Situational Analysis and Critical Geography: Mapping Cartographies of Intersectionality

Authors: Patrick Grzanka*, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Topics: Qualitative Research, Cartography, Social Theory
Keywords: qualitative research, social justice, intersectionality, feminist geography, critical race theory
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 42
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As it receives enthusiastic uptake across various disciplines, one of the most vexing questions about intersectionality is the extent to which traditional methods are capable of “seeing” intersectional phenomena. Extensive debate among social scientists surrounds the question of whether quantitative analyses can ever accurately reflect intersectionality, even as other methodologists underscore the limitations of traditional qualitative approaches and suggest intersectionality presents a fundamentally epistemic, rather than methodological, challenge. In this talk, I jettison the quantitative/qualitative and methodological/epistemic binaries and invite a conversation between intersectionality studies and critical geography around the concept of cartography. Using a dataset about White racial affect, I introduce sociologist Adele Clarke’s situational analysis (SA) as a theory-methods package for resisting reductionism, mutually exclusivity, and generally anti-intersectional thinking in qualitative data analysis. As an extension of constructivist grounded theory, SA encourages researchers to transform data into various visual maps that can illuminate dynamics that may be obscured by more traditional analytic approaches. SA uses cartography as a metaphor and heuristic for uncovering processes—including silences—in a given situation of inquiry and to prioritize observation of complex, overlapping power dynamics. Given SA’s emphasis on spatial dynamics, the visual, and structures, its potential utility in critical geographic work merits consideration, particularly as geographers confront important questions about the place of intersectionality in the discipline. By demonstrating some of the ways SA can help researchers conceptualize power, oppression, and privilege beyond variables, codes, and themes, I offer SA as means by which to deepen geographers’ engagement with intersectionality.

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