Authors Name: 
Sarah McKenna
University: 
Queen's University Belfast
Award winner

A Shifting Lens": How intersectionality facilitates an understanding of the dynamics and structures of inequality in contemporary society.

Socio-political research has been accused of institutionalising intersectionality, creating an analytical hegemony which occludes consideration of other methodologies, or lazy shorthand that replaces true intersectional labour.
This essay contends that, whilst it is important not to allow intersectionality to blinker analysis, it is a valuable tool for examining multiple inequalities.

It considers the nature, development and application of intersectionality, discussing Crenshaws argument that placing discrimination into discrete categories erases the experience of the multiply-burdened, resulting in one discrimination analysis replicating and reinforcing other discriminations.

It then considers education and health inequalities in the UK (with Northern Ireland as a focal point), and the cross-pollination effect they have on each other. Socio-economic status, class, gender and ethnicity are used to explore the complexity of intersecting inequalities. Using examples such as the impact of teenage pregnancy on health, education and employment outcomes, the modifying effects of socio-economic status, gender and ethnicity on GCSE results, the failure of female educational attainment to translate into economic and career dominance, and differential barriers to good health, it is argued that intersectional inequalities not only amplify, but modify experiences and outcomes.

Green-space access is used as a case study to bring these strands together. It is argued that green-space access, quantity and quality are unequable, particularly in urban areas, being heavily influenced by a neighbourhood's socio-economic status, and that the impact of ethnicity, gender and class on education and health, and thus economic status, influences the neighbourhood in which one lives. It is argued that different groups face multiple and often overlapping barriers to access in addition to socio-economic status, and have differing physical health needs and psychological responses to green-space or its absence. All of these factors, independently or in combination, modify experience of and outcome from green-space, illustrating intersectional effect.