Law and Society Association Graduate Student Workshop: Keynote Talk on Intersectionality and EEO Litigation

I’m in San Francisco for the Law and Society Association‘s 24th annual Graduate Student Workshop (today and tomorrow) and Annual Meeting (June 2-5). The official Twitter hashtag for both is #LSA2011.

The Graduate Student Workshop opened tonight with a terrific keynote talk by Lauren Edelman entitled “Blurring Lines for Sharper Knowledge: Toward a Multi-Method Approach to Critical Socio-Legal Studies.” According to Edelman, critical race theorists in the legal academy and “traditional” social scientists are typically skeptical of each other’s methods. However, she argues, there are many opportunities for these scholarly factions to support each other’s intellectual projects.

For example, Edelman combines quantitative social science methods with Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality to examine the way EEO discrimination claims with more than one basis of discrimination are treated by the federal courts. Her team’s study finds strong evidence that intersectional discrimination claims are less likely to succeed than non-intersectional ones. This means, for starters, that white women are more than twice as likely as non-white women to win discrimination lawsuits and that white men are more likely than either non-white men or non-white women to win discrimination lawsuits. The implication here is that the law is not good at handling the complex kinds of discrimination faced by people who have multiple disadvantages. The lead researcher on the study is Rachel Best, a graduate student who will soon finish her Ph.D. in Sociology at UC-Berkeley.

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