Research Topic

Intersectional inequalities in work and employment: Advances, challenges and renewed possibilities

About this Research Topic

Inequalities are at the centre of individual experiences of social and economic life, playing a role in sustaining power relations that shape the dynamics of work and employment. Intersectionality has been used to understand and explain how the combination of social categories of difference that form a person’s social and political identities create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination, disadvantage and privilege.

Despite the fundamental contribution of intersectionality to the understanding of the complexity of interlocked systems of disadvantage and privilege, there is talk of intersectionality having run its course and no longer having conceptual, theoretical and empirical relevance. Some allude to a post-intersectionality turn, which critiques intersectionality’s apparent inability to deal with multiple social positions and partially privileged identities. Furthermore, the post-intersectionality turn has been reinforced by the particularities and challenges of the present socio-cultural and political moment, characterised by post-racial, post-identitarian discourses that undermine intersectionalities and implications.

Intersectional inequalities continue to be an unresolved theoretical, empirical and practical problem in work and employment. Despite significant advances in our understanding of what intersectionality is and its potential to challenge interlocking systems of power, the strength of its theoretical foundations to explain social categorical privilege and disadvantage remains stronger than its empirical and practical uses to enact transformational change that positively impacts disadvantaged and marginalised groups. In the context of new, emerging and re-configured inequalities affecting workers, workforces, workplaces and the future of work, it is important to re-visit intersectionality and how its relationship with these new forms of inequalities, such as those related to digital transformation, work gigification, etc.

A universalising rhetoric in discussions about inequalities (e.g. “the pandemic does not discriminate”) would support the argument that intersectionality may no longer be needed. This also finds support in efforts to undermine, co-opt and whitewash intersectional approaches. All of this is reinforced by un-reflexive intersectional work that whilst focusing on oppression, seems to want to move on from its racialised nature. The result is what we could term ‘colour-blind intersectionality’ that universalises experiences of precariousness and disadvantage and mutes the experiences of Black people and people of colour in ways that minimize their continuing subjugation and marginalization in work, employment and organisations.

This significant void in discussions about inequalities calls for the theoretical and empirical re-claiming of intersectionality not just to counter the pushback it is experiencing but, more importantly, to identify ways in which the evolving features of work and employment create and reinforce intersectional inequalities (e.g. through digital transformation and the adoption of technologies and changes to the physical organisation, structure and distribution of work, workers and workforces).

This Research Topic invites theoretical and empirical contributions that engage in discussions related to the following questions (this list is not exhaustive):

• How do we do ‘intersectionality’ within a post-identitarian, dis-identity or identity-sceptical theoretical milieu whilst maintaining its possibilities for exposing racism, patriarchy, heterosexism, ableism and classism and challenging oppressive power and privilege in work and employment?

• How can we use intersectionality (as a framework, theory and/or methodological tool) to tackle existing inequalities within work and employment?

• How can we use intersectional scholarship to tackle inequalities in work and employment emerging from digital transformation, use of technology and data analytics?

• What insights can we take from intersectional analysis to support and develop equitable and sustainable futures for workers and workplaces?


Keywords: Inequalities, Intersectionality, Racial inequality, Racism, Work, Employment, Future of work


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Inequalities are at the centre of individual experiences of social and economic life, playing a role in sustaining power relations that shape the dynamics of work and employment. Intersectionality has been used to understand and explain how the combination of social categories of difference that form a person’s social and political identities create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination, disadvantage and privilege.

Despite the fundamental contribution of intersectionality to the understanding of the complexity of interlocked systems of disadvantage and privilege, there is talk of intersectionality having run its course and no longer having conceptual, theoretical and empirical relevance. Some allude to a post-intersectionality turn, which critiques intersectionality’s apparent inability to deal with multiple social positions and partially privileged identities. Furthermore, the post-intersectionality turn has been reinforced by the particularities and challenges of the present socio-cultural and political moment, characterised by post-racial, post-identitarian discourses that undermine intersectionalities and implications.

Intersectional inequalities continue to be an unresolved theoretical, empirical and practical problem in work and employment. Despite significant advances in our understanding of what intersectionality is and its potential to challenge interlocking systems of power, the strength of its theoretical foundations to explain social categorical privilege and disadvantage remains stronger than its empirical and practical uses to enact transformational change that positively impacts disadvantaged and marginalised groups. In the context of new, emerging and re-configured inequalities affecting workers, workforces, workplaces and the future of work, it is important to re-visit intersectionality and how its relationship with these new forms of inequalities, such as those related to digital transformation, work gigification, etc.

A universalising rhetoric in discussions about inequalities (e.g. “the pandemic does not discriminate”) would support the argument that intersectionality may no longer be needed. This also finds support in efforts to undermine, co-opt and whitewash intersectional approaches. All of this is reinforced by un-reflexive intersectional work that whilst focusing on oppression, seems to want to move on from its racialised nature. The result is what we could term ‘colour-blind intersectionality’ that universalises experiences of precariousness and disadvantage and mutes the experiences of Black people and people of colour in ways that minimize their continuing subjugation and marginalization in work, employment and organisations.

This significant void in discussions about inequalities calls for the theoretical and empirical re-claiming of intersectionality not just to counter the pushback it is experiencing but, more importantly, to identify ways in which the evolving features of work and employment create and reinforce intersectional inequalities (e.g. through digital transformation and the adoption of technologies and changes to the physical organisation, structure and distribution of work, workers and workforces).

This Research Topic invites theoretical and empirical contributions that engage in discussions related to the following questions (this list is not exhaustive):

• How do we do ‘intersectionality’ within a post-identitarian, dis-identity or identity-sceptical theoretical milieu whilst maintaining its possibilities for exposing racism, patriarchy, heterosexism, ableism and classism and challenging oppressive power and privilege in work and employment?

• How can we use intersectionality (as a framework, theory and/or methodological tool) to tackle existing inequalities within work and employment?

• How can we use intersectional scholarship to tackle inequalities in work and employment emerging from digital transformation, use of technology and data analytics?

• What insights can we take from intersectional analysis to support and develop equitable and sustainable futures for workers and workplaces?


Keywords: Inequalities, Intersectionality, Racial inequality, Racism, Work, Employment, Future of work


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2021 Abstract
31 October 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2021 Abstract
31 October 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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