Positioning as a Point of Departure

What is Intersectionality?

Aspects of identity and lived experience are often interrelated, or "intersectional," such that individuals or groups may experience overlapping areas of discrimination or disadvantage. For example, an individual might identify as queer, as a person of colour, and as differently abled. The term was coined by UCLA and Columbia Law School Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in her 1989 article "Demarginalizing the Intersection between Race and Sex" in the University of Chicago Legal From. Crenshaw problematized the "single-axis framework" which conceptualizes race and gender discrimination happening in "mutually exclusive categories" and negates the "multidimensionality of Black women's experiences" (p. 139).

This 'multidimensionality' was interpreted in visual form by educator and sketchnoter, Sylvia Duckworth.

In the graphic above, Sylvia Duckworth uses a Spirograph to illustrate the multitude of ways that social identities might intersect. The Spirograph is split into 12 overlapping circles, each numbered, connected to a specific social identity, and assigned a unique colour. To illustrate the intersections of the different social identities, where each circle intersects, a new shade of the original colour is visible (as would happen when mixing paint colours together). At a glance the graphic shows all colours of the rainbow in different shades. The 12 social identities listed are: race, ethnicity, gender identity, class, language, religion, ability, sexuality, mental health, age, education, and body size. A quote from Kimberlé Crenshaw appears beneath the spirograph that reads “Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it locks and intersects. It is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and privilege.”

Graphic and image description used with permission from Sylvia Duckworth. 

Related Resources

Intersectionality & Positionality

The multiple identities that shape our experiences and relationships are part of our sense of positionality -- how each of us is situated in the world and how this influences perception, assumptions, and interactions -- whether the dynamics of teaching and learning or in day-to-day navigation of the varied spaces at UTSC.

Darla Benton Kearney, Teaching and Learning Consultant for UDL at Mohawk College identifies several factors shaping our understanding of positionality. They take into consideration "values, views, and location in time and space that influence how one engages with and understands the world... what knowledge you produce and value, and the biases through which everything you say, think, and do, is filtered intentionally or otherwise" (Kearney, 2022). 

Related Resources

Starting Points for Teaching: Critical Reflection 

The Working Circle report recognizes that "equity-based, anti-racist, and anti-colonial work is messy, hard, and uncomfortable" (p. 5). The degree of discomfort may vary from person to person, acknowledging differences based on lived experiences and identity, familiarity, and comfort with EDI approaches related to curriculum and pedagogy. In all cases, a level of humility is required, recognizing that the work of the curriculum review necessitates a collective commitment to learning and critical reflection about the histories and knowledge hierarchies that have shared specific disciplines. Self-reflection is a form of learning where questions are posed, biases are challenged, and alternative approaches to teaching are imagined (Ash and Clayton, 2009, p.27; Baptiste-Brady, 2020, p. 186).

The materials gathered in this section and across the resource hub have been curated to help facilitate critical reflection alongside tangible tools that can help support pedagogical and curricular development and create a greater sense of belonging for our students at UTSC.

Office of Vice-Principal Academic & Dean (OVPD) Self-Reflection Tools

The EDI Learning Opportunity Reflection Tool and EDI Learning Opportunity Reflection Tracker were developed in 2023 by Shelley Eisner, Katherine Shwetz, and Andrew Situ as part of ongoing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) work in the OVPD at UTSC.

The tools are designed to be used together and are private documents that may be downloaded to your computer. The tracker is intended to provide you with a birds-eye view of your learnings, helping you reflect on the trajectory and focus of your EDI journey. The reflection tool is intended to support you in processing individual learning opportunities and provide you with opportunities to reflect in nuanced and specific ways about what you learn. These documents are designed to be supportive, not burdensome; you are encouraged to make these files work for you by using, changing, or transforming the documents until they meet your priorities. Related Reading: Strategies and Tools to Cultivate a Reflective Practice Workbook, developed by the Teaching Assistants' Training Program, Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, University of Toronto, and available through eCampusOntario.

