New York, Oct. 12, 2011—Columbia Law School has established the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies to examine how social structures and related identity categories such as gender, race, and class interact on multiple levels to create social inequality. The Center will be the first of its kind in the nation.
Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who first advanced the term “intersectionality” in 1989, will direct the Center. As Crenshaw posited in her seminal work “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex,” legal and political systems often work to “obscure claims that cannot be understood as resulting from discrete sources of discrimination.” The new Center is dedicated to the task of revealing and combating the overlapping dynamics of discrimination that are often missed by one-dimensional conceptions of equal opportunity law and practice.
Crenshaw is joined in this endeavor by Beth Ribet, J.D., Ph.D., the Center’s new research director. According to Ribet, “Although the concept of intersectionality has proliferated across disciplines and borders over the past two decades, some of its potential remains under-realized. The Center will advance research that helps to drive policy and generate systemic change.”
The Center’s mission includes facilitating intellectual dialogue between innovative intersectionality scholars, developing cross-disciplinary research networks, and integrating intersectional research and analysis into policy debates and social justice advocacy. With a core objective of growing the research field as well as practical applications, the Center will host researchers, policy-makers, and advocates seeking to develop projects and interventions pertaining to intersectionality. The Center welcomes fellows from the United States and abroad.
The Center’s existing projects focus on race, gender, and incarceration; substandard education and low-wage work; race, sexuality, and masculinities; and the generation of new disabilities and illnesses among communities of color.
Crenshaw has written widely on civil rights; black feminist legal theory; and race, racism, and the law. Her work has appeared in numerous academic journals such as the Harvard Law Review and the Stanford Law Journal, as well as in mainstream news outlets, including Ms. magazine and TheNation.
In the early 1990s, Crenshaw served on the legal team representing Anita Hill, and in 1996, she co-founded the African American Policy Forum, which seeks to highlight the centrality of gender in racial justice discourse. In 2001 she authored the background paper on Race and Gender Discrimination for the United Nation’s World Conference against Racism, and served as the rapporteur for the Expert Group on Race and Gender. She has also held the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Latin America.
As one of the Center’s inaugural events, renowned feminist legal theorist Catharine A. MacKinnon will speak about the influence of intersectionality on her scholarship and analysis, in a talk titled “Intersectionality as Method.” The event, which is open to the public, will take place today at 6:30 p.m., at the Law School’s William and June Warren Hall.
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