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Gender Research Seminar "Intersectionality: Theory, Concepts, Methods" - 18/19th May, 2017

donderdag, 18 mei, 2017 - 09:30 to vrijdag, 19 mei, 2017 - 17:00
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
to be announced
to be announced
Research Seminar

The Gender Research Seminar is a yearly interdisciplinary course, organized by VUB, UGent and UA, that offers advanced training in research methods in the field of gender and diversity studies. The seminar relates gender to broader issues of diversity, epistemology and questions of (in)equality in power in society, culture and politics from a critical research perspective. In 2016-2017 the seminar will be organized at VUB. This year’s focus is on ‘Intersectionality: Theory, Concepts and Methods’.


Intersectionality refers to the interaction between differentiating social categories such as gender, ‘race’, class, sexual orientation and age which impact upon individual experiences and create hierarchies of power, discrimination and privilege. Students are invited to reflect upon how intersectionality impacts upon key concepts, research design and methodology in their research. How does an intersectionality perspective affect our understanding of social phenomena? How does it change how we define and study our object of inquiry? How can we apply an intersectionality perspective when doing qualitative as well as quantitative research and interpreting data?


The seminar is open to all Doctoral students and Advanced Master students of VUB, UGent and UA in a variety of disciplines (Sociology, Anthropology, Philosophy, Education, Gender and Diversity, Medicine and Health Sciences, Political Sciences …). PhD students can upon completion receive a ‘proof of successful participation’ which can be recognized by their PhD-programme. Master students can apply for registration on an individual basis.

For more information and registration, visit the website of the VUB Doctoral Schools for Human Sciences.


Thursday 18th May:

Morning Lectures:

9.30h: Liza Mügge - Political Ethnography in Mixed Methods Research on Intersectionality

Abstract: One of the main challenges in intersectionality research in the social sciences is selecting the right method or combination of methods. Compared to studies that examine uniform categories (e.g. women) or multiple categories (e.g. women and ethnic minorities), intersectional research questions the fixed categories that guide traditional paradigms and methods. Inspired by real-world contexts, in which for example political identities are formed and contested, intersectionality opens a fuzzy black box in which categories are not pre-defined. How can we do justice to this complexity, while still completing a research project with tangible empirical results based on systematic inquiry? Drawing on my past and ongoing mixed method research on political representation and participation of citizens with a migration background this lecture will demonstrate how political ethnography offers a new avenue to tackle this dilemma. In this lecture, political ethnography is conceived as an approach, rather than a method, that may include both qualitative and quantitative methods. Methods that will be covered are in-depth interviews, content analysis, and participant observation.

Liza Mügge is associate professor at the political science department and director of the Amsterdam Research Center for Gender and Sexuality (ARC-GS) at the UvA.

11.30h: Niels Spierings - From multiple inequalities to intersectional quantitative research and back again

Abstract: At the heart of our current understanding of intersectionality lies the notion of multiple inequalities; the same notion that is at the roots of the most-used quantitative techniques in the social sciences. In this lecture, I will go back to this heart and these roots to stimulate a well-informed discussion of how intersectionality and quantitative research can benefit each other.

Dr Niels Spierings (University of Nijmegen, NL) works on issues of inequality and participation, with particular foci on gender, politics, and Islam.

Afternoon: 3 parallel master classes (14h-17h)

Masterclass 1 – Political ethnography (Liza Mügge)This masterclass is geared at graduate students who are designing or conducting a PhD-project on a political topic in the social sciences. Central in this masterclass are students’ own ongoing or future projects. All students will give a short poster presentation on which they will receive feed-back from the lecturer and fellow students. Students are particularly encouraged to elaborate on the value added of political ethnography in their research design as main method or as part of a mixed method approach.  Students are required to bring a poster size printed version of their poster, which we will put on the wall in the classroom.

Masterclass 2 – Intersectionality (Sirma Bilge)

What does intersectionality mean for your position as a student/researcher and how to apply it in your research? In this master class, students are invited to reflect on the position from which they speak, on their research interests and projects and to share their thoughts on the concept of intersectionality.

Masterclass 3 – Intersectionality & education (Els Consuegra)

Els Consuegra graduated as a Master in Educational Sciences and started working as the Internship and Teacher Professionalisation Coordinator at the Teacher Education Department at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). Currently she is a PhD candidate in the Educational Sciences Department at the VUB and she is working on the project "Teaching in the Bed of Procrustes". This interuniversity project is funded by the Flemish government agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) and is aimed at reducing boys' and girls' drop-out in secondary education. Els is focusing on gender-specific aspects of teacher-student relationships (perception) and interactions (behavior).

