A good understanding of the history and origin of intersectionality helps to devise a possible implementation within GCE, which is the focus of this section. In order to do so, important characteristics of intersectionality will be related to the GCE framework as it was developed by UNESCO (2015), thereafter groundwork will be discussed that is essential for any pedagogy based on CRT. A large part of this section will show how intersectionality concretizes GCE in order to make a critical application feasible for practitioners. The overall aim of intersectional GCE would be to expose and examine the global interconnectedness of systems of oppression based on contextualized analytical categories.
The link between intersectionality and GCE is unequivocal on the basis of Paulo Freire’s work. UNESCO (2015) takes inspiration from Paulo Freire’s seminal work “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”; their framework aspires to be transformative by encouraging reflections based upon examinations of power structures eventually leading to action. Hill Collins and Bilge [22
] explicitly labeled Freire’s work as intersectional, since the oppressed can include everyone whose experience is determined by experiencing intersecting oppressions on the bases of class, race, ethnicity, age, religion, and citizenship. Furthermore, Hill Collins and Bilge [22
] explicitly linked Freire’s pedagogy with intersectionality, for the reason that students develop conscientização
through dialogues of differences, aiming to produce knowledge that empowers the personal and collective. Intersectionality as well aims to empower by negotiating differences in order to build coalitions out of consensus and contestation. This, according Hill Collins and Bilge [22
], then should be an important element of citizenship education: Providing students with structures through which they can share ideas and work through their differences for the benefit of the common good. Thus, intersectionality and GCE are essentially already linked, but this can be made more obvious.
In its core, GCE is about unifying within diversity on a local and global level; in order to make this sensible, three domains of learning were created: Knowledge, attitudes, and action. The cognitive domain focusses on the acquisition of knowledge and skills, the socio-emotional domain is about developing attitudes and values related to citizenship, while the behavioral domain defines acts that can be expected of citizens. Figure 1
shows the by UNESCO developed learning outcomes and topics.
The guideline provided by UNESCO gives a sense of direction for policymakers and educators regarding the intention and aim of GCE. The guidance can be considered quite vague, hence such various interpretations of GCE exist. By incorporating intersectionality within this framework, the outcomes, topics, and attitudes can be made more concrete and possible to live up to its transformative potential.
6.1. The Importance of Culturally Relevant Education for Any Critical Pedagogy
Before conceptualizing the concrete interpretation of intersectional GCE, foundational elements of such a pedagogy need to be addressed since it requires sociopolitical consciousness and critical reflections of practitioners. Intersectionality, as an academic term, is derived from CRT, as is Culturally Relevant Education (CRE). This approach to teaching and learning promotes students’ cultural background to be acknowledged at school, as a way to negate covert racist practices in education. Ladson-Billings [33
] formulated a clear definition of such pedagogy with three pillars: (1) Academic success; (2) cultural competence; (3) critical consciousness. CRE puts at the center that our systems of beliefs, values, standards, and worldviews determine how we think, believe, and communicate. Education, both learning and teaching, is influenced by these dynamics, and therefore can never be considered culturally neutral [34
. Hence practitioners need to engage is a critical self-reflection to understand how these structures affect learning and teaching in their context. Similar dispositions are necessary for intersectional GCE, since it is based on the principle that dominant groups in society oppress those living on the margins, which includes through knowledge institutions like schools and universities.
It is, therefore, important to highlight that intersectional GCE cannot be considered neutral. Ross [35
] explained clearly that the idea of neutrality in education is an illusion. Neutrality, Ross argued, is not objectivity; it can also indicate an ignorance of the issue. The aim of intersectionality is to advocate for social change by dismantling oppressive structures that cause inequality. This means that the current society is perceived as in need of restructuring. Freire [36
] articulated this idea that the aim of education is for people to liberate themselves from the oppressive status quo. Structures that currently create and uphold inequalities in continental Europe can arguably be summarized in three interconnected systems on a local and global level: White supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy [37
]. These are the power structures in society that students are interacting with on a daily basis, which Ladson-Billings [38
] called “the hidden curriculum” (p. 4). Without a critical application of GCE, the official curriculum taught at schools will only reinforce the hidden societal curriculum. Hence, one can argue that any critical approach to GCE needs to challenge those hidden power structures.
