Communication and Identities in Institutional Arenas - Part I/Staunaes, Dorthe (2003): Where have all the subjects gone? Bringing the concepts of intersectionality and subjectification, s. 101-110, 9 s. NORA Volume 11 (2)

Summary and short reflections on Dorthe Staunaes's Where have all the subjects gone? Bringing together the concepts of intersectionality and subjectification edit

This article deals with intersectionality from the perspective of subjectification and suggests a reworking of the concept. Based on empirical studies of ethnic and gendered subjectification in a Danish school context, Staunaes attempts to connect the group perspective of intersectionality to the individual perspective of subjectification processes.

In the article there is a strong focus on intersectionality at a subject level, focusing on the lived experiences of concrete subjects. In a post-structural and socioconstructional manner, Staunaes begins by defining intersectionality as a process of “doing” and claims that this doing needs to be analysed in situ, “where concrete intersections, hierarchies and elaboration are not predetermined” (p.102) Based on her PhD project on ethnicity and gender in school lives, Staunaes discusses how different doings of intersectionality co-constitute subject positions that can be either “troublesome” or “untroublesome”. She also emphasizes an important shift of focus from identity politics to the complexity of lived experience.

I welcome Staunaes’s contribution as throughout my reading of texts dealing with intersectionality I have increasingly wondered whether or not an intersectional analysis always has to be a group analysis, a process that in itself easily hides the individual subjectified perspectives. Bringing in the Focauldian notion of subjectification as the human being as both an active subject and being subject to contextual conditions, reminds us of the active engagements of people in their own lives.

In the later part of her article, Staunaes lists some demands for the inclusion of intersectionality as an analytically useful concept on a subject level. She points out, for instance, that the any category needs to be dealt with as majority-inclusive, meaning that social categories are not only relevant for minorities or “the Others”. Another point made here has to do with working with a non-additional approach, meaning that one needs to study what kind of difference a difference makes for an individual, instead of just adding categories on top of each other.

“Doing” intersectionality is thus doing the relations between categories, the outcome of this doing and how this doing places people in different subject positions, Staunaes concludes. The final part of the paper presents a dialogue between the above discussed concepts and empirical material; interviews with two preadolescent boys in a multiethnic school in Denmark. The empirical examples show how the doing of gendered and ethnic identities results in creating of two different “collectives of subjectivities”; “Danes” and “Turks”, a process where doing of masculinity plays a significant role.