Friday 19th May

Morning lectures

9.30h: Lisa Dikomitis – Reflections on ethnography in medicine

Abstract: After conducting many years of ‘classical’ ethnographic fieldwork among refugees on Cyprus, I started field research in hospitals, community medical settings and medical schools in Belgium, England and Cyprus. My collaborations with clinical and biomedical scientists have led to an ongoing dialogue about ethnography and reflections of how different research cultures can clash or merge. I discuss, through some ethnographic vignettes from my own research journey, some of the barriers and facilitators social scientists working in medical research units may face in their engagements with ethnography. I conclude with some suggestions about how the profile of social scientific work in medicine can be raised through an intersectional approach in the collaborations with clinicians.

Lisa Dikomitis is Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Health at Keele University (School of Medicine and Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences).

11.30h: Keynote by Sirma Bilge -“Neoliberalism, Intersectionality and Feminism: The Governmentalizing of Dissenting Knowledges in Research and Teaching”

Abstract:Understanding intersectionality both as a critical power analytics and social justice praxis, this conference addresses a set of issues regarding its depoliticizing within the neoliberal university. Seeking specifically to answer how race gets erased in much of the contemporary (feminist) intersectionality research and teaching, it unpacks our academic practices that contribute to the whitening of this initially insurgent knowledge firmly rooted in black feminist thought and activism, and suggests possible avenues to counter its governmentalizing and reclaim its radical transformative potential.

Sirma Bilge is a tenured Associate Professor of Sociology at Université de Montréal, where she teaches the sociology of ethnicity, nationalism and racism, gender and sexualities, postcolonial theory and cultural studies. Her current work engages with the intersections of social formations of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class, and examines precisely how notions of national/ethnic sameness and otherness articulate themselves through gender and sexual regulation.

Afternoon: 3 parallel master classes (14h-17h)

Masterclass 4 – The challenges of conducting ethnographic fieldwork today (Lisa Dikomitis)

This master class is concerned with the challenges of conducting ethnographic fieldwork today. Particular focus will be on the necessity and possibilities, as well as limitations and problems, of ethnographic practice in different settings. We will discuss how our different positions (in terms of, for instance, class, gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity) inform and impact on doing ethnography. We will discuss your research project and identify who has a stake in your fieldwork and how these can facilitate or challenge your notions and understanding of how to conduct an ethnographic study.

Masterclass 5 – Harmful Cultural Practices (Sawitri Saharso)

The term ‘Harmful cultural practices’ refers to practices that are linked to cultural traditions that supposedly harm the well-being of women (see UN 1995), including practices like female genital cutting/mutilation, forced marriage or honor related violence. The term was coined to express that these practices are not just cultural traditions, but are harmful to women and violating their rights. The term was hence motivated by a sense of global feminist solidarity. Yet, the term is also critiqued on various grounds. It would represent women from the Global South, including migrant women in the Global North, as victims of oppression, devoid of agency and subjectivity; it would suggest that only women in the South suffer from harmful cultural practices, thereby ignoring harmful cultural practices in the West and ignoring boys and young men as victims of traditional practices. Moreover, the term is very condemning, but who has the right to decide what constitutes ‘harm’? If we accept all of this critique, is the term then still a viable concept? To de-emphasize either the gender aspect of harmful cultural practices or their culture-related aspect would potentially render the concept meaningless, so argue Chia Longman and Tamsin Bradley (2015: 17) Some authors believed to have found a solution in a cross-cultural comparative perspective. Yet Carolyn Pedwell (2007) is critical about continuum and analogue approaches.

This raises the question: who has the right to speak and how can we speak about harmful cultural practices while knowing these critiques? Is solidarity across cultural boundaries still possible? And could the concept of intersectionality be of any help here?

 Sawitri Saharso is Professor in Citizenship and Moral Diversity at the University for Humanistic and Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology of the VU University Amsterdam.

Masterclass 6 – Intersectionality & superdiversity (Karel Arnaut)

Karel Arnaut is Associate Professor and Research Coordinator of the Interculturalism, Migration and Minorities Research Centre (IMMRC) here at KULeuven. Previously, he worked at the Department of African Languages and Cultures, Ghent University, and was Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen. His present research focuses on articulations and representations of cultural and linguistic ‘superdiversity’ in migration-driven contexts in European and African urban transnational spaces.

For more information and registration, visit the website of the VUB Doctoral Schools for Human Sciences.

This masterclass is geared at graduate students who are designing or conducting a PhD-project on a political topic in the social sciences.