Related Resources
  • "Guiding Questions for Institutional Resources" was developed by the Sub-Circle on Institutional Resources and Related Supports as part of the curriculum review process. It is included in Appendix A in the Working Circle report to assist in developing or revising resources (pp.86-88). Related Reading: Teaching Sensitive Materials, created by UTSC's Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) includes a set of guiding questions to support syllabus development with a focus on students' diverse knowledges and experiences.
  • Kahérakwas Donna Goodleaf is the Director of Decolonizing Curriculum and Pedagogy in the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Concordia University . In a video on the Indigenous Decolonization Hub, Goodleaf explains her process of "working with faculty in deconstructing and applying principles of Indigenous Decolonization to course design, curriculum, and pedagogical practices." Donna Goodleaf discusses the importance of faculty being engaged and reflective in the choices with course design and how this impacts student learning. 
  • "The 5 Rs of Cultural Humility: A Conceptual Model for Health Care Leaders" (2020) by Dea Robinson et al. in The American Journal of Medicine offers an important example of how leaders, regardless of institutional setting, can address and interrupt implicit bias and address organizational culture by using the "5 Rs of Cultural Humility (5 Rs: Reflection, Respect, Regard, Relevance, Resiliency)" (p.161). The authors suggest that a shift toward cultural humility happens "... when leaders cognitively couple the 5 Rs with thinking and feeling and are seen applying this coupling in action through daily interactions..." (p.161).
  • "Why is Self-Reflection Core to Decolonisation and Anti-Racism in the Academy?"(2023) was created in partnership with Simon Fraser University by multiple authors in the Times Higher Education online magazine. Related Reading: "Strategies for Antiracist and Decolonized Teaching" (2021) by Anamika Twyman-Ghoshal and Daniele Carkin Lacorazza
  • Guides for developing inclusive syllabi and creating welcoming and respectful classroom spaces are available in the FAQ section on the Welcome page. Related Reading: Self-directed EDI modules and models of inclusive teaching practices 
  • Education Developers at UTSC's CTL offer consultations to support your understanding and implementation of the material referenced and explored within the hub.
    • Nicola Dove is the Anti-racist Pedagogies Educational Developer in the Centre for Teaching and Learning. Nicola developed the Anti-Racist Pedagogy module which provides resources and guidance for integrating anti-racist curriculum and pedagogical approaches.   
    • Cheryl Lepard is the Universal Design for Learning Educational Developer in the Centre for Teaching and Learning. Cheryl developed the Universal Design for Learning: Accessibility by Design module looking at the pedagogical approach that supports accessible course design and creating a learning environment to reach as many learners as possible. 
  • "Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education" (2017) by Ozlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo
The resources and materials in the resource hub support the commitment to inclusive excellence and institutional change at UTSC. This work is exciting and important and at times, difficult. When needed, please take the time and space for self-care, recognizing that support mechanisms and resources are available at the university. The Employee and Family Assistance Program is available for librarians, faculty, and staff for short-term counselling. In addition, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office has office hours to discuss collaborative work options to facilitate your learning, alongside tangible tools that can help support pedagogical and curricular development and create a greater sense of belonging for our students at UTSC.

Thinking about Intersectionality & Positionality

  • Feminist Killjoys, a blog created by feminist writer and independent scholar Sara Ahmed, whose work lies at the intersection of feminist, queer, and race studies. Ahmed's work considers "how bodies and worlds take shape; and how power is secured and challenged in everyday life worlds as well as institutional cultures." Her 2012 book, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life explores the complexities and tensions associated with the term "diversity" in the university. 
  • Surviving in the Hour of Darkness:  The Health and Wellness of Women of Colour and Indigenous Women (2005), edited by G. Sophie Harding, is a groundbreaking anthology that argues that "health care workers cannot begin to solve the problems associated with achieving wellness for Women of Colour and Indigenous Women without an extensive dialogue with the women they are treating" (p. xvii). The book is organized into two sections which examine: 1. The systemic barriers impacting health and wellness, and 2. A collection of thoughts and expressions from Indigenous and Women of Colour coping with illness.