College of Social & Behavioral Science

67 Social Justice in Social Science: Intersectional Praxis and the Role of Community-Based Research-Practice Partnerships

Tara Jill Olson (University of Utah)

Faculty Mentor: Lisa Diamond (Psychology and Gender Studies, University of Utah)



In 2020 a worldwide health crisis and parallel social movement illuminated the existing social inequalities that have only become exacerbated by the ongoing global pandemic. Within academia and research, the pandemic has triggered a broader conversation about the lineage of intersectionality as both a lived reality and critical concept in intellectual work. Intersectionality describes the confluence of multiple categories of identity that interact and intersect each other along the dimension of race, class, gender, sexuality, and (dis)ability. At its core, intersectionality suggests that single-axis approaches (e.g., analyzing race alone or analyzing gender alone) cannot adequately address the lived experience of the individual, particularly for multiply-stigmatized persons. Only recently have researchers begun to consider intersectionality in their theories yet research agendas continue to lack critical investigation into the repressive mechanisms that uphold systems of oppression and how best to research marginalized communities without inflicting additional harm knowing that our institutions of disenfranchisement have been built in some ways from knowledge generated from the ivory tower of academia.


This project responds to the need to thoughtfully integrate intersectionality within research methodologies and measurements within the field of social science through intentional community engagement and incremental institutional change focused on the transformative goal of eradicating inequality.

Methods: Literature Review

The aim of this project was to evaluate the impact of intersectional praxis in research by studying previous research agendas that had implemented ethical research-practice partnerships, specifically the partnerships with communities that have been disenfranchised by institutions that support the power of the elite. This involved investigating and analyzing different approaches to the study of marginalized communities that worked to mitigate some of the negative aspects of community-based research by using social categories meaningfully in order to challenge previous single-axis research methods. Foundational to our study was the community-based research project conducted by Miewald et al. in researching foodscapes in collaboration with the houseless community in Ontario, Canada. The work of Miewald and the investigative team helped to provide evidence for this project by providing an example of a community-based research project that was intentionally conducted to avoid further alienating or stigmatizing a marginalized population by creating a bidirectional relationship between researchers and participants.


From our research, we outline the following as important values for conducting ethical community-based research projects:

  • The investigative team works in collaboration with a community advisory board.
  • Paid peer research associates (PRA’s), each of whom has life experiences in common with the study population, are hired as part of the research team.
  • PRAs and other members of the community are involved in various aspects of the study including the research design, administration, interpretation, and dissemination of results. The importance of involving those from the community with similar life experiences to the population being studied helps to break down traditional divisions between academic researchers, subjects, and the wider community, allowing for a greater diversity of perspectives considered in the research design and measurement.


Effective research-practice partnerships establish the integration of members of the community as well as community organizations and organizers as co-collaborators in the knowledge-generating process while measuring and analyzing experiences in intersectional ways. From our research, we determined that a successful community-based research project involves members of the community in all areas of the study. This project challenges previous research methodologies focused on single-axis issues by working from an intersectional praxis. The project has important implications for social justice and future research by highlighting the possibility of change and structural progress through community-based research that better explains the experiences of all people, especially those individuals being impacted the most by inequitable systems.



Miewald, C., McCann, E., Temenos, C., & McIntosh, A. (2019). “I do my best to eat while I’m using”: Mapping the foodscapes of people living with HIV/AIDS who use drugs. Social Science & Medicine, 226, 96–103.

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RANGE: Undergraduate Research Journal Copyright © 2022 by Tara Jill Olson (University of Utah) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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