Grounded Intersectionality: Key Tensions, a Methodological Framework, and Implications for Diversity Research

Mikkel Mouritz Marfelt

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to build on contemporary intersectional literature to develop a grounded methodological framework for the study of social differences. Design/methodology/approach – A systematic literature review serves as the foundation for a discussion of the challenges associated with intersectional research. The findings assist in positioning the proposed methodological framework within recent intersectional debates. Findings – The review shows a rise in intersectional publications since the birth of the “intersectionality” term in 1989. Moreover, the paper points to four tensions within the field: a tension between looking at or beyond oppression; a tension between structural-oriented and process-oriented perspectives; an apparent incommensurability among the macro, meso, and micro levels of analysis; and a lack of coherent methodology. Research limitations/implications – On the basis of the highlighted tensions in contemporary research as well as the limitations of that research, the present presents a methodological framework and a discussion of the implications of that framework for the wider diversity literature. Practical implications – The paper suggests an empirically grounded approach to studying differences. This provides an opportunity, for scholars and practitioners, to reassess possible a priori given assumptions, and open up to new explorations beyond conventional identity theorization. Social implications – The paper suggests a need for an empirically grounded approach to studying social differences, which would not only create an opportunity to reassess common assumptions but also open up for explorations beyond conventional identity theorizations. Originality/value – The framework departs from traditional (critical) diversity scholarship, as it is process oriented but still emphasizes stable concepts. Moreover, it does not give primacy to oppression. Finally, it adopts a critical stance on the nature of the macro, meso, and micro levels as dominant analytical perspectives. As a result, this paper focusses on the importance of intersectionality as a conceptual tool for exploring social differences
Original languageEnglish
JournalEquality, Diversity and Inclusion
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)31-47
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Cite this