"You cannot take it with you": Reflections on intersectionality and social work





Intersectionality, mana w?hine, feminism, decolonisation, oppression


This article presents a brief commentary on intersectionality and social work with a particular focus on Aotearoa, New Zealand. It begins with an examination of the genealogy of intersectionality through an acknowledgement that the concept has a longer lineage than the name. This foray into genealogy underscores the point that meticulous citational practice is a key component of good intersectional practice. Definitional challenges are briefly addressed, and the idea that theory and praxis are intimately connected is explored. Following this intersectionality is discussed in the context of ‘mana wāhine’ and recent developments in intersectionality in Aotearoa New Zealand. Finally, there is a discussion of why intersectionality is needed in social work with examples drawn from reflective practice and child protection in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Author Biography

Eileen Joy, University of Auckland

PhD Student.


Auckland Pride Board, (2018, November). Auckland Pride Board confirms position on police uniforms in parade. Retrieved from: https://aucklandpride.org.nz/media-centre/auckland-pride-board-confirms-position-on-police-uniforms-in-parade/

Cho, S., Crenshaw, K. W., & McCall, L. (2013). Toward a field of intersectionality studies: Theory, applications, and praxis. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 38(4), 785-810.

Clark, J. (2018, July 23). Equality, presupposes that we should all be equal, but in fact, none of us really ever are. Manukau Courier. Retrieved from: https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/manukau-courier/105673174/jackie-clark-equality-presupposes-that-we-should-all-be-equal-but-in-fact-none-of-us-really-ever-are

Collins, P. H. (2013). On intellectual activism. Philadelphia, United States: Temple University Press.

Collins, P. H. (2015). Intersectionality's definitional dilemmas. Annual Review of Sociology, 41(1), 1-20.

Collins, P. H., & Bilge, S. (2016). Intersectionality. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Polity Press.

Collins, P. H., & Chepp, V. (2013). Intersectionality. In G. Waylen, K. Celis, J. Kantola & S. L. Weldon (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of gender and politics (pp. 1-34). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989(1), 139-167.

Haraway, D. (1988). Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies, 14(3), 575-599.

Keddell, E. & Hyslop, I. (2019). Ethnic inequalities in child welfare: The role of practitioner risk perceptions. Child & Family Social Work, https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12620

Mattsson, T. (2014). Intersectionality as a useful tool: Anti-oppressive social work and critical reflection. Affilia, 29(1), 8-17.

May, V. M. (2015). Pursuing intersectionality, unsettling dominant imaginaries. New York, United States: Routledge.

McCall, L. (2005). The complexity of intersectionality. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 30(3), 1771-1800.

Mehrotra, G. (2010). Toward a continuum of intersectionality theorizing for feminist social work scholarship. Affilia, 25(4), 417-430.

Moradi, B., & Grzanka, P. R. (2017). Using intersectionality responsibly: Toward critical epistemology, structural analysis, and social justice activism. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64(5), 500-513.

Moyle, P., & Tauri, J. M. (2016). Māori, family group conferencing and the mystifications of restorative justice. Victims & Offenders, 11(1), 87-106.

Murphy, L. (2017). Intersectional feminisms: Reflections on theory and activism in Sara Ahmed's living a feminist life (2017). Women's Studies Journal, 31(2), 4-17.

Murphy, Y., Hamilton, L., Hunt, V. H., Norris, A. N., & Zajicek, A. M. (2009). Incorporating intersectionality in social work practice, research, policy, and education. Washington DC, United States: NASW Press, National Association of Social Workers.

Nayak, S., Montenegro, M., & Pujol, J. (2019). Conclusion: Contextual intersectionality: A conversation. In S. Nayak, & R. Robbins (Eds.), Intersectionality in social work: Activism and practice in context (pp. 230-250). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Nayak S., & Robbins R. (2019). Intersectionality in social work: Activism and practice in context. New York, United States: Routledge.

Schuster, J. (2016). Intersectional expectations: Young feminists’ perceived failure at dealing with differences and their retreat to individualism. Women’s Studies International Forum, 58, 1-8.

Shimmin, G. (2018, December 7). Appreciating the value of shutting up and listening. Timaru Herald. Retrieved from: https://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/opinion/109178573/appreciating-the-value-of-shutting-up-and-listening

Simmonds, N. (2011). Mana wahine: Decolonising politics. Women’s Studies Journal, 25(2), 11-25.

Te Awekotuku, N. (1991). Mana wahine Māori: Selected writings on Māori women’s art, culture and politics. Auckland, New Zealand: New Women’s Press.

Ware, F., Breheny, M., & Forster, M. E. (2017). Reproducing the precarious position of young Māori mothers in Aotearoa New Zealand. In S. Groot, N. Tassell-Matamua, C. Van Ommen & B. Masters-Awatere (Eds.), Precarity: Uncertain, insecure and unequal lives in Aotearoa New Zealand (pp. 136-146). Palmerston North, New Zealand: Massey University Press.




How to Cite

Joy, E. (2019). "You cannot take it with you": Reflections on intersectionality and social work. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 31(1), 42–48. https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol31iss1id560