In order to do so, practitioners have to develop their sociocultural consciousness. This means to acknowledge that not all differences are equal, as some differences provide power and status in society. These critical explorations and reflections are necessary to make educators realize how their understanding of the world is shaped by their social and cultural group. Thus, their experience of the world is not the same as for people who differ on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, social class, and language [39
]. Intersectional GCE explicitly focusses on sensitive topics, like racism, sexism, and classism in order to challenge the current hegemonies. Therefore, educators have to be aware of their own privileges and complicity in a such a world order. Research has shown the importance of teachers’ awareness about their own identities and beliefs when teaching sensitive and/or controversial topics [40
]. Thus, when approaching GCE from an intersectional framework, the way in which the educator reflected on their positionality is detrimental for the eventual delivery.
Furthermore, pedagogy is not only about the context or content, but also includes the method of teaching. When preparing students to be active and engaged citizens, it is important not to enforce a dominator model of education. This, according to bell hooks [37
], would lead to a promotion of authoritarianism along with a focus on accountability, employment, and competition. Intersectionality is about exposing structural oppression in order to challenge them, thus teaching intersectional GCE should not reinforce the oppressive structures of authoritarianism, competition, and accountability. As such, hooks advocated for “radical openness” so the exchange of ideas can take place while kindling a willingness to explore different perspectives [41
]. For a compelling enactment of intersectional GCE, a community of radical openness and care is needed, hereby practitioners might make their teaching also an act of resistance.
Lastly, intersectional GCE is about resilience and transcendence, even though it examines oppression and hegemony. Transformative education aims to liberate by developing a critical consciousness. However, one needs to be wary to represent those oppressed as victims or powerless. Without “romanticizing” the experiences of those on the margins of society [19
] (p. 8), intersectionality can also be observed in resilience and resistance. Gay [42
] appeals educators to view intersectionality in a positive manner, without ignoring the negatives, by focusing on how marginalized people navigate through their exploitation and oppression. Hence, opportunities should be created to emphasize resistance, resilience, and transcendence in an intersectional framework of GCE.
6.2. To Know
The first domain, in the GCE framework designed by UNESCO (2015), is cognitive, which is perceived in this paper as the acquisition of knowledge and gaining understanding. Intersectional GCE, therefore, entails having knowledge and understanding about the economical, historical, and political structures that created categories which are beneficial for some and oppressive to others. Even though Freire [36
] criticized the role of the teacher as authoritarian figures filling students with knowledge as if they were ‘empty vessels’, also known as the ‘banking’ concept of education (p. 79), he did emphasis the importance for students to be involved in the process through which knowledge is produced. As such, Freire suggested a problem-posing education, which would be a dialogue between the students’ everyday experience and teachers’ theoretical knowledge about the discipline [43
]. Thus, knowledge and understanding, about historical, economical, and political structures, are essential for intersectional global citizenship. This knowledge would encourage students to dig below the surface and “capture the underlying forces which are at work, that these forces might now always be active or visible, that everyday experience is not always the best guide to understanding the structures that impact our lives” [44
] (p. 12). Therefore, an intersectional interpretation of GCE would embrace obtaining knowledge that builds upon the everyday experience in order to develop an intersectional understanding of global citizenship.
This knowledge and understanding of the world through an intersectional lens can be considered intersectional literacy. Hill Collins and Bilge [22
] interpret literacy as a much broader term, thus not only the ability to write and read, but the “skills in ‘reading’ the social relations of one’s own experiences” (p. 162). Within GCE, intersectional literacy would mean to understand the global complexities of local issues of inequalities. Through examining the political, historical, and economical context of analytical categories and the impact of those on a local and global scale, intersectional literacy allows one to perceive inequality as a result of power dynamics on a structural level rather than a personal or individual attitude or experience. When an intracategorical intersectional pedagogy is applied, the exploration would start with a person, phenomena, or event that is examined by addressing the categories of race, gender, social economic status, sexual orientation, religion, citizenship status, and so on to understand the complexity of the injustice. In order to fully comprehend the organization of oppressive structures, the exploration needs to connect the local with the global or vice versa. Thus, intersectional literacy within GCE aims to develop the ability to look at an event or person and uncover layer for layer the weight of analytical categories on existing oppression and dominance locally as well globally.
The knowledge that is necessary for such an understanding is derived from counternarratives and lived experiences, which are considered the most important way of knowing within intersectionality. In an anecdotal excerpt, hooks [45
] discusses brilliantly the value of lived experience with her students:
“I would ask them to consider whether there is any “special” knowledge to be acquired by hearing oppressed individuals speak from their experience—whether it be of victimization or resistance—that might make one want to create a privileged space for such discussion. Then we might explore ways individuals acquire knowledge about an experience they have not lived, asking ourselves what moral questions are raised when they speak for or about a reality that they do not know experientially, especially if they are speaking about an oppressed group.”
These experiences or testimonies from oppressed groups challenge master narratives that have been well-documented, cherished, and embedded within the curriculum. Counternarratives question the master narratives that promote the status quo, since they explore the oppressive features of hegemonic assumptions about society.
Counternarratives are a way to convey knowledge, practices, and histories that have been erased from the majoritarian story. The lived experiences of marginalized people express, namely, the way discrimination works and how rights can be compromised [46
]. Elenes [47
] suggested testimonio
as a practice for social justice education. The US-based Latina Feminist Group uses this tool to record stories from individuals who experienced any form of oppression. According to Elenes [47
], this is a powerful tool because knowledge is produced by people who are not a part of the dominant group, thus it captures the voices from people situated on the margin of society. Counternarratives explore courage, resistance, and perseverance of oppressed groups. By actively ‘listening’ to those accounts, knowledge is acquired about the ways in which intersecting systems of oppression operate on a local and global level.
Besides intersectional literacy, students would benefit from having an insight into the political rights of citizens to express their concerns. An important task of citizenship education in democratic countries is arguable to provide students with knowledge about how one can enact their citizenship. For intersectional GCE, it is important that students know what political actions are possible in order the eliminate injustices [48
]. These actions can be summarized as good trouble: The kind of trouble that stands up for injustices and demands a community that is at peace [49
]. Hence, knowledge about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy is required to create such kind of good trouble. This could mean the ability to critically understand, assess, and utilize powerful civic terminology such as citizenship, multiperspectivity, sovereignty, self-determination, human rights, advocacy, petition, and responsibilities. A critical ontological civic posture from practitioners is required to understand the temporal influence of such concepts, herewith the role of power in the establishment of these concepts (Magill). This terminology should be contextualized, since some principles might be more applicable in one region than in others. Thus, powerful civic knowledge might give students the intellectual tools to become politically engaged.
6.3. To Be
The second domain in the GCE framework is the socio-emotional aspect, which focuses on attitudes and values for living in a connected and diverse world. In an intersectional approach to GCE, students move beyond appreciating differences and move towards being aware of the meaning of those differences in society. Intersectionality analyzes and critiques oppressive conditions in society, aiming to organize and strategize so they can be challenged [32
]. By solely acknowledging differences without interrogating unequal power positions, the oppressive structures stay in place, allowing concepts like solidarity and empathy to remain vague and ineffective for social change [2
]. Thus, intersectional literacy and powerful civic knowledge might only lead to social change when students develop awareness about complicity as an individual and responsibility within the collective.
GCE aims to be a transformative pedagogy: Guiding students on a journey to discover, re-think, and unlearn about themselves and the world. Transformative learning instigates a process in which learners construct a new and revised interpretation of an experience in the world [50
]. In Freire’s “Pedagogy of Oppressed” this process is referred to as concientização
, explained by Torres [51
] as a “dynamic process which maintains that, by rethinking our past, we can gain a fundamental understanding of the formation of our own self, the roots of our present conditions, and the limits and possibilities of being a self-in-the-world” (245). Hence, critical consciousness about oneself and the world might be required before acting upon intersectional literacy.
Critical consciousness is developed through a process of learning about oneself and the world, which aims to trigger certain emotions that lead to willingness for change. Zembylas [52
] wondered what kind of emotions would instigate such change: Positive feelings like love, hope, and care, or negative perceived emotions such as guilt and shame. According to Menakem [53
], discomfort can be considered a positive emotion as well as a negative one. He identified two types of pain experienced by the body as a result of discomfort. Clean and dirty pain. Clean pain is felt when there is an understanding that action is needed, but there is a lack of feeling capable to take the action or worries about the action to be taken. The experience of going through clean pain leads to improvement and growth. Dirty pain, on the other hand, is the feeling of denial, refusal, and blame, because the discomfort goes unaddressed out of fear. Intersectional literacy might result in an initial feeling of discomfort; however, this feeling needs to be addressed to let growth and mending be possible.
For discomfort to lead to clean pain, confrontational questions about complicity and responsibility are a prerequisite for becoming an intersectional global citizen. Zembylas [52
] suggested the idea of alternative empathies, which can be described as “confrontational empathy”: Sharp, incisive, and uncompromising [54
] (p. 38). These alternative empathies demand that responsibility is taken for perpetuating unequal power dynamics. The goal of these alternative empathies is to challenge the discomfort by posing critical questions that lead to a realization of complicity in the suffering of others [54
]. According the Zembylas [52
], the realization of complicity might lead to ‘implicit activism’, which is: “Showing solidarity for those who suffer through modest everyday acts or standing up for those who are discriminated in the public sphere through supportive words and gestures” [14
] (p. 99). These might be interpreted as the actions necessary to address clean pain, leading to growth and mending.
Of course, not everyone is contributing and benefitting equally from the existing power structures, but there is a shared responsibility to eliminate injustices within GCE. Emotions as guilt, blame, and shame, as a result of dirty pain, can be considered unproductive, as it results in defensiveness or a refusal to react. Therefore, Zembylas [17
] suggested employing Iris Marion Young’s social connection model of responsibility within any pedagogy that aims for transformative social justice learning. Young [55
] developed this model in order to accurately describe individual responsibility within structural injustice. Young described structural injustices as systems that are kept in place by connections and relationships that are depended on each other. This corresponds with an intersectional analytical framework, in which inequalities are perceived as structural wrongdoings through a multitude of relationships in the society.
According to the social connection model of responsibility, everyone contributes to some degree to the existing structures, but not everyone bears to same responsibility. Individuals have a responsibility because “they contribute by their actions to the processes that produce unjust outcomes. Our responsibility derives from belonging together with others in a system of interdependent processes […], we bear responsibility because we are part of the process” (119). However, Young stated that not all have equal responsibility, as attainment of power and privilege to influence the processes of structural injustice are important factors in assessing the amount of responsibility. Young related the social connection model directly to global citizenship, for the reason that responsibility is not based on living in the same country but on participating in institutional process that create those structural injustices globally. Furthermore, Young mentioned that changing the structural injustice can only be done through collective action, as it contains changing institutions and processes, which is not an activity done by an individual. Hence, acting upon intersectional literacy through awareness of one’s shared responsibility means engaging with politics to organize as a collective and reform the unjust structures.
6.4. To Do
GCE is about educating students to become citizens within nations that are globally connected. The goal of citizenship education in democratic countries can be summarized as the pursuit to make students think of solutions in ways that the common good is best served and how they can work towards that [56
]. Especially in polarized societies, caused by amongst others an increase in misinformation on social media, it is important to establish first a shared understanding of an issue, which can then lead to deliberations on possible solutions. This marks the distinction between discussions and deliberations: A discussion is aimed at creating a shared understanding of a topic by listening, questioning, and researching, while deliberations are conversations that aim to work towards a solution for the formulated injustice. In an intersectional interpretation of GCE, solutions for global structures of injustices would mean a reorganization through collective political action. Thus, an intersectional GCE encourages students to develop intersectional literacy based on which an awareness can be realized about their shared responsibility for global structures of oppressions, eventually guiding towards deliberations on what political actions can be taken.
Nurturing citizens who are politically active in order to achieve a socially just society is an important aim of GCE. Ross [35
] formulated two ways in which students can be politically engaged when attempting to achieve social justice: Political participation and intentional actions. Political participation includes voting and signing petitions, but also the utilization of freedom of expression, along with undermining the actions of the government if these contradict principles of justice. Intentional actions refer to behaviors that advocate for human connections and meaningful experiences, in order to challenge passivity, commodification, and separation. Intersectional CGE suggests translating critical consciousness about the global interconnectedness of systems of oppression into political engagement through political participation and intentional actions.
Political participation might be deliberating on possible solutions for the intersecting global injustices students have come to realize. Hess and McAvoy [56
] promote discussions across differences as an essential component of democratic societies, it teaches students to weigh evidence, consider competing views, form an opinion, articulate that opinion, and respond to those who disagree. Students create a shared understanding of an issue based on which deliberations can take place. Deliberating means to think about issues in society and make decisions in order to work towards the common good [56
]. Thus students behave like citizens when they deliberate on how to solve societal issues, while keeping in mind that the aim is to come up with a solution that is best for the common good [56
]. By engaging students with real-life problems, “students learn to see each other as political equals and to inculcate them into the practice of reason giving and considering how their views and behaviors affect others” (6). Thus, deliberation is on the basis of well-informed research and requires reflectivity regarding the consequences of one’s actions for others.
Deliberations within intersectional GCE are about sensitive and controversial issues as racism, islamophobia, and classism. Hess and McAvoy [56
], therefore, clearly stated the difference between empirical questions and political ones. Empirical questions are those that can be answered with a ‘right’ answer through research, while political questions are those that instigate a quest into how we should life together. Settled empirical questions should not be presented as something that is up for debate because they are not. However, on the basis of a settled empirical question, a political issue might arise. A political question is one that people engage with in the public sphere by a referendum, in the courts, or other political platforms. Especially in polarized societies, it is important to understand the difference between empirical and political questions when letting students deliberate.
However, the importance of deliberation within citizenship education has been criticized because it advocates for consensus building, while for issues concerning oppression, there should be no middle ground. Tayari Jones [58
] articulated this particularly well: “The middle is a point equidistant from two poles”. That’s it. There is nothing inherently virtuous about being neither here nor there. Buried in this is a false equivalency of ideas, what you might call the “good people on both sides” phenomenon. Therefore Gibson [59
] suggested that students should understand that voices from the margins “are essential to [comprehend] the full complexity of social structures and political processes” (12). Therefore, intersectional GCE would require discussions and deliberations to fully acknowledge and incorporate counter-narratives. Lived experiences and counternarratives are paramount, as they “amplify perspectives that challenge the political status quo and that make visible how power operates within political discourse and action” [59
] (p. 10). These deliberations, otherwise, risk to reproduce the social inequalities that it aims to eliminate. This happens when the influence of power on accessibility of information and decision-making procedures is neglected [59
]. Therefore, counternarratives based on lived experiences should be given epistemic privilege in any deliberation that aims to solve global structures of oppression, in order to avoid ‘meeting in the middle’.
These deliberations ideally lead to collective actions. Taking action can have a broad variety of meanings; including long-term commitments or quick intervention. The Democratic Knowledge Project from Harvard University helps to guide civic actions on the basis of ten questions that help to ensure equity, self-protection, and efficacy. The last three of these questions work towards influencing the situation through direct action, like petitions and building alliances. Carly Muetterties [34
], furthermore, translates taking action in addressing stakeholders in any given situation and target those institutions or people. Taking action can therefore be a conversation outside of the classroom about such a global real-life problem, which would emulate active citizenship by advocating for issues that they deem important. Other examples of quick interventions are a public service announcement or creating a poster to raise awareness.
A long-term commitment that reflects the three domains of intersectional GCE is the practice of Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR). According to Gibson [59
], “YPAR is not just academic research; it is a way of coming to know an issue through collaboration, community, embodied knowledge, and action” (p. 13). Again, a link with Paulo Freire’s work can be made: Freire promoted learners’ participation in knowledge production by encouraging inquiry as a way to learn about the world and themselves [36
]. Every YPAR starts with identifying the problem by listening to the community to understand the oppression, along with consulting readings, and other forms of media [12
]. The involvement of the community in the knowledge production is paramount, as it centralizes voices from the margins by collecting oral histories and testimonios
to explore issues of injustices. Thereafter, students create their research design by devising an action plan to answer to their research question, which then leads to the collection of data, by for example gathering and recording counternarratives, eventually initiating an appropriate action or project [36
]. As such, an intersectional approach towards all three domains of learning might lead to a critical implementation of GCE. A visual summary of such an intersectional approach to GCE is presented in Figure 2
The solving of structural injustices that intersectionality exposes is of course not the responsibility of students, rather students get familiar with acting as citizens who can collectively address these issues. By deliberating on issues of social injustices, students come to realize their ability to influence unjust processes through political participation and intentional actions. The actions can be performing implicit activism by discussing their insights during dinner table conversations or through explicit activism by directly addressing stakeholders.