Dr. Christopher Ankersen
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
Bio: Dr. Christopher Ankersen is a Clinical Professor at the Center for Global Affairs at the NYU School of Professional Studies. He is also Senior Fellow at the Canadian International Council, Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence Associations Institute, and Senior Research Fellow at the German-Southeast Asian Center of Excellence for Public Policy and Good Governance (CPG), Faculty of Law, Thammasat University, Thailand.
His current research interests include civil-military relations, strategic studies, international security, and the international relations of Asia.
1. What is your understanding of intersectionality (you could say when you first encountered the term as a way to get started)?
My understanding of intersectionality is that it represents the compound nature of disempowerment and disenfranchisement. When individuals belong to overlapping groups who have been neglected, mistreated, and silenced--whether that is due to gender, race, class, or other dimensions of identity--the level and complexity of oppression increases accordingly. 2. Some people delve deeply into the history and theory of intersectionality, others into the practice, and many incorporate both theory and practice--where do you fall along this spectrum and how have you incorporated intersectionality into your scholarship, teaching, and/or industry experience?
My experience with intersectionality is informed by experience as an industry professional, often part of multicultural, multigeneration, and mixed-gender teams. I have seen how assumptions, stereotypes, and prejudice have negatively impacted people's sense of worth, and their potential as individuals. In the classroom, I try to raise not only the effects of this kind of discrimination but point out the sources and bases for it, too. This means I tend to combine theory and practice when tackling the issue of justice and equity, including from an intersectional perspective.
3. Where do you see intersectionality applied successfully in your field?
The first step to incorporating new perspectives into a classroom, syllabus, or curriculum is to wake up to the reality that we tend not to talk about this. We find reasons to 'leave it out' because our classes 'are focused on content'. We assume 'someone else will cover that'. Once you have decided not to neglect issues of inequity, the next step is to enter into the conversation. Seek out voices that are not listened to. Read material that falls outside your normal scholarly canon. Change your reading patterns. Adopt an intentional routine of engaging with these issues. Only then can you understand your own positionality and from there is it possible to do better. Because guess what? Issues of intersectionality and other forms of disempowerment are already in the classroom. People are struggling with them every day. 4. Where do you see that it is lacking and how could using the lens of intersectionality make a difference?
An appreciation of intersectionality allows us to begin to understand the deep, complex aspects of the social world we live and work in. It helps us appreciate our role in the establishment, maintenance, and exploitation of systems of structural inequality. While it can reveal just how daunting it can be to change that system, it also allows us to recognize that change is possible.
5. What words of advice do you have for faculty who are new to the concept of intersectionality?
Take the first step: dive into the conversation. Go outside your comfort zone. If you haven't heard about intersectionality, that means your knowledge, as deep and broad as it may be, is not complete...and it never will be. Be humble, ask questions, and listen to the testimony of those who are experiencing injustice.