under discussion. Finally, we would discuss how viewing the world through an intersectional lens would help fight inequality in society.

Simone Kolysh

PRESENTER: Simone Kolysh, MPH, M.Phil is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Their dissertation addresses public space interactions at the intersection of gender, sexuality, race, class and space. They are also adjunct professor at Lehman College and Brooklyn College and Quantitative Reasoning Fellow at Kingsborough Community College.