Author: Emma Fàbrega, University of Barcelona

The EXIT project uses intersectionality as a transversal theme that runs throughout all stages of research, influencing and informing how the research plan was conceived, how data will be collected, and how it later will be analyzed. This is because intersectionality is a heuristic device through which webs of power can be revealed and understood, making visible the struggles and marginalization of vulnerable groups. Consequently, intersectionality binds this project together, weaving through its’ guiding themes and suggesting a critical perspective of what ‘left behind’ means in each of the studied contexts.

Intersectionality’s conceptual origins date back to 1989, when Kimberle Crenshaw first coined the term to make visible the distinctive discrimination suffered by Black women in North American courts of law. Presently, intersectionality has infiltrated mainstream debates and gained recognition as a thought-provoking tool for research development and methodological innovation. Thus, it is used as an instrument that locates the specific needs of people, groups, and areas, illustrating global social inequalities from macro power structures to micro localized experiences.

As an interdisciplinary project that employs a variety of methodologies to question the concept of ‘left behind’, EXIT greatly benefits from an intersectional perspective that fosters a contextualized interrelated look at social phenomena. This is because most policies that target ‘left behind’ areas tend to focus on a particular arena (gender, race, ethnicity, place, socio-economic disadvantage, health, etc.), without considering how interrelated that arena is with other factors. By applying an intersectional perspective, EXIT accounts for a diversity of experiences and allows for inclusive policy building. Accordingly, project partners will collect and analyze the experiences of rural, post-industrial and urban areas considered to be ‘left behind’ across eight countries, breaking pre-conceived notions of what ‘left behind’ is and unveiling power structures that fuel territorial inequalities. Furthermore, EXIT will create outputs for actors that work and produce policy across various domains, building forward-thinking responses to territorial inequalities while also mapping interrelationships between multiple axes of exclusion (gender, age, racism, etc.).

In conclusion, the project’s use of intersectionality allows for the research to be more critical and innovative, evidencing different types of discrimination and disadvantages that occur in certain areas due to the combination of varying socioeconomic and sociodemographic variables. In this way, EXIT will identify the intersection and interaction of individual, group and societal factors, offering a roadmap to territorial inequalities across Europe and how to possibly mitigate them in the future.