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Exploring the Promises of Intersectionality for Advancing Women's Health Research

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Women’s health research strives to make change. It seeks to produce knowledge that promotes action on the varietyof factors that affect women’s lives and their health. As part of this general movement, important strides havebeen made to raise awareness of the health effects of sex and gender. The resultant base of knowledge has beenused to inform health research, policy, and practice. Increasingly, however, the need to pay better attention to theinequities among women that are caused by racism, colonialism, ethnocentrism, heterosexism, and able-bodism, isconfronting feminist health researchers and activists. Researchers are seeking new conceptual frameworks that cantransform the design of research to produce knowledge that captures how systems of discrimination or subordinationoverlap and “articulate” with one another. An emerging paradigm for women’s health research is intersectionality.Intersectionality places an explicit focus on differences among groups and seeks to illuminate variousinteracting social factors that affect human lives, including social locations, health status, and quality of life. Thispaper will draw on recently emerging intersectionality research in the Canadian women’s health context in orderto explore the promises and practical challenges of the processes involved in applying an intersectionality paradigm.We begin with a brief overview of why the need for an intersectionality approach has emerged within thecontext of women’s health research and introduce current thinking about how intersectionality can inform andtransform health research more broadly. We then highlight novel Canadian research that is grappling with thechallenges in addressing issues of difference and diversity. In the analysis of these examples, we focus on a largelyuninvestigated aspect of intersectionality research - the challenges involved in the process of initiating and developingsuch projects and, in particular, the meaning and significance of social locations for researchers and participantswho utilize an intersectionality approach. The examples highlighted in the paper represent important shiftsin the health field, demonstrating the potential of intersectionality for examining the social context of women’slives, as well as developing methods which elucidate power, create new knowledge, and have the potential toinform appropriate action to bring about positive social change.
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Hankivsky et al. International Journal for Equity in Health 2010, 9:5
Publication title
International Journal for Equity in Health
Document title
Exploring the Promises of Intersectionality for Advancing Women's Health Research
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