Intersectionality and the History of Psychology
- Alexandra RutherfordAlexandra RutherfordYork University, Department of Psychology
- and Tal DavidsonTal DavidsonYork University, Department of Psychology
As a conceptual and analytic framework, intersectionality has informed, and can transform, how scholars approach psychology and its history. Intersectionality provides a framework for examining how multiple social categories combine in systems characterized by both oppression and privilege to affect the experiences of those occupying the intersections of these social categories. The concept has its origins in the writings of Black feminists and critical race theorists in the 1970s and 1980s. Since that time, many critical debates about the definition, uses, and even misuses of intersectionality have been put forward by scholars in many fields. In psychology, the uptake of intersectionality as a methodological and epistemological framework has been undertaken largely by feminist psychologists. In this context, intersectionality has been used as both a logic for designing research, and as a perspective from which to critique the perpetuation of intersectional oppression latent in mainstream psychological research. In addition, intersectionality has also been applied to writing histories of psychology that attend to the operation of multiple intersecting forms of oppression and privilege. For example, historians of psychology have taken up intersectionality as a way to approach the intersections of scientific racism, sexism, and heterocentrism in the history of psychology’s concepts and theories. Intersectionality also has the potential for generating a more sophisticated historical understanding of social activism by psychologists. Finally, given that extant histories of psychology focusing on the American context have rendered the contributions of women of color largely invisible, intersectional analysis can serve to re-instantiate and foreground their experiences and contributions.