The Intersecting Invisible Experiences of Gypsy/Traveller Girls in Scotland
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Marcus, G. (2016) The Intersecting Invisible Experiences of Gypsy/Traveller Girls in Scotland. In: Black Feminism, Womanism and the Politics of Women of Colour in Europe, University of Edinburgh, 3 September 2016.
There has long been interest both politically and theoretically in exploring the complex relations between identity, hierarchical power and subordination. Intersectional approaches to social locations have stressed the interdependence between different kinds of divisions as well as the tensions and contradictions within and across these social categories. In this paper, I will argue that traditional unidimensional approaches to investigating experiences of oppression and subordination, particularly within marginalized communities, are inadequate. Critically exploring the complexity of such issues through a single lens – race, gender or class, for example, is likely to produce simplistic and skewed findings. Intersectionality is not just good research practice or a necessary heuristic device for understanding issues of power and inequality, but is increasingly viewed as a research paradigm in its own right. Drawing on the work of several key proponents of this methodological approach (Anthias, 2013; Brah & Phoenix, 2004; Collins, 2000; Crenshaw, 1991; Davis, 2008; Yuval-Davis, 2006), I propose that an intersectional framework is ideally placed to critically explore such experiences, using empirical examples from a series of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with Scottish Gypsy/Traveller girls. Their stories are highlighted and juxtaposed alongside the general problems encountered by Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland and reveal an intricate, convoluted narrative. The paper also problematizes what it means to be ‘white’, and to be a ‘white woman’ living within ‘simultaneously interlocking oppressions’ that collectively serve to marginalise and silence lives (Brah and Phoenix, 2004; Combahee River Collective, 1977; hooks, 1981). Equally, discrepancies in levels of empowerment, public participation, media representations and respect for ethnicity are experienced at these intersections.