This article explores the complexity and challenges of making decisions regarding which theories and social categories (e.g. race, class) should be emphasized in justice-centered research that includes participants’ identities as key variables in the design. Drawing on theories of intersectionality, agential realism, and complexity, the author proposes four intersectional design dimensions to help justice-centered researchers honor complexity: reflection on self and purpose; making agential cuts; complexifying social categories; and intersectional and collaborative re-view. Each dimension is illustrated with theory and empirical examples, mostly drawing from the field of educational research. By attending to and continually revisiting agential cuts related to social categories in conversation with community members, researchers can better represent layered, complex, and changing phenomena.


complexity, identity, intersectionality, research design, social justice

Author Bio(s)

Nadia Behizadeh is an associate professor of adolescent literacy and co-director of the Center for Equity and Justice in Teacher Education at Georgia State University. Her scholarly endeavors are centered on increasing middle school students’ access to critical writing instruction that prepares them to envision and build a more just world. She employs an interdisciplinary research agenda that includes developing theories and practices of powerful writing pedagogies, critiquing educational policies related to writing assessment and teacher evaluation, and evaluating methods for social justice-centered teacher preparation. Please direct correspondence to nbehizadeh@gsu.edu


Many thanks to colleagues who helped with this article, including Thomas Albright, Stephanie Behm Cross, Camea Davis, Chantee Earl, Sig/Sara Giordano, Noah Golden, Jacob Hackett, David Low, Christopher Martell, Rob Petrone, Sophia Tatiana Sarigianides, Amy Vetter, and Rhina Fernandes Williams